A Closer Look: Wisconsin Badgers

Ninth-ranked Ohio State faces its first major test of the Big Ten season Saturday in Ohio Stadium when an undefeated Wisconsin team comes calling. The Badgers boast a balanced offense behind running back John Clay and quarterback Scott Tolzien to go with a defense that has excelled at forcing turnovers. Learn more about UW in this in-depth preview.

Wisconsin (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten)
Saturday, Oct. 10
3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Ohio Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

The Badgers
Head coach: Bret Bielema, 33-11 at Wisconsin, fourth year
2008 record: 7-6 (3-5 Big Ten)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 52-17-5
School location: Madison, Wis.
Enrollment: 42,041
Colors: Cardinal and White
Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
Fight song: "On Wisconsin"

Wisconsin Players To Watch
QB Scott Tolzien: The junior continued to climb the Badger depth chart during the past few years and finally reached the top during fall camp thanks to his calm presence and ability to make the smart play. That's continued into the season for Tolzien, who is second in the Big Ten in passing efficiency rating.

He has a solid command of the entire offense – especially in clutch situations – and has just one interception over his last four games. Tolzien also has accepted the moniker "game manager," which many quarterbacks shun.

"I take that as a compliment," Tolzien said. "If you're managing games, usually that's a good thing for your team. If someone wants to call me a game manager, I'm completely fine with that."

RB John Clay: Perhaps the most talked about Badger in the days heading into the game because of his 184-yard performance at Minnesota, Clay is the prototypical Wisconsin back with a combination of size and agility. His 248-pound frame is harder and harder to tackle as the game goes on and he's topped 140 yards in three of five games. His only issue has been a recurring tendency to put the ball on the ground.

DE O'Brien Schofield: After emerging on the scene a year ago as a junior, Schofield is having a standout senior season as a team captain. Schofield has been impressive in all situations, compiling 26 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4½ sacks, four quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

"I can't say enough about O'Brien Schofield," head coach Bret Bielema said. "He is just playing with unbelievable passion."

LB Mike Taylor: Taylor has jumped into the strongside linebacker spot as a redshirt freshman thanks to his playmaking abilities and toughness. While he's still young enough to give up a big play or two, Taylor has mitigated that by making a team-best 35 tackles, five tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and a fumble recovery.

"We saw a guy flashing and making plays and being in the right place," defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said of the camp showing that got him a starting role. "He is a gladiator. He loves to wrestle. He loves to hunt. He loves football. That's kind of his life. That makes him a pretty good linebacker."

Results
Sept. 5, Northern Illinois, W 28-20
Sept. 12, Fresno State, W 34-31 (2OT)
Sept. 19, Wofford, 44-14
Sept. 26, Michigan State, 38-30
Oct. 3, at Minnesota, 31-28

Projected Starters
QB 16 Scott Tolzien, 6-3, 205
RB 32 John Clay, 6-1, 248
WR 1 Nick Toon, 6-3, 212
WR 6 Isaac Anderson, 5-10, 177
TE 89 Garrett Graham, 6-3, 250
TE 84 Lance Kendricks, 6-4, 236
LT 68 Gabe Carimi, 6-7, 325
LG 74 John Moffitt, 6-5, 320
C 66 Peter Konz, 6-5, 315
RG 70 Kevin Zeitler, 6-4, 317
RT 67 Josh Oglesby, 6-7, 330

DE 50 O'Brien Schofield, 6-3, 248
DT 45 Dan Moore, 6-2, 283
DT 95 Patrick Butrym, 6-4, 291/79 Jeff Stehle, 6-6, 310
DE 99 J.J. Watt, 6-6, 287
WLB 47 Jaevery McFadden, 6-2, 230
MLB 15 Culmer St. John, 6-0, 233
SLB 53 Mike Taylor, 6-2, 221
CB 26 Antonio Fenelus, 5-9, 185
SS 2 Jay Valai, 5-9, 201
FS 21 Chris Maragos, 6-0, 198
CB 10 Devin Smith, 5-11, 188

K 18 Philip Welch, 6-3, 200
P 98 Brad Nortman, 6-3, 209
KR/PR 85 David Gilreath, 5-11, 170

Five Fast Facts
1. Tight end Graham caught three touchdowns against Michigan State on Sept. 26, making him the sixth Badger to do so in school history. Given UW's traditional strong tight end play, it shouldn't be a surprise the last player to do so was tight end Owen Daniels, who had a trio of scoring catches against Temple in 2005.

