Well to say this past week for the Wisconsin Badgers has been odd would be an understatement. A very big understatement. After the Badgers blew a 17-point lead and lost to the LSU Tigers 28-24, many were scratching their heads. Questions came about for head coach Gary Andersen afterwards, which left many still scratching their heads. In fact the head scratching has continued this entire week as no one seems to be on the same page about, well, anything.
But now the Badgers must quickly put the LSU game behind them and focus on FCS opponent from the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Western Illinois Leathernecks. They handled Valparasio easily last weekend, defeating the Crusaders 45-6, racking up 593 total yards. Leading WIU was quarterback Trenton Norvell, who went 20-for-28, 320 yards and four touchdowns. Running back J.C. Baker rushed for 137 yards on 17 carries and one score. Wide receiver Hi-C Scott (yes like the juice drink) only caught four passes, but two of those were for touchdowns.
So let’s get you set for Wisconsin’s home opener, shall we?
WISCONSIN KEY TO VICTORY: It’s real simple. Do what you do best, and RUN THE FOOTBALL! Against LSU, Wisconsin had a pretty potent running attack. The Badgers racked up 268 yards total on the ground. Melvin Gordon had 140 yards and one touchdown and Corey Clement was able to pound out 45 yards and a score as well.
Throwing the ball came very hard for the Badgers as Tanner McEvoy threw for only 50 yards and had two interceptions. McEvoy didn’t look entirely comfortable in the pocket and was throwing off his back foot on many throws. Western Illinois could help McEvoy regain some much-needed confidence.
WESTERN ILLINOIS KEY TO VICTORY:If the Leathernecks can keep the Badgers in striking distance, they may have a chance to pull of the upset. Their best bet to even have a chance of winning this one would be to go through the air. Last week the Badgers gave up 239 yards to quarterback Anthony Jennings.
Although the Leathernecks do not have the same fire power as LSU, Norvell did throw for over 300 yards. And Wisconisn’s secondary does provide the opportunity to go over the top as we saw in that game with the Tigers.
Again I don’t envision WIU coming into Camp Randall Stadium and leaving with a win. But if they can pass the ball well and keep it close, they could make it real interesting which would make the Badger faithful very nervous.
WISCONSIN PLAYER TO WATCH: Safety Lubern Figaro. Will Figaro be able to help stymie the Leathernecks passing attack? He wasn’t the only problem in the secondary a week ago, however I would like to see the true freshman shake off that game and have nice outing in what should be a bounce back game for the Badgers.
WESTERN ILLINOIS PLAYER TO WATCH: This is an easy one, quarterback Trenton Norvell. The Leathernecks success lies in Norvell’s hands. Or should I say throwing arm. He put up big numbers against Valparaiso, although they are nowhere near a Wisconsin calibur defense. However it should be interesting if Norvell will be able to put up some impressive numbers against a Big Ten team.
VICTORY FOR WISCONSIN MEANS: As long as it is not a nail biter, this should be a good confidence booster for this team after a very long, confusing week. Not to mention they can work on things this week and carry them over to the bye week. Hopefully Wisconsin can come out of this game healthy and no one new landing on the injury report.
VICTORY FOR WESTERN ILLINOIS MEANS: A win here would be the biggest victory and the upests of all upsets for this program. Coming into Camp Randall, stealing a victory from a Big Ten team and leaving the Badgers with more questions than ever would really put a feather in the cap of the Leathernecks. It would be on Appalachian State upsetting Michigan at the Big House level. Plus it would possibly set up a clash of undefeated teams when they take on North Dakota State the first week in October.