Midterms have hit our young Brandon hard, so I have temporarily reclaimed my old duties to allow the lad respite to study. Andrew Rosin from over at Bucky's 5th Quarter was nice enough to answer my questions about the Badgers who come to town this weekend.
1. If Jared Abbrederis does happen to miss Saturday's matchup, how negatively do you think this will affect Wisconsin's passing game?
The expectation is that Abbrederis will be cleared for Saturday Night. If not? They won't get that over the top dagger that Abbederis is so good at getting. But the thing of it is? Last year there wasn't a consistent second guy the Badgers could complete passes to. It's James White, but he's got a chance to get 40 grabs on the season. And between that, Alex Erickson, Jeff Duckworth, and Jacob Pedersen, they'll be okay. They'll miss him, but Joel Stave can take what a defense gives him pretty well.
2. Things had looked a bit shaky for the Badgers going into last week before their complete and utter dismantling of the much loathed Northwestern Wildcats. Where do you see the team finishing in the conference at this point?
Most people expect the Badgers to run the rest of the regular season table, and I agree. The schedule eases up, the tougher games are at home, and the Badgers are relatively healthy. 10-2, 7-1 in the Leaders, and an outside shot at a BCS at-large berth seems to be a reasonable expectation. Not to be too hubristic, but I don't think the Badgers lose again this year.
3. Most of the attention from outside has been focused on the offense, with Abbrederis being potentially the best receiver in the conference and the running game playing the traditional Wisconsin "body blows until your opponent's solar plexus no longer exists" style. Tell us about the defense and who we should look out for.
The performance of the Northwestern game is what most expected from the defense. Attacking from all angles and getting all sorts of pressure. They've been able to dominate the teams they were supposed to, (so you haven't seen them unleash the full force of their attack) and the front seven will kill the run game if you can't complete passes. Chris Borland is a tackling machine at linebacker, but you probably already knew that, and Beau Allen is a 330 pound beast who can split a double team or collapse a pocket if you're not careful.
The secondary is young, but they're physically talented. Sojourn Shelton is a true freshman, but he's already picked off three passes on the year and has been a support in the running game. Tanner McEvoy's been getting starts at safety, and he's 6'6" and 223 pounds with some great athleticism. Michael Caputo's definitely someone to watch out for. He's a great tackler as a safety-linebacker hybrid, and if the Defensive Coordinator decides to unleash hell? He's gonna make something good happen.
A mobile, accurate quarterback can give them trouble. But they are very good at what they do. They're a top 5 defense in the nation for a reason. And Northwestern kind of feels like a turning point.
4. I realize that not all humans are beings that function on spite and schadenfreude like I do, but how does Bret Bielema struggling mightily down at Arkansas make you feel?
If we didn't hire a coach like Gary Andersen? I'd probably have been a little more spiteful towards the old coach. Though we've had enough time by now not having to defend ol' Bert while he does stupid stuff like going after Badger trolls or putting the story of how he met his wife into the media notes, or his wife tweeting after the Arizona State game, that we've been able to move on.
Now with that being said? Even the most rational science based fan of the Badgers couldn't help but have their heart warmed a little by that 52-7 shellacking by South Carolina.
5. And last (and pretty much least), the standard prediction for how you think Saturday goes down.
You may have seen this one before. Illinois takes advantage of the night game atmosphere and keeps in it. For a while anyway. In fact, you get to the moment where you think this just might be a game. Then Melvin Gordon takes it to the house on a sweep. Then the Badgers pull away. Badgers 35, Illini 14