The Badgers have been one of the more consistent teams in the B1G the last few seasons, and they bring in yet another powerful rushing attack to Piscataway. To get the inside scoop, we reached out to Mike Fiammetta of Bucky's 5th Quarter, SB Nation's Wisconsin site. If you'd like to see the opponent's Q&A, click here.
Q: Melvin Gordon looks like a Heisman contender, and the Badgers are still in the thick of the West division race. Has Wisconsin met fan expectations through seven games?
Mike Fiammetta: Wisconsin really hasn't met those preseason expectations, but those were also pretty wildly high. I picked them to be a one-loss team, after all. The loss to LSU was crushing because the Badgers seemed like they had the Tigers' number for the majority of the game, but that's not really a "bad" loss in hindsight. Losing to Northwestern definitely took the wind out of Wisconsin's sails, and in doing so, totally readjusted those expectations.
Wins over Illinois and Maryland have since calmed things, and as Wisconsin gets a bit healthier along the way (its starting fullback and nose guard are back after missing a few games), it seems to be improving as well.
Q: Wisconsin has decided to go with a dual-QB system, playing Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy in games. How does the offense change for each player?
Mike: McEvoy is the mobile threat, while Stave is a prototypical pocket passer. Fans have been frustrated with the two-QB system, largely because offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig seemed unsure of how best to tweak the offense when a different passer came in. Things have improved since the nadir, that Northwestern game. After completing 41.14 percent of its passes in that game, Wisconsin's rates jumped to 55.6 and 65.2 vs. Illinois and Maryland, respectively.
Stave is still getting the majority of the reps since struggling with throwing issues attributed to "the yips" earlier this season. After tossing three picks vs. Evanston, he's been turnover-free in the two games since. In the last two games, though, he's only completed 55 percent of his passes. McEvoy also does look more comfortable, as he's went 3-of-4 and 5-of-7 in the last two. On the ground, he also exploded for 84 yards on four attempts vs. Maryland last weekend, including a 60-yard touchdown.
Q: The Badgers are giving the Spartan "Galaxy-class" defense a run for their money, leading the conference in scoring defense, pass defense, and total defense. How has Wisconsin adapted to the 3-4 under Gary Andersen so quickly?
Mike: From the time we first heard the 3-4 was coming to Madison, fans have been excited because UW's roster seems to fit very nicely. The linebackers and ends are capable pass rushers, and the front seven as a whole has proven versatile. Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski have swapped positions at defensive end and nose guard, respectively, though much of that front seven plays in a few different spots. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda made a point before this season to say he really wanted to loosen up his schemes and put his players in more natural positions. The results have spoken for themselves.
Q: How have Wisconsin fans reacted to the conference newbies? Was there any excitement to the expansion, or did everyone want the B1G to stay as is?
Mike: I think Wisconsin fans are kinda neutral to this conference expansion. The Badgers have recruited in both Maryland and New Jersey recently (especially the latter), so that's been a noted benefit. Otherwise, I can't really think of a negative I've heard from this fan base.
Mike: I think Wisconsin is rolling while Rutgers is trending downward. The line right now is 11 points -- I say Wisconsin covers and wins 31-17.
A really big thank you to Mike Fiammetta for collaborating on this great Q&A. For more in-depth coverage of the Badgers, head on over to Bucky's 5th Quarter.