We now have our final installment of our Q&A with Adam Hoge of Bucky's 5th Quarter. As always, you'll be able to view my answers to his questions later today at B5Q.
Nobody has really slowed down Wisconsin this season, and I don’t really expect Oregon to hold Wisconsin under 30 points. That said, if the Badgers were to find themselves in trouble offensively, what most likely led to that scenario?
Wisconsin’s offense has been pretty unstoppable this year, but if I have one criticism it’s that I think the Badgers’ pass protection has been overrated. Center Peter Konz and right guard Kevin Zeitler are both All-Ameircans and the run blocking has for the most part been excellent, but overall the line is getting too much respect for its pass protection based on reputation from last year. The Badgers have allowed 23 sacks this year, which ranks them only 54th in the country in that category. On top of it, Russell Wilson’s ability to scramble has saved them from many more sacks. Oregon has racked up the sacks this year and if they can get Wilson on the ground, it could stall the Badgers offense. That said, this is no easy task because the Badgers will still try to run the ball first and that will give Wilson more time to do damage.
Of course there’s also the issue of the Badgers losing offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to Pitt after the Rose Bowl. Offensive line coach Bob Bostad will join him as well. Chryst and Bret Bielema actually spent some time battling each other over their own assistants (talk about awkward), but I suspect the players were distracted very much by this. I think it would have been a bigger issue for the defensive staff in the midst of preparing for Oregon’s complex offense. Still, something to keep in mind.
Oregon has at times really struggled with power running games, and I expect Oregon to stack the box to try and stop Montee Ball. Have any teams been successful in this strategy this season?
Ohio State is really the only team that was able to stop the Badgers’ running game this season. Michigan State had some success here and there, but the Buckeyes were really the only team able to slow down Montee Ball for a full game as he only had 85 yards on 17 carries. That said, that’s still five yards a carry and while Ohio State’s defensive line played a great game, I’m tempted to throw out that entire performance because the team was still battling a hangover from losing to Michigan State on a Hail Mary the week prior.
Oregon will stack the box to stop Ball, and they will also get very aggressive with their blitz schemes to try and pressure Wilson. Wilson has been excellent this season, and would seem to have all the tools to thrive in such a scenario. Thoughts?
Wilson is very dangerous when the running game is going because Wisconsin uses a ton of play action. Paul Chryst’s play action has made mediocre quarterbacks look good so you can only imagine what it has done for Wilson this season. Every once in a while (i.e. second quarter of the Big Ten Championship Game), we have seen Chryst get a little pass-happy with his shiny quarterback toy, but Wilson has also been great at avoiding blitzes and making throws on the run. Of course, he can always tuck it and run for 20-plus yards as well.
How about the Badgers’ wideouts?
Good, but not great. Nick Toon is an NFL prospect who will get drafted, but he’s never been dominant. He also hurt his shoulder in the Big Ten Championship Game and while he should be 100 percent for the Rose Bowl it’s something to keep an eye on. Jared Abbrederis is your typical overachieving walk-on. He’s not huge, but he can burn you. Otherwise, Jeff Duckworth had a huge game in Indianapolis and I’m curious to see how he builds on that in Pasadena. Wisconsin usually has a dominant receiving tight end and while Jacob Pedersen doesn’t exactly fall into that category, he can burn you in the red zone. There aren’t any spectacular players here, but with Wilson throwing the ball, they can still do plenty to win.
Wisconsin’s offensive line is big and physical, and again reminds me of Stanford. Oregon was able to confuse Stanford’s offensive line by disguising blitz packages, and that really allowed them to get to Andrew Luck consistently. Has Wisconsin’s line shown any weaknesses in this regard?
Michigan State had success with this in the second quarter of both meetings, but the Badgers made halftime adjustments and were fine in the second half. It’s certainly a good idea for Oregon, but the problem is that the Badgers always have the ability to run the ball if things get dicey in pass protection. I can definitely see the Ducks causing confusion on the line, but the question is, can they do it consistently for four quarters?
Everything in this game points to a lot of scoring, but with a month to prepare, there always seems to be less scoring than we expect, especially when you have a good matchup like this. My brain tells me it will be in the 40s, but ultimately my gut says it will end up in the 30s. I expect it to be a great game, but the Ducks have the edge on defense and special teams and that will be enough. I'll go Oregon 38, Wisconsin 35. Offensive MVP: Darron Thomas, Defensive MVP: John Boyett.