Tucson, Ariz. • Arizona Stadium
Saturday, Sept. 18, • 1:07 p.m. (MST/PDT)
Radio: KCUB (Brian Jefferies, Lamont Lovett)
Television: Fox Sports Net (Barry Tompkins, Petros Papadakis)
WISCONSIN AT A GLANCE
Head Coach: Barry Alvarez. 15th year (99-67-4 overall)
2003 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in Big Ten) (Lost to Auburn 28-14 in the Music City Bowl)
Site: Madison, WI
Series Record: Wisconsin leads the series 1-0. Wisconsin beat Arizona in Madison in 2002.
LAST TIME OUT: Arizona lost to Utah 23-6. Wisconsin beat UNLV 18-3
ABOUT WISCONSIN: The heyday of Wisconsin football has been on the skids in the new millennium. For awhile the perennial Big Ten wildcard and thorn in Michigan and Ohio State's side, Wisconsin has leveled off, averaging just seven wins a year over the last four seasons.
The Badgers are 2-0 but have not looked overly impressive in either win, especially last week's win over UNLV. In this end this is your typical Badger team, big lines, big hits, good running game.
WHEN WISCONSIN HAS THE BALL:
The Badgers don't do much that will shock you. They line up and just try to run you over. They have big, physical offensive linemen and they want to punish the smaller Wildcat defensive linemen.
The Badgers were dealt a blow when their all-world running back Anthony Davis suffered an eye injury and will miss the game. Without Davis the Badgers' offense struggled last week against a less than impressive UNLV. Booker Stanley and Jamil Walker will get the load of the carries. Walker did not play in the season's first game but averaged 5.5 yards a carry against UNLV.
The passing game is just average. John Stocco has put up impressive numbers, but hasn't proven he's a huge passing threat. He works best when the running game forces the defense to play close to the line. Stanley has been the leading receiver, but Brandon Williams can keep teams honest and Jonathan Orr is a reliable pass catcher.
Arizona will be undersized, but that won't be a problem if the defense can step up and make a difference. Mike Stoops has schemed very well against good running teams. Expect the Cats to sell out against the run and use both LB's and DB's to plug the gaps and force the Badgers to throw.
WHEN ARIZONA HAS THE BALL
The Wildcats have struggled a bit on offense, especially in the redzone. The Wildcats have moved the ball between the 20's but just haven't been able to punch it in.
Kris Heavner has played well, especially in terms of ball control, but hasn't made the big plays. He missed practice time earlier in the week with what was described as a "touch of the flu" but should be 100% by kickoff. He needs to continue to make the safe play, but could be called upon to make something happen late in the contest.
Mike Bell is still the go-to guy, but he has to take care of the ball. Bell has lost three fumbles and the Wildcats must protect the football to win. Expect Bell to rebound and get 25-30 touches. Gilbert Harris and Chris Henry have proven to be reliable back-ups.
Arizona gets Biren Ealy back from a foot injury and he could be important. Ealy is the closest thing the Wildcats have to a break away threat. Syndric Steptoe has been the team's most reliable receiver.
Expect the Wildcats to try to milk the clock and eat up the time of possession. They want to keep things close and limit mistakes. It may not be pretty, but they have a plan. The Badgers have a great defense, giving up just 4.5 points a contest. They play physical and smart. They have a number of playmakers and make few mistakes. Like Arizona, they want to shut down the run and make the Wildcats try to beat them with the pass.
OUTLOOK: Wisconsin has the physical advantage, but the gap is closing. The Wildcats have shown that they are a pretty good team. The Badgers are the favorite, and rightfully so, but as game time comes my gut says Arizona can win this one. They have to play mistake free football, but I say they can and will.
PREDICTION: Arizona 17, Wisconsin 14