Musings from Maragos

After two standout seasons in the Wisconsin secondary, Chris Maragos is collecting a NFL paycheck in San Francisco. He also joins Badger Nation for a weekly insider look at Wisconsin football, talking this week about the blowout victory against Indiana and looking ahead to the revenge game in the Big House.

MADISON - In three years playing for the University of Wisconsin, Chris Maragos had so many high moments that he can hardly keep track of them all.

He can't forget the lowest moment of his career either.

As his 49ers prepare to host the first-place Buccaneers, Chris Maragos will be watching intently as No.6 Wisconsin hopes to correct the problems that have plagued the Badgers in the state of Michigan.

Maragos continues his weekly feature with Badger Nation, talking about Indiana and previewing Michigan, a team he hopes his former teammates can bury in Ann Arbor once and for all.

Anything negative you can pick out about 83 points?

Maragos: (laughing) I think the biggest thing for me going through my mind was how physically more dominant than they were than the Indiana team. In every aspect, they were more dominant, especially with the offensive line and the push they were getting. The running backs were running free and they really imposed their will, which was huge for them to do.

Bret Bielema has been in the news all week about the 83 points and if they ran up the score to impress the voters. You've been in that locker room and around that coaching staff. Have the words ‘style points' ever come up or the coach's trying to impress the voters?

Maragos: Honestly, being around the program, they aren't trying to go for the style points. They are playing Wisconsin football and calling the offense the way they call it and call the defense the way they call it throughout the game. They were going out there, executing the offense and it just happened to be this way. I can tell you with almost certainty that they weren't trying to run up the score.

If a situation ever came up where Wisconsin needed to win big in order to impress voters to get a Rose Bowl bid or a BCS bid, do you think the coaching staff would change their outlook?

Maragos: Personally, I think the best thing about the Badgers program is they dictate the game based on what they do. They don't try to do things that they aren't accustomed to. They play football the way they play football. They call the game the way they call the game and they don't budge from that. That's why they have so much success because they stick to the game plan, they stick to the running game and they want to win by doing whatever it takes.

Are the last two games a perfect example of how turnovers come in bunches and that you just have to stick with your keys when the TOs aren't coming? I remember you telling the story of how frustrating it was to go against Scott Tolzien in practice because he would never turn the ball over.

Maragos: No doubt. Tolzien was so frustrating because he would never turn the ball over in practice, let alone a pass breakup. To get turnovers, you have to put yourself in good situations but a lot of time, you just have to capitalize on the offense's mistakes. A quarterback making a poor throw is where you get your interceptions. Once in awhile you make a good break or catch a tip pass, but you have to put yourself in good position and hope for some luck. When they mess up, you have to take advantage of it.

What's the big key to tackling in space and are the cornerbacks at Wisconsin good at that?

Maragos: I think the cornerbacks at Wisconsin are both very aggressive corners. They tackle, they hit and they aren't afraid to get their nose in there. The biggest key for a defensive back tackling in the open field is you need to take the gap in between you and the runner. You have to close the gap quick and having an awareness of where your defenders are, where the sideline is and which way you need to position your body. It's important to watch the cut back. For me when I am in the open field as a defender, the key for me is I like to take a shot at a leg. Taking a shot at one of the legs is going to trip him up or slow him down or jump out of the way to where the pursuit will be able to tackle him. Sometimes if you go high and miss, the guy is still running full speed.

What's the big difference and the big challenges you see between Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier? Robinson likes to run and Forcier can deliver a good strike when need be.

Maragos: With Robinson, you are looking at a guy that can run and pass and that poses a threat. It's tough because the defensive line are trying to rush the passer but not flush outside the pocket to where he can run and have a run-pass option. A guy like Robinson is a guy that lives by the sword and dies by the sword. He's going to make a great play for you, but he might throw the ball in the air and try to get a pick.

Forcier is a little different after playing against him last year. He's more a traditional quarterback and has a unique running ability to where he actually is deceptive with how well he can move and run. He's more of a passer. He can read the coverages well when he's back there. The key is getting pressure up front and seeing the defensive backfield make plays.

From a defensive standpoint, where are the key areas Wisconsin's offense can exploit Michigan's defense?

Maragos: I think Michigan's defense from top to bottom doesn't stack up against the Wisconsin offense. The Badgers are too strong and what really needs to happen is the offensive line needs to dominate, and I am very confident that they will. They do such a good job with those guys getting a push up front and the running back does a great job being patience and taking what's given. When they start loading the box up, throw a play-action pass and sent Nick Toon deep and Jared Abbrederis. I think that's going to be key for this game.

What makes the Big House so challenging?

Maragos: I don't know. I don't think it's as intimidating as a stadium that people think it ought to be. There's 110,000 fans there but the noise level doesn't feel like it. It's not that overall intimidating, but a team like Michigan always recruits well and has good athletes. No matter what you do as a team, a team like Michigan that has potential and playmakers is always in it. No matter what you do against them, they are going to battle and fight because they have a great program. Anytime you are on the road, you have to play four quarters and smart, penalty-free, turnover-free football.

Do you think about that game two years ago or is that in the past for you?

Maragos: (laughing) Oh man, you think about it. You think about what could have been and how the season could have been different if you start off Big Ten play with a win. That might have been our most talented team in terms of the number of guys on that squad that are in the NFL, but we weren't as together of a team like we were last year or this year from what I've heard. I know a lot of those guys were younger at the time and they were there for that and they remember that and remember that feeling. They know the type of team they are playing against. All those guys are going to be extremely hungry and want to win this game bad.

Will Wisconsin bury your ghosts, leave Michigan with a victory and move your record and the team's record to 10-1?

Maragos: The Badgers are playing at an extremely high level and I think it'll be hard to stop them. I think the defense is coming up with big turnovers the past two games and are playing with the swagger. Up front, J.J. Watt and the linebackers are playing solid, too. As long as the Badgers can contain Denard Robinson and force them to be one dimensional in the pocket, our offense can put up a ton of points and it gives them a good opportunity to win this ball game. I think Wisconsin wins this game 34-24.


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