As part of our blog bet, Hilary of Off Tackle Empire and I wrote a piece for each other's sites entitles 5 things you may not know about....... You can view my submission at OTE, Hilary's submission is here.
1. The Special teams is... special. Perhaps Wisconsin's greatest weakness heading into the Rose Bowl is the performance of the Special Teams. It's been a theme all season. Drops, kicks returned for seriously long yardage, poor kick coverage. Really, you name it, the Badgers have done it. It's been covered up during the year largely thanks to the dominant nature of Wisconsin's offense, but in close games (see: Michigan State during the regular season) it has made all the difference. If Oregon can own special teams, Wisconsin might be in trouble.
2. Montee Ball Isn't Our Only Rush Threat... Most of the spotlight for Wisconsin's offense has been on Montee Ball. And of course it should be. He was nominated for the Heisman and has a real shot at breaking the TD record with his performance in the Rose Bowl. But, last year Ball was a #2/3 back behind John Clay along with James White. This year, White has been less effective than before, with only 600 some yards on the season and six touchdowns. But, that's still more yards than the primary backs of some teams in the Big Ten (Illinois, Purdue, Northwestern....). White is less important as a scoring threat on his own than as a guy who can take some snaps while Ball rests his legs. You think Ball is dangerous to begin the game? Just wait until the fourth quarter rolls around and your D-Line is exhausted while Ball is coming off the sidelines after a nice long rest.
3. The Only Way to Beat Russell Wilson is to Keep Him in the Pocket... By now you probably know that Russell Wilson is a pretty decent quarterback. Wisconsin isn't Stanford -- he's not our entire offense like Luck is for the Cardinal -- but he's definitely a threat. Until Montee Ball really took off, Wilson was our main Heisman contender. Even though the focus shifted to Ball, Wilson has got some pretty decent numbers on the season -- a 72% completion percentage, 2,800 yards, 31 touchdowns to 3 interceptions... Everything that should make a Ducks fan nervous. The thing is, Russell Wilson is only truly effective when our coordinator is calling play actions and roll outs. Our pass protection has been iffy at best during the season, but Wilson's mobility buys him extra time to hit our receivers when he's given the opportunity. If, however, Chryst turns to long drops and fixed passing plays, Wilson and the Badgers are vulnerable in more ways than just the sack. Early in the season, Wilson had a problem with intentional grounding penalties. When he was kept in the pocket too long and faced intensive pressure, he tended to make poor decisions concerning throws while still in the tackle box. It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but it's a significant penalty and has even given Wisconsin's opponents a safety on occasion.
4. Wisconsin is Best When in the Red Zone... The Badgers have one of the leading red zone scoring attacks on the season, and Ducks fans should get nervous if the Badgers are ever in vicinity of the end zone. On the season, Bucky has a 96% red zone scoring rate (67/70 tries) including field goals and touchdowns. But it's not as though the Badgers are just really awesome at scoring three -- if you take out field goals, the Badgers still have an 87% scoring rate in the red zone (61/70). If Oregon is going to beat Wisconsin, they can't wait for stops to come inside the 20 yard line.
5. We Suck in the Second Quarter... But So Do You... Wisconsin has been relatively consistent with the way games have gone throughout the season. We tend to burst out and put up a ton of points in the first quarter, while holding opponents down. Purely by the numbers, during the course of the season Wisconsin has scored 149 points in the first quarter to opponents 38. In the third quarter, the numbers are similar -- 143 Badger points to 35 points for opponents. In the fourth quarter, the numbers decline a bit, partly due to Wisconsin taking its foot off the gas in certain games -- only 112 Badger points to 50 opponent points.
But the second quarter. Oh the second quarter.
By far the point in time in the game when offenses score the most points on the Badgers is the second quarter. 96 points have been scored on Bucky during that 15 minutes -- 3x more than in the first or third quarters, and nearly two times as many as in the final frame of the game. Why this is the case is a mystery to me. The weird thing is that Wisconsin also scores a lot in the second quarter -- 176 points on the season. It's not nearly as lopsided as with our defensive stats, but there's still a noticeable difference. So what's this mean for the game? Well, if there's going to be a momentum change, it's probably going to occur during the second quarter. If the game is a blowout by halftime, it might already be over...