2. Wisconsin is just one of eight teams in the country with a 5-0 record, and the Badgers have that record for the fifth time in 10 seasons. The Badgers are the only unranked undefeated team in the nation. The Badgers have won their first two Big Ten games for the fifth time in seven years.

3. Of the 51 players listed on the offensive and defensive depth charts for the Badgers, only 10 are seniors and 27 are freshmen or sophomores. Seventy-one of the 103 players in fall camp for the Badgers were underclassmen.

4. Team captains are tight ends Mickey Turner and Garrett Graham, defensive end O'Brien Schofield and safety Chris Maragos. Maragos, a former walk-on who started his career at Western Michigan, is the latest former walk-on to be named captain at UW, a list that includes Jim Leonhard and Luke Swan.

5. Center Travis Frederick started the opening two games for the Badgers, making him the first true freshman to start a season opener on the offensive line in school history. He was the first true freshman overall to start a season opener since DE Matt Shaughnessy in 2005. He sprained his right ankle against Fresno State and has been replaced by Peter Konz, a redshirt freshman who has played on both sides of the offensive line at UW but hadn't snapped since fifth grade.

Offensive Scouting Report
How about this for a stat: Through five games, Wisconsin has topped 400 total yards in every game, averaging 217.2 yards per game rushing and 216.0 through the air.

Now that is balance.

"Our goal is to make defenses defend the whole field," running backs coach John Settle said. "To be able to keep them off balance is something we pride ourselves on, something we try to do week in and week out."

But for a team to be balanced, they must be effective in both phases of the game, and that's what the Badgers have been able to achieve thanks to the running of John Clay and the passing of Scott Tolzien.

Clay has emerged as a breakout star through five games. The sophomore has finally put together his prodigious gifts to place fifth in the nation with 116.4 yards per game, giving him 582 yards and seven touchdowns on 112 carries.

He's helped Wisconsin compile the best red-zone mark in the Big Ten – the Badgers are 20 for 20 with 18 touchdowns – and his 248-pound, bowling-ball-like physique has worn down teams as games have gone on.

"It's kind of like watching a heavyweight boxing match," head coach Bret Bielema said of Clay's punishing rushing style. "The guys who are trying to tackle him in the third and fourth quarter aren't doing it the same way they were doing it in the first half. He has an effect on the game and just wears you down. A lot of times you can actually see the body demeanor change on a defense going out in the fourth quarter.

That's why OSU's Todd Denlinger said getting to Clay before he gets going will be key in order to wear him down before he does the opposite.

"It's our whole defense's job to swarm-tackle him, try to get him down," Denligner said. "Hit him as much as we can so maybe by the end of the third quarter and into the fourth he's not running as hard."

Zach Brown actually started the year as the starter, but even after 211 yards and three scores in five games, he is being relegated to third-down duty after a big fumble against Minnesota. Settle said true freshman Montee Ball, who ran four times for 5 yards in his career debut last week, will see more reps.

As for Tolzien, he's earned plaudits for managing the game and hitting open receivers. He has a sterling 9-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, including 8-to-1 in the last four games, and has been solid overall. On the year, he's completed 82 of 125 passes (65.6 percent) for 1,043 yards and a passing efficiency of 154.65 that's second in the league. Not noted for his scrambling ability, Tolzien has 16 tries for 73 yards, though most came on one 47-yard scramble.

"I love the way their quarterback's playing," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "He's been very, very efficient, done exactly what they need to do behind that big offensive line and the big running backs."

