Five Keys to Victory: UNLV

Football season is back and the 11th-ranked Badgers are once again aiming for a Big Ten title. While all five keys will resonate throughout the season, they will be especially important in the opener. Without further ado, 2011's first five keys to victory...

1, Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

A new season always brings new faces, but usually those faces are firmly planted on the heads of the bodies of freshmen that are firmly planted on the bench. Not this season. The main man, Mr. Russell Wilson, first set foot in Madison this summer and has had little time to adjust to being signal caller in a top tier offense. A quick adjustment is essential to the team's success this year.

2, Then there were two

The Badgers successes last year rested mainly upon the six shoulders lining up behind the quarterback. John Clay was arguably the most acclaimed of the three. However it was Montee Ball, followed by James White, that had the most yards per carry. There is something to say about the benefit of having opposing defenses key in on another back.

3, Then there were two (part 2)

Speaking of losing players, it seems the receiving corps has been experiencing that all summer. On the plus side, Nick Toon is back and he will be essential to the successes of the passing game of Wilson. Jared Abbrederis showed flashes of success last year and should be able to hold down the middle of the field. Who comes next could be just about anyone. Manasseh Garner looked like a beast in the spring game back in April and could be the answer in time. However, Thursday's game could play as an open audition for Jeff Duckworth, Kenzel Doe, Isaiah Williams, and even running back Melvin Gordon should the others falter.

4, Line of power

Even after losing two high draft picks (Gabe Carimi in the first round and John Moffitt in the third), the offensive line is projected as a strength for Wisconsin. While the individual talent is there, taking too long to gel as a unit could be a problem. The season opener is the time to set the tone and establish this unit as another dominant Badger offensive line.

5, Health watch

A number of the key players on both sides of the ball have missed time this summer. Chris Borland's shoulder, Nick Toon's foot, Mike Taylor's knee, Oglesby's knee, Philip Welch's quad, sprained ankles here and strained hamstrings there have made coach Bret Bielema's lineup card look more like abstract art. If the Badgers are going to succeed this season, they are going to have to stay healthy, especially with the thin depth at several key positions. The staff has a tough challenge in balancing valuable playing time with keeping players healthy for the Big Ten season.

Fearless prediction

Here it is, the first actual reference to UNLV. The Rebels will also be breaking in a new quarterback. The difference is their guy didn't spend three seasons in a (technically) BCS conference. The touted Wisconsin secondary is licking their chops and night time in Camp Randal isn't exactly a nurturing atmosphere for opposing signal callers. The Badgers should roll.

Wisconsin 48 UNLV 13

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