I got together with the fine Wisconsin blog Bucky's 5th Quarter to chat about our upcoming bowl. Here's what they had to say to my questions. My questions are in bold. I'll post their answers to my questions when they go up.
1. Not a question that's directly relevant to this particular game, but what's your perception of how Bret Bielema will do at Arkansas?
I honestly think year one may have been so bad that Bielema won't get a chance to make something. Arkansas fans are notoriously impatient and all the goodwill is gone with that post-#karma streak. That being said? I think Bielema could build it out if he was given the time. In 2008 he was a poor FCS kicker away from finishing the year under .500. By 2010 he had the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. The cupboard's a little more bare, and the ironic schadenfreude of the five million dollar man who came to Arkansas because he couldn't keep assistants (with Arkansas losing more assistants this year than Wisconsin) means he's on a hotter seat.
But despite being personally reprehensible, he knows how to evaluate lower-star talent and can improve a team's fortunes surprisngly quickly. He's not dead yet.
2. New Badgers coach Gary Andersen came to Wisconsin having run a different style of program than what Wisconsin is accustomed to. What can South Carolina fans expect to see that's not the norm for Alvarez- and Bielema-era Wisconsin? How do Wisconsin fans feel about the job Andersen did this year?
Honestly, a part of the reason why the Badgers did well this year is because Andersen was smart enough to implement incremental changes this season. The 3-4 is new. But outside of that, the only real on-field difference is that there's a propensity to use James White in the passing game. They still run the ball a massive amount. The defense aggressively run-pursues more, but they actually had less sacks than under the Partridge-Ash scheme of the season before.
Wisconsin probably needs to win here to meet the expectations of most, but if it's the hard-fought game that most seem to expect it? A 9-4 season plus the potential for the single best recruiting class in Badger football history means the era of good feelings gets another season.
3. If you were Steve Spurrier trying to determine how to move the ball against Wisconsin, what weaknesses (if any) would you perceive? How would you attack?
The running game is going to be tough sledding. They were able to limit most every running back that they've faced. Sure, you might be able to argue Mike Davis is on the top level of the Badgers' opposition, but outside of the Ohio State game? They were able to make things miserable for the running games. So you're going to have to pass.
The pass defense has had trouble with three things. One? Teams with a talented tall receiver. The Badgers have talented cornerbacks and Sojourn Shelton's going to be a player for seasons to come. But they are not blessed with height. Two? A running back that can make plays in the passing game. It has caused the Badgers some problems during the year. Three? A mobile quarterback with good accuracy.
Outside of Shaq Roland, your receivers are of the classic Spurrier undersized- and super-quick mold. And while Connor Shaw is mobile, he does have games where his accuracy wobbles. That being said? Mike Davis is a worthy threat in the passing game.
So long story short? I would probably throw an attack over the top to Roland early on. I'd probably do it more than once. But if it doesn't hit? I would be patient. I would probably target Davis 8 to 10 times. If Davis combines for 120 yards of total offense? It's going to give you a chance to win.
4. Which opponents have had the most success slowing down Wisconsin's running game? How did they do so?
This is going to sound smug. I don't want to sound smug, but this is going to. But the best defense against the Badgers running game was getting out to a big lead. (Ohio State and Penn State were both up 17 during their respective games. They were the lowest yards per carry averages the Badgers run game put up.)
Okay, the second best defense against the Badgers running game is something that should bode well. A talented front seven that can stop the threat of Melvin Gordon on the jet sweep is going to keep the Badgers running game slow. BYU and Iowa had great linebackers. Minnesota has a couple of pieces who have a professional future on the defensive line. If the Badgers have to go between the tackles, they're not bad. But the whiz-bang nature gets taken away.
5. If you could have any player on South Carolina's roster other than Clowney, who would it be? Why?
Now while some thoughts of Kelcy Quarles on the defensive line danced through my head, my answer is Bruce Ellington. A part of the reason why you need to worry about Jared Abbrederis so much is that for most of the time the past two seasons, he had no help. And going into next season? The Badgers are going to have to lean on the skills of freshmen and other untested or unshown talents.
6. How do you expect for this game to go down? You can give a score prediction, if you like.
I don't see how this game doesn't live up to the hype. It's going to be the proverbial slobberknocker. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it's 7-3 at halftime. In the second half, the Badgers find some holes in the running game. The Gamecocks manage to keep pace. But I think there's a twist. The Badgers do the thing no one expects and beats an SEC team. 20-17 or somesuch nonsense.
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