Spreading the Attack

Through eight games, Wisconsin has battled and mostly survived the power running teams of the Big Ten. With four spread teams left on the schedule, starting with the trip to Purdue on November 6, the bye week comes at the perfect time for the Badgers to rest and prepare.

MADISON — By the time Halloween concludes this weekend, the Badger players should pool together all of their candy and send half of it on to the Big Ten schedule-makers.

Because no one could have given the Wisconsin football team a better treat this season.

Coming off the two most intense, physical games of the season, UW ends up with the obvious benefit of extended rest.

Perhaps more beneficial, however, the Badgers will be given two weeks to prepare for one upcoming challenge — the spread offense.

All four of the Badgers next opponents — Purdue, Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern — run variations of spread principles. The offenses may not be the exact same, but they all have on thing in common: They look nothing like the Wisconsin offense the Badger defense goes against every day in practice.

Gifted two weeks to prepare for the changeup could prove to be a difference-maker.

"It gave us time to rest against Iowa, which was a very physical game, but it also gave us an extra week of preparation in getting ready for the spread," UW safety Aaron Henry said. "The bye week couldn't come at a better time."

"The good thing is there will be a lot of carry over from week to week," UW senior linebacker Blake Sorensen added. "Guys will be playing space a lot more and any play can be a big play in the spread offense. If we use our rules we should be alright."

So what rules does the Wisconsin defense have to stay true to when faced with a spread attack?

Assignments, assignments, assignments. And you can bet their will be plenty of tackling drills in open space this week.

"I would probably say with a spread it pretty much boils down to assignments," Henry said. "You can get so many different looks … getting off blocks, cupping the ball and just making tackles."

One of the biggest challenges of facing a spread team comes from a defense's ability to pressure the passer.

Most spread offenses are predicated on quick-hitting pass plays — or like Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez' scheme — one-step passes that essentially amount to an extended hand off.

Which means sacks won't be the goal each Saturday, merely disrupting the timing will.

"It is going to be harder to get sacks against these kinds of team, the snap the ball and throw right away, but pressure is big," Sorensen said. "If we an get them to throw faster than they normally would that is big and if we can get some hits that helps."

Of course, anything will be an improvement after the Badgers gave Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi all kinds of time to throw last game-day.

"The last game at Iowa especially we kind of lacked some pressure and we gave them some good looks," junior defensive end J.J. Watt said. "One of the things we are working on is staying in our lanes and getting pressure."

While it is probably just coincidence that the Badgers get all four of the spread opponents back-to-back-to-back-to-back, the schedule does throw into sharp relief how many teams have turned away from traditional offenses.

It may be old news at this point — but still — it is the Big Ten. Where did all the Power-O go?

"It is really weird," Sorensen said. "A lot of teams are moving to it and I am glad that we are one of the last teams to try and keep traditional offense. It is different but we have to adapt to it."

Badger Nation Top Stories