In order to gain a different perspective on Maryland 's next opponent, Wisconsin, we spoke to BadgerNation.com publisher Ben Worgull about the Badgers. Here's our question-and-answer session with him:
Terrapin Times: What is the vibe around this game from a Wisconsin fan perspective? Are they intrigued to be playing a new Big Ten foe in Maryland? Apathetic? How do they view the Terps?
Ben Worgull: I think it’s still in the feeling-out phase between these two programs. Had Wisconsin gotten off to a better start this season and there was more excitement/buzz around the football team, I could see this game being talked about more than it probably is. To be honest, a lot of fans are focused more on what’s wrong with Wisconsin through six games or they have simply moved on to the fourth-ranked hoops team.
For me personally, I’ve been asked more about the hoops team than the football team in the past week. However, I am excited to see Wisconsin’s defense match up against Maryland’s offense, as a lot of the Terps’ strengths (dual-threat quarterback, talented receivers) will test a UW defense that has been up and down in conference play.
TT: What's the atmosphere like at Camp Randall Stadium? I know they pack the place, but is it Seattle Seahawks loud, or more subdued? In other words, what kind of home field advantage do the Badgers have?
BW: I don’t think any stadium in the Big Ten gets as loud as what the 12th man has created in Seattle, but I do think Camp Randall Stadium carries a punch. However, the stadium is the loudest for late kickoffs and especially for games that start at 7 p.m. local time. The fans, particularly the students, are in their seats early and stay loud and involved throughout the game. As expected, the early morning kickoffs (and there have been a lot of them this year) are dialed down a few notches with the student section not full until late in the first half and the atmosphere being somewhat muted.
It’s still a great place to watch the game. The atmosphere pregame is vibrant and it’s one of the best tailgating venues I’ve been around. The ‘Jump Around’ between the third and fourth quarter is one of the coolest traditions in college football when you watch it live, and the UW marching band adds a lot of spirit to the venue.
TT: What's something to know about Wisconsin football that fans couldn't get just by watching game film?
BW: Good question. I think the offense speaks for itself this season: a power running game trying to carry the load offensively while the Badgers continue struggling to develop a passing attack. I think the thing that sticks out to me if Wisconsin’s front seven and all the players being full time starters for the first time and all hailing from the state of Wisconsin.
The Badgers have prided themselves on recruiting in state for a number of years and the results of that have spoken for itself with three Big Ten championships and three Rose Bowl appearances in the last four seasons. The state of Wisconsin doesn’t produce a lot of nationally ranked players that are coveted by a lot of power five conference programs, so for the Badgers to continue finding solid players in state, developing them and seeing them succeed on the field is always a feather in the cap of the program.
TT: We're typically used to seeing Wisconsin ranked among the top 20 teams, but the Badgers are on the outside looking in this year. How close is Wisconsin from being a national contender again, and what's it going to take to get back there?
BW: Two words: Passing game. Wisconsin’s defense isn’t that far off, as I think the move to the 3-4 scheme will help the Badgers be able to run more coverages, disguise more pressures and register more sacks/tackles for loss/interceptions than in the past.
A good defense can only take a team so far though, as Wisconsin has found out this season. The Badgers have had a bad run of luck recruiting and developing quality receivers the last couple of season (there best two receivers the last three years are former walk-on quarterbacks), and the quarterback play has been very inconsistent over the last three seasons.
Wisconsin is known as a power running school, so it’s a hard stigma to break when trying to appeal to elite receivers. However, the Badgers are starting to incorporate some zone-read and option looks to bring a big play element into their offense and make the more balanced. It’s a work in progress, but has the potential to push Wisconsin to another level.
A lot of people don’t want to admit it, but this is a rebuilding year for the program having lost so many capable seniors off last year’s team and the second year staff still trying to put their fingerprints on the program. Wisconsin has the talent to be considered a top level program. Now they just need to develop it.
TT: What's the feeling surrounding Gary Andersen in his second year? What do the fans think, and what's the vibe you're getting from the players?
BW: I think the results are mixed. A lot of fans love Andersen’s demeanor and the way he comes off in interviews. He also protects his players, almost to a fault. In the season opener against LSU, Melvin Gordon hardly played in the second half and Andersen didn’t divulge as to why in the postgame. It also didn’t help that Gordon said he was fine and ready to go after the game, suggesting something more went on.
We found out two days later that Gordon suffered a hip flexor injury, but the door was left open for criticism. Andersen has also been criticized for the handling of the quarterback role (picking an inexperience Tanner McEvoy over Joel Stave) and try to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.
I think Andersen is a good coach and a good fit for Wisconsin, but it takes some time to get the right personnel to run your system. In today’s world, that sometimes isn’t good enough for some fans.
TT: Just how special is running back Melvin Gordon? Is this guy a potential first-round draft pick, a do-it-all type of runner?
BW: He is now, as him making the decision to come back for his junior season has proved to be a smart decision. Gordon was a good one-trick pony in a lot of regards last season, but came back to work on his strength, power, speed and versatility. He can now score touchdowns by breaking a run outside the tackle or putting his head down and bulldozing his way through the line of scrimmage. He also has been better at pass catching and pass protection, two weaknesses in his game last year.
With issues in the passing game, Gordon is becoming the workhorse of the offense and has certainly responded with the best stretch of games in his career. He has one more year of eligibility left, but it would be a shock if he decided to return.
Behind Enemy Lines: Wisconsin
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