BYU vs. Wisconsin: Key Matchups

BYU is in Wisconsin to face the top-25 Badgers. If BYU can pull out a win on the road, it will surely place the Cougars among the top 25 elite nationally. We caught up with Wisconsin beat reporter Benjamin Worgull to get an inside look at some key matchups between BYU and Wisconsin.

BYU defense vs. Wisconsin offense

Wisconsin's running backs make up the primary Badger attack. BYU's defenders will have their hands full, and one key to the game will be how well the linebackers help limit the speedy Wisconsin backs.

White and Gordan vs. Unga and Pikula

The primary attack of Wisconsin will come from running backs James White and Melvin Gordon. Fullback Derek Watt, at 6 feet 2 inches and 231 pounds, will be both a ball-carrier on short downs and a blocker for White and Gordon.

"Well, the funny thing is about James White is he's had the first 13 100-yard rushing games," said Wisconsin beat reporter Benjamin Worgull. "There's always another 100 yard rusher with him. He's never had a 100-yard rushing game just by himself until last week and that was against Iowa. The Iowa game was special to him because as a true freshman he got knocked out of that game early, and that's when Montee Ball took over. He's a guy that's sort of a speedster, both him and [Melvin] Gordon obviously with the numbers he's put up, but James White is the guy that everyone sees as the starter of the group."

Groy vs. Kaufusi or Manumaleuna

The spearpoint of the Badger rushing attack will be their offensive line, which averages 320 pounds per player. While the Badger line is talented, the one player that should be spotlighted is 6-foot-5-inch, 320-pound left guard Ryan Groy. Either Bronson Kaufusi or Remington Peck will be lined up across from Groy come game time.

"Wisconsin's offensive line is just a really solid group all the way through, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be Ryan Groy, their only senior," Worgull said. "He a guy that's played left tackle, center and now he's playing left guard. Wisconsin likes to pull their guards quite a bit, and it was the pulling of Groy against Iowa that led to their 59-yard run to basically steal that game. Groy likes to get out into space and is very solid at finishing his blocks."

Abbrederis vs. Robertson and Hague

The primary receiver in the Wisconsin passing attack is 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound senior Jared Abbrederis. Abbrederis lines up at and plays multiple wide receiver positions. Defensive back Mike Hague is coming back from an injury suffered two weeks ago against Boise State. If BYU is to be successful against the run game, keeping passes from going over the top to extend drives will be important.

"He's a really talented player and is the do-everything guy among Wisconsin's wide receivers," said Worgull. "If you look at Wisconsin's wide receivers, they're a group of guys who are good but not great. They still haven't really developed a good, solid number-two or number-three receiver, and it's been that way for the last two years. So, Abbrederis is kind of a guy who's fought through some injuries. He's had a chest injury and is coming off a concussion from the last game against Iowa, but he's the primary receiver this year just because he's so valuable to Wisconsin. They can't afford to put him out there on punt returns any more. He's a guy that's grown quite a bit and was a former high school quarterback at a D4 school here in the state, with D1 being the highest. He walked on at Wisconsin and was told if he wants to see the field he'll have to switch positions. Wisconsin has a couple of four-star receivers, but it's funny that a walk-on and former high school quarterback is the one that's the most valuable to the program right now."

BYU offense vs. Wisconsin defense

Wisconsin has turned to a 3-4 defense for the first time under new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Starting with the big three defensive linemen Ethan Hemer, Beau Allen, and Pat Muldoon, the key matchup in the trenches is fairly obvious.

Fusi and Alletto vs. Allen

The anchor of any 3-4 defense is the nose guard, and coming in at 6 feet 3 inches and 325 pounds, Badger nose guard Beau Allen is a load. He'll be matching up against either 6-foot-3-inch, 292-pound Terrance Alletto, who is coming off an injury, or 6-foot, 317-pound Edward Fusi.

"The nose guard position is not a position that draws a lot of praise, but Beau Allen has no problems being that aggressive player that draws double-teams and really getting after it," said Worgull. "He's done a very solid job and has played about every down this year. He's a guy that's done really well and, as BYU fans know, plays a position that really is the heart of the front of any 3-4-4 defense."

Williams and Lasike vs. Borland

Leading the charge among the Badger defense is senior all-American Chris Borland. Borland hasn't been 100-percent healthy lately, but he will return to the field to face the Cougars of BYU.

"The key player in Wisconsin's linebacker group is Borland," said Worgull. "Wisconsin is expecting him to play tomorrow. He's missed the last several quarters after injuring his right hamstring on October 19th against Illinois, so he's missed quite a bit of time. He's been practicing this week and I talked to him on Monday and he says he feels a lot better this week than he did last week. He's sort of the pulse of the defense and is an all-American and one of the top tacklers on the team for a handfull of years."

Hoffman or Mathews vs. Shelton

Many feel that senior strong safety Dezmen Southward is probably the one in Wisconsin's secondary that shows up most on film, but Worgull said if there was one key matchup, it would be with freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton.

"A lot of people would pick Dezmen Southward because he's the senior of the group, but Sojourn Shelton is a freshman from Plantation High School in Florida who came in early in January and earned the starting job right out of camp," said Worgull. "He's done really well and leads the team with three interceptions. He has a lot of moxy to him and that South Florida swagger. He and has that Deion Sanders type of personality to him. He's a guy that's been playing really well. Sure, there have been some bumps in the road being a true freshman, but at the same time he's also been a really good playmaker. I thought his best game was against Ohio State and against a really good offensive-minded team. He doesn't play perfect every snap and can sometimes get beat, but he's a guy that just has the ability to really make plays."

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