Charlie Neibergall, AP
MADISON, Wis. — BYU travels to take on a tough and relatively unfamiliar Wisconsin team this Saturday. The teams have squared off just once through the years with BYU coming away with a 28-3 win in 1980.
Wisconsin has risen to become one of the premier programs in the Big Ten Conference and is currently ranked No. 21 nationally by AP. The Badgers present a physical type of team that should challenge the Cougars on both sides of the football.
In order to learn more about Wisconsin, we asked John Veldhuis five questions. Veldhuis writes for badgerblitz.com on the Rivals network and knows the Wisconsin football team as well as anyone.
1. How has Gary Andersen done in his first year as coach? What's the general perception regarding the job he's doing?
As far as the regular games go it’s been pretty much as expected. The Badgers lost a tough conference road game to Ohio State, and while their loss to Arizona State was controversial, I don’t think many people expected them to get a win there. They’ve handled their business in all of their other games so far, and have looked pretty good in the process. The BCS has them as the No. 24 team, but anyone who covers the Wisconsin program and some other national analysts have been arguing for them to be ranked a lot higher.
But wins and losses aren’t everything. Andersen has been particularly well-received by the media and the Wisconsin fan base because of how unliked Bret Bielema was. Andersen is very straightforward with the media and has given us a lot of access that Bielema didn’t, and his public persona has been well-received by the fans. Dressing up for Halloween last week is the perfect example — Andersen isn’t afraid to have fun at his own expense sometimes, and I think people appreciate that about him.
2. This is a huge game for BYU, but how does Wisconsin view this unusual out-of-conference game in November? How does Wisconsin regard BYU as an opponent?
I think the Badgers understand how tough it will be to play BYU at this point in the season. The vast majority of their coaching staff has experience with BYU, and I think the coaches are going to draw on their previous games against the Cougars to show their players just what BYU is capable of. The Badgers and the coaching staff have a particular respect for Taysom Hill and Kyle Van Noy, so I think the players will be well-educated on just what Hill and Van Noy can do when they’re on their game.
In particular, I think the Badgers have a good idea of what they’ll be facing on offense this week. It is a little odd for the Badgers to have a non-conference opponent come in to Camp Randall so late in the season, but the players I spoke with on Monday said they think they’ll be ready for something a little different after grinding through a few Big Ten games. And while some teams might not know how to play against a high-tempo offense, the Badgers remember all too well what it was like to play Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl. At the very least I don’t think they’ll be surprised with BYU’s pace — the question will end up being whether they can slow it down and stop it.
3. Talk about Wisconsin on offense. What type of system does it run and who are the primary play-makers?
The Badgers are sticking with a classic pro-style offense under new offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, who you might remember coached San Diego State’s offense last year in the Poinsettia Bowl. The Badgers run to set up the play-action passing game, with short quick passes mixed in to keep the defense honest.
As far as players go, running backs Melvin Gordon and James White keep the Badgers moving down the field. Gordon is the home-run hitter of the group, especially on a particular jet-sweep play that the Badgers have used so well for most of this season. White’s a quick change of pace, but he doesn’t quite have the burst and acceleration that Gordon does. It ends up being a pick-your-poison: teams can usually stop White or Gordon, but getting them on the field at the same time means it’s hard to keep both in check at once.
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