1) Wisconsin has been one of the bullies up north for awhile now. Do you think Coach Chryst can continue the trend of smash mouth Badger football?
Paul Chryst and Wisconsin go way back. His dad was involved in the program when Chryst was a child, allowing him to be around the program and culture. He played quarterback for the Badgers and later worked for Barry Alvarez as a tight end coach and then Alvarez and Bret Bielema as an offensive coordinator. He knows the culture and what it takes to win in Madison. The Badgers aren’t a program that is going to land a lot of five-star, ready-made prospects. UW has been a successful developmental program that prides itself on recruiting big offensive linemen to block for talented tailbacks on offense and finding hard-nosed players on defense.
In the brief two-year stint of Gary Andersen, Wisconsin was starting to transition away from that style, incorporating more spread techniques on offense and slimming down on defense. It’s hard to say whether those things would have helped or hindered the program since Chryst reverted back to the old ways once he arrived.
Wisconsin has a good system developing in its 3-4 defense and Chryst always seems to get the most out of his personnel on offense. Those two traits have fans optimistic that the coaching carousel has stopped and Wisconsin football can start to move forward.
2) Have there been any major philosophical changes to the program or schematical changes on the field with the new staff?
One of the biggest moves by Chryst after he was hired was retaining defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. Aranda came with Andersen at the beginning of 2013 and switched UW’s long-standing 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme. Even with players playing out of position the last two seasons, Aranda’s units were among some of the top in the country. With his family putting down roots in Wisconsin and comfortable with the situation, Aranda really wanted to stay, a big bonus to Chryst.
On offense, there has been a bigger emphasis on the passing game, which was one of the worst in the country last season. With a fifth-year senior quarterback in Joel Stave, a handful of talented receivers, questions on the offensive line and its best tailback injured, UW has relied on the pass and it’s worked thus far.
3) Which players are projected as All-Big 10 or potentially high draft picks?
I don’t see any guaranteed first round N.F.L. draft picks on this roster, but I really like what outside linebacker Joe Schobert has done through three games, leading the team in tackles (25), tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (four). Originally headed to North Dakota, Schobert decided to walk-on at Wisconsin at the last minute and has slowly developed himself into one of the best OLBs in the conference. He’s having a first-team all-conference season and should be singled out in every offensive coach’s game plan.
4) Are any key players out or questionable for Saturday’s game?
Wisconsin will be without junior Corey Clement for the next 4-to-6 weeks after it was revealed Thursday that he will have to undergo sports hernia surgery. It’s a huge blow to the Badgers considering many, including yours truly, thought Clement was the most indispensable player on Wisconsin’s roster. The silver lining is UW hasn’t had a healthy Clement all season, so the shock to the system will probably be minimal. UW will rely on tailbacks Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale to carry the load for the next several weeks. Deal’s runs have been mostly between the tackles while Ogunbowale has the ability to stretch the field to a degree, even though his big runs this season have been minimal.
Wisconsin’s defense has no health issues, but sophomore cornerback Darius Hillary – the team’s starting nickel cornerback – will miss the first half after being ejected for targeting in the third quarter of last week’s game.
5) Hawaii hung with Ohio State for three quarters, should that give Hawaii fans confidence that they can compete with Wisconsin on Saturday?
Absolutely. There’s no question that Ohio State is better than Wisconsin and the Badgers’ offensive line is still unsettled, as UW has rotated players on the right side the last two weeks. Hawaii’s toughness and physicality on the line could pose problems for the Badgers’ running game and their pass protection. I’m very interested to see how Hawaii’s defense – holding teams to 193 passing yards a game – does against a UW passing attack that has performed above expectations through three games.
6) The passing game versus the Buckeyes wasn’t pretty. Should the Warriors expect to have any more success in the second time around at Big 10 competition?
It won’t be easy. Wisconsin’s secondary boast three seniors and three three-year starters, including both cornerbacks. Together, Wisconsin’s secondary has 141 games of experience.
Senior Michael Caputo is the team’s captain and is extremely versatile, able to line up in different spots on the field and successfully challenge the run and the pass. Senior cornerback Darius Hillary is more a press cornerback while junior corner Sojourn Shelton likes to mirror his targets. The Badgers certainly aren’t turnover machines but will take advantage of mistakes, evident by team creating five turnovers the last two games.
7) What was different in the Badgers’ 28-3 win over Troy compared to the 58-0 drubbing of Miami (OH) the week prior?
Even though the running game performed better, Wisconsin’s offense never found a true rhythm against the Trojans. Held to a touchdown in each quarter, it was a performance that showed Wisconsin’s offense is still a work in progress. Defensively there was no difference – UW dominated an offense that it clearly had the upper hand against.
8) Are there any areas of concern for Wisconsin that could lead to a Hawaii upset?
All the question marks with the team involve the offense. Can the Badgers’ offensive line develop the chemistry needed to compete for a Big Ten title? Can UW’s reserve tailbacks be the big-play threats Melvin Gordon was a year ago and Corey Clement was supposed to be this season? Unfortunately for Wisconsin fans, those questions are still unanswered because the level of competition hasn’t adequately tested this group since the season-opening loss to Alabama.
9) What Wisconsin strengths must Hawaii focus in on to avoid a blowout loss?
If Hawaii can force turnovers on Wisconsin’s offense and grind the passing game to a halt, the Warriors have a great chance to win because I can’t see the Badgers’ running game beating any team by itself right now. As I stated previously, Wisconsin’s secondary is the backbone of the unit. If Hawaii can get some big gashes in the passing game, it’ll be interesting to see the ripple effect it causes.
10) What can Hawaii fans expect from the atmosphere at Camp Randall?
Raucous. Night game at many places carry a different vibe and Wisconsin is no different. The Badgers have had trouble the last several years getting the students into the stadium on time for 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. kickoffs. That’s never the case for primetime. Strangely enough, UW hasn’t had a home night game since Sept. 2012, so there will be an extra dose of crazy in the stands tomorrow night.