Part two of our “Welcome Wagon” roundup with Badger Bloggers- This time, Adam Hoge from Bucky’s 5th Quarter give us his perspective on the pressing questions of the day- you can check out some of his other reflections over at Inside the Shoe:
Season to season, there are bigger games on the Ohio State schedule than Wisconsin, and usually one or two more highly ranked opponents, but there’s always more concern Wisconsin than any other team; they are always fundamentally sound and tough to beat. Is this how Wisconsin fans view their own team, or does this perspective sell the team short? Are there any teams on the Wisconsin schedule that they feel the same about?
I don’t think it sells the Badgers short because they have yet to prove that they can beat teams like Ohio State. Bret Bielema only has one win over Big Ten teams ranked in the AP Top 25. But I can see why Buckeye fans would think that way because the Badgers always play Ohio State tough, even if they end up losing the game.
I think the Badgers probably feel the same way about playing Iowa. Usually there is at least one higher ranked opponent on the schedule, but we know the Hawkeyes are going to be tough to beat. For instance, there’s no question this weekend’s game against the No. 1 team in the nation is bigger than the Iowa game next week, but honestly, I think the Badgers have a better chance to beat Ohio State at home than Iowa on the road.
What new players in the starting lineup this year should we keep an eye on? Is there anyone who’s going to get talked up in the future?
Well, it’s not much of a secret anymore, but if Buckeye fans haven’t heard of true freshman running back James White yet, then they will Saturday. He actually could be better than John Clay, but you will see both of them early and often. Otherwise, freshman defensive tackle Jordan Kohout has a bright future and walk-on wide receiver Jared Abbrederis has come out of nowhere to contribute as a redshirt freshman. We call him “Abbracadabra”.
What did the Badgers learn about themselves from the Michigan State and Arizona State games? How have they adapted and developed?
People like to talk about the Arizona State game like it was a disappointment, but that team is better than people realize, even if they are only 3-3. The Badgers played better in that game than they did the week prior against San Jose State and the players were generally happy with their performance after that win.
The Michigan State game was a disaster, but I think the players realize that even after playing as bad as they did, they still had a chance to make a stop on that last drive and give the offense a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, the defense just couldn’t get the ball back to the offense. The Badgers know they can still be a very good football team if they put it all together for four quarters.
In your opinion, does it hurt Wisconsin that they still ground it out, in a game that is more “spread” and “speed” across the college football landscape?
Not at all. In fact, it’s my opinion that the spread offense is just a fad and it’s starting to die out. Teams are starting to go back to the pro-style offense and it helps Wisconsin that they never got away from it. And if opposing defenses want to say they are fast, that’s fine. They might be able to catch John Clay, but it’s not going to feel good when he runs them over.
The Buckeyes struggled on offense in last year’s game due to great play from your defense. How do you feel about your defense this year as compared to last?
It’s not as good. The Badgers miss O’Brien Schofield’s pass rushing abilities. J.J. Watt is a beast at defensive end, but he’s not getting much help from the otherside, which allows the opposition to slow him down with double teams. I think the secondary has improved its skills, but the corners still have lapses in coverage. Unfortunately, the loss of linebacker Chris Borland has hurt a lot. I don’t think people realized how good he really was, especially when it came to rushing the quarterback. For the most part, Wisconsin’s blitzes have failed this season.
We’ve heard some negative things about Bret Bielema as a coach from a couple of Wisconsin grads. Are these widely held beliefs among Wisconsin faithful, or just the opinions of a small group of fans?
I think that’s the voice of the majority, but I really don’t understand it. Sure, he’s made some questionable decisions at times and has yet to prove he can beat the Big Ten’s best, but the guy is 43-14 as Wisconsin’s head coach and has bowl wins over two highly ranked Arkansas and Miami teams. Let’s not forget he is still one of the youngest coaches in college football and this is his first head gig. He’s still learning his craft and he definitely has a knack for getting a lot out of some under-the-radar recruits.
What advice would you give for a visiting fan?
Make a weekend out of it. Don’t just show up on game day and leave when it is over. Madison is a great town and the fans are always welcoming. Hang out on Regent Street before the game and State Street after the game.
What are your thoughts on Big Ten expansion and how it might change Wisconsin’s place in the conference?
I love the expansion, but hate the divisions. Certainly having to play Ohio State and Penn State every year will make it tough on Wisconsin, but I really think the Big Ten missed an opportunity to maintain the most rivalries by going with East and West divisions. It’s more natural for your rivals to be located closest to you so it was a huge disappointment to have Iowa ripped away as a team they play every year and miss the opportunity to create a new rivalry with Nebraska.