Monday Morning Maragos

After two standout seasons in the Wisconsin secondary, Chris Maragos is collecting a NFL paycheck with the San Francisco 49ers. He also joins Badger Nation for a weekly insider look at Wisconsin football, talking this week about Austin Peay and looking ahead to Michigan State.

MADISON - In all his years playing football, Chris Maragos never remembers being a part of a game where a team scored 70 points or the margin of victory was 67 points. With his San Francisco 49ers struggling, Maragos is understandably a little jealous.

Not only is his former team off to a 4-0 start, No.11 Wisconsin begins its Big Ten conference season at Michigan State, an environment Maragos knows some upperclassmen want to seek a measure of redemption at.

Do you remember walking off the field after the lat non-conference game, realizing that Big Ten play starts next week and how excited that made you feel?

Maragos: Without question it's a different level of excitement. As you get in to the Big Ten, you really want to represent your school and take the conference by storm. You go through the non-conference schedule looking to improve but it's on once you get to the Big Ten schedule. You want to go get this thing.

You said going into last week that the Austin Peay game would be an opportunity to prove a lot of things. What do you think the guys in the locker room are feeling after a victory like that? No matter what level they are on, anytime you hold an opponent to three points and score on your first nine possessions, you are doing something right.

Maragos: They were pretty much clicking from the get go. Obviously, they feel encouraged and that's important going into next week. Your morale is up but what's good is that they had some adversity in the first few games, and they are the kind of guys that aren't going to forget that. I think they really understand that they can score at any given time and the defense can shut anybody down. I think it's really good for the morale of the guys to really build up some steam going into the Big Ten season.

The biggest point I would take away from the game as a player, not only are the guys visualizing making big plays along the sideline, making tackles or making big hits, it's actually happening. When you get used to actually doing that, it carries over and when you make big plays, you want more of that. Once you feel you've made those plays and you keep going, you want to make more, so that's really good for the team because I think that desire carries over.

Without being too biased, what position do you think has made the most improvements through the first four games?

Maragos: I would probably would have to say the group that has made the most improvements is the defensive backfield. You saw what Arizona State did to Oregon (31 points, 597 total yards, 387 passing yards). That's a potent offense and you really see how the DBs were able to control that. In large part I say those guys because there were probably more questions about them than any other position. We knew the offensive line was going to be good, running backs were going to be good, have an established quarterback and depth at linebacker, so that's why I say those guys because they continue to take care of their business.

From a player perspective and now viewing the team like a coach, where there any major things on Saturday that need to be cleaned up before next week because a better team can take advantage of that?

Maragos: I think it's tough to tell against a team like that. You can take away good things but you can't take a ton away from it because a team like that isn't going to expose as many things as a better team would. I am sure if I really studied the film, there would be things for the guys to clean up because it can get you in trouble against a better team. The coaching staff does a great job critiquing those guys and sharpening them for the next week. Really, this game against Michigan State is going to be a defining game for their Big Ten season.

You played Michigan State twice. What was the hardest thing about playing against them or planning against them that made them a challenge?

Maragos: If you look at the quarterback situation, they do a great job with Kirk Cousins and he's a guy that I have a lot of respect for. Even the receiving corps, I thought they were one of the better units we played against last season. Compliment that with the way they are coached and there tough style of play, I think it's going to be tough, especially when you have to go and play at East Lansing. That's a difficult place to play. I remember playing there two years and knowing it was a challenge. They are going to be a spirited team with everything going on with their coach and it's going to be a tough game.

How tough was that 2008 loss to swallow? Wisconsin was virtually in control the entire game until Bret Bielema's penalty and things sort of unraveled from that point, kind of a symbol of that season.

Maragos: That was tough. I really felt like that deflated me. There was a lot of emotion tied into that game. It was a game that was really hard fought by both teams and in the end, we couldn't pull it off. I think the guys are going to remember it because most of the guys that played in that game are still there. They aren't going to forget that, and I think that's an important thing. Going on the road, you can't beat yourself and turn the ball over, otherwise you're going to make it very hard on yourself.

Every year, even a coach, you always continue to better with more experience. I think everyone wants to win this one for a lot of reasons. Right now, I think the only team that can beat the Badgers are the Badgers. If the play the game assignment sound and limit the mental errors, I think it's tough to beat them because they have so many experienced weapons.

You are 4-0. What's your prediction?

Maragos: I really feel the Badgers are going to win this one. It's going to be a tough one. It's going to be tight. I think thing the Badgers are going to come out with this one because of what they can do. These guys really want to start the season off right and this is a good opportunity to get one on the road. I am going to say a 31-28 Wisconsin win.

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