If you are a Wisconsin Football fan, you’ve heard every possible reason for why Wisconsin can’t win the upcoming game against #3 Alabama. You’ve heard about Alabama’s countless 5-star recruits. You’ve heard about how Alabama’s defense is built to stop power rushing attacks like Wisconsin’s. You’ve definitely heard of the colossal mismatch between our young, inexperienced, battered offensive line against Alabama’s dynamic, star-studded front 7.
But here’s what you haven’t heard. Wisconsin can win this game. Don’t get me wrong. All those reasons listed above are completely valid. And I did not pick Wisconsin to win the game during the Season Predictions Article. But I think Wisconsin can pull the upset, and wouldn’t be very surprised if it happened. In any case, the 10-point spread favoring the Crimson Tide is far too much.
All the reasons that we talked about focused on Alabama’s talented defense. But people seem to be forgetting that Alabama also has to score to win the game. And Wisconsin’s defense is not going to make that easy. Led by mastermind defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, Wisconsin had one of the best defenses in the nation last year, finishing 4th in total defense. And better yet, a lot of major pieces on that defense return.
The secondary looks elite. Strong Safety Michael Caputo is a great tackler and an All-American Candidate. His partner, Leo Musso has been a turnover-forcing machine in practice, and is primed for a huge year. Meanwhile, Darius Hillary and Sojourn Shelton could be one of the best cornerback duos in the country. Last year’s starter, Lubern Figaro, along with Tanner McEvoy, possibly the best athlete on the team, will provide the safety depth. Wisconsin’s secondary last year gave up the 4th least passing yards in the nation. That number actually may improve this year.Wisconsin Badgers cornerback Sojourn Shelton (8) celebrates against the Minnesota Golden Gophers: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Combine all that with the fact that Alabama hasn’t even decided on a starting quarterback yet, and that they have to replace their top 3 wide receivers, including Amari Cooper. That could lead to a lot of picks. So yeah. Alabama’s offense may be very one dimensional, which will allow Aranda and Wisconsin’s defense to stack up against the run. That will allow Caputo, and inside linebackers T.J Edwards and Leon Jacobs to have huge games against Derek Henry. Henry’s a phenomenal running back, but if the box is stacked, there’s not much he can do.
Even if Alabama does somehow find a way to move the chains, they’ll have to score touchdowns, or at least get close. Their kicker, Adam Griffiths, won’t make anything unless it’s in gimme range, and he’ll even miss those sometimes. Point being, Alabama won’t find it very easy to score points.
But how will Wisconsin score? They do have Corey Clement, a Heisman candidate who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards as Melvin Gordon’s backup. I realize that Alabama specializes in run defense. But Clement is also very good in the passing game. That’s where he’ll be more likely to make big plays on Saturday.
In addition, Joel Stave is going to breakout. He has confidence, a system that suits him very well, and has played excellent in camp. Alabama’s secondary is the weakness of their defense, and Chryst knows it. I would expect him to take several deep shots down the field to either McEvoy or Alex Erickson.Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
If Wisconsin can connect on some of those deep balls, and Clement can add a few long runs or catches, then Wisconsin could score a couple touchdowns. And even against Alabama, that’s all they need. As long as they keep it close going in to the fourth quarter, which as I explained, they will, Wisconsin can easily win. They have all the experience and skill at the positions needed most in close games: A 4th year starter at quarterback, a great secondary, and a great kicker.
So if Wisconsin’s defense doesn’t have a huge meltdown a-la Big 10 Championship, and their offense connects on a few big plays, Wisconsin should be able to keep it close and well within the 10-point spread. And if it is close at the end, I’d trust Stave and Rafael Gaglianone to get the job done over whichever inexperienced, nervous quarterback Alabama puts out there and the catastrophe that is Adam Griffiths.
So don’t let any one tell you this game is going to be a blow out, or Wisconsin has no chance. It’s going to be a smash-mouth, defensive battle that will more than likely be very, very close. Lovers of the spread offense and high scoring games, avert your eyes. This is going to be an old-fashioned slugfest. And I would not be remotely surprised if Wisconsin wins it.