That efficiency has really come through on third down, where Tolzien is 29 of 41 passing while converting 23 of those 41 throws (56.1 percent) into either a first down or a touchdown. On third and less than 10, his throws have converted 21 of 29 (72.4 percent) of tries. As a team, Wisconsin has been successful on 56.3 percent (36 of 64) third-down attempts, good for tops in the league.

Nick Toon, the son of longtime NFL wideout Al Toon, has emerged as the team's No. 1 target at wideout and a particular favorite of Tolzien on third down. The sophomore has 22 catches for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Junior Isaac Anderson has added 12 catches for 255 yards and a score to fall as the team's No. 2 wideout.

Wisconsin's tight ends are particular targets of Tolzien as well as team leaders. Garrett Graham is a senior who is living up to preseason first-team All-Big Ten billing with a team-best 23 catches for 268 yards and two touchdowns. His 13 career scores are the most for a tight end in school history. Lance Kendricks has worked into the rotation as a junior with 12 catches for 135 yards and two scores. Senior Mickey Turner, another team captain and a good blocker, has added four grabs for 28 yards.

The Wisconsin offensive line has dealt with major injury issues to still act as the punishing force many expect. The Badgers boast two massive tackles in left tackle Gabe Carimi, a three-year starter, and right tackle Josh Oglesby, once the No. 1 tackle recruit in the country according to Scout.

The middle has been beset by injuries but is set with John Moffitt at left guard, Peter Konz in the middle and Kevin Zeitler at right guard. Moffitt missed the start of the year with a pectoral injury but is back, while Konz has taken over for Travis Frederick and Zeitler has played in place of the injured Bill Nagy.

Defensive Scouting Report
Wisconsin comes in at plus-5 on the year in takeaways, and the defense has forced 15 turnovers on the year.

"I think if you asked anybody that watched us right now, they would say we're playing extremely hard and we're playing together," defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said. "Those two things usually mean opportunity."

Wisconsin is seventh in the Big Ten rushing (128.0 yards), pass efficiency (132.72) and total defense (363.0 yards) and sixth in scoring (24.6 points), but those big plays have helped keep the Badgers in their games.

After Schofield, the Badgers have had a solid but not standout front. Sophomore J.J. Watt, a Central Michigan transfer, has 13 tackles, 3½ for loss opposite Schofield. At the tackle spot, senior Jeff Stehle has bulked up to 6-6, 310 and has seven tackles on the year. Senior Dan Moore and sophomore Patrick Butrym have split time at the other tackle spot. Butrym has 11 stops and an interception, while Moore has eight tackles and a sack.

The senior leader of the linebacker corps is Jaevery McFadden, a second-year starter. The weakside linebacker has 32 tackles, three TFL and a sack. Redshirt freshman Mike Taylor is leading the team in stops with 35 to go with some big plays including a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery. The middle man is junior Culmer St. Jean, a 6-0, 233-pound junior. St. Jean has 31 stops to go with two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.

Backup strongside linebacker Chris Borland, a true freshman from Kettering (Ohio) Alter, has made an impact with 11 tackles, 1½ sacks, a blocked punt and a fumble recovery. Another backup, middle linebacker Blake Sorensen (6-1, 231), works in third-down situations and has 13 tackles.

The secondary has improved as the season has gone on. Big plays have been prevalent, with both Michigan State and Fresno State throwing four touchdown passes and three interceptions apiece.

The Badgers have four cornerbacks who have played extensively with sophomores Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith settling in as the starters. Smith has earned plaudits as a steady player with has 16 stops with a pick. Fenelus has eased into his role with 19 tackles and an interception. Aaron Henry, a sophomore who played extensively as a freshman before redshirting because of knee trouble last year, has 10 tackles, while junior Niles Brinkley has 11 tackles and a pick.

Maragos has turned into a big name at the safety position with 26 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble. The other safety is big hitter Jay Valai, who laid a few licks on Ohio State players a season ago. So far this year, the 5-9, 201-pound junior has 23 stops while trying to play more under control.


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