Preview: Two Teams, Two Directions

No.8 Wisconsin is off to a hot start with its running game, its offensive efficiency and its national ranking. On the other hand, Oregon State has lost its third straight game dating back to last season, its plagued with injuries and doesn't know who its starting quarterback will be going forward. Needless to say, both teams are not heading in the same direction.

MADISON - Asked earlier in the week whether it was its commitment to the run, the strength of the running backs or the power of the offensive line that has made the Wisconsin running game so good over the last several seasons, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley could only nod his head and say yes, to all of the above.

"They appear to have picked up right where they left off in the Rose Bowl," Riley said.

It's the main reason Riley is concerned about how Oregon State is going to stop No.8 Wisconsin's two-headed running back attack when the two teams meet this Saturday morning at Camp Randall Stadium. In the opening win against UNLV, junior Montee Ball had four touchdowns (scoring 19 TDs in his last seven games) while sophomore James White rushed for a team-best 64 yards and a score.

Through in the fact that UW's running backs (Ball, White and FB Bradie Ewing) combined for four catches for 148 yards (37.0 ypc), the task seems daunting.

"They are big and athletic up front, their running backs are excellent and they really do a nice job of keeping the defense off balance, whether it's the shifting of their people and the utilization of the tight ends," Riley said. "The other thing that off of every run, there's a real good play-action pass coming … They find themselves in very good possession to convert."

After finishing 4-5 in the Pacific 10 and 5-7 overall last season and missing a bowl game for the first time since 2005, Oregon State was picked to finish fourth in the North Division of the Pacific 12 this season, and wanted to start pilling on the wins before a brutal five-game conference stretch to end the season.

But falling behind 21-6 to FCS opponent Sacramento State in the season opener wasn't a good start and not making the most of its chances was the Beavers' downfall. On seven trips inside the 30, Oregon State (0-1) managed only two touchdowns, two field goals, an interception, a fumble and a missed field goal, which would have won the game from 27 yards as time expired in regulation.

Oregon State eventually lost 29-28 in overtime, the first time it dropped a home opener since 2001, when SCSU's Brandyn Reed caught a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion in overtime.

"There was a lot of technical stuff that went wrong," said Riley, who is 69-55 in two stints with Oregon State. "We got ourselves in bad position, didn't play the ball well and we were not sound."

One of the lone bright spots for the Beavers was true freshman Malcom Agnew. Replacing the talented Jacquizz Rodgers, Agnew didn't show many jitters, running for 223 yards on 33 carries and three touchdowns.

"It was pretty good for a first game, but I definitely need to improve though, 'cause I fumbled and that's unacceptable," said Agnew after the game. "Like Quizz went 1,000 touches without a fumble? So I got standards to live up to."

The problem now is whether Agnew can play or not. According to Riley, he tweaked his hamstring Tuesday afternoon and didn't practice Wednesday, saying he could hardly run. He is listed for doubtful on Saturday and another true freshman, Terron Ward, would get the start.

"Watching the film, you couldn't tell that he had that many yards," senior captain Aaron Henry said of Agnew. "The kid is a tremendous runner and clearly is a talented running back anytime you can run for 200-freaking-plus yards. Our goal week in and week out is going to stop the run, and it's going to be a challenge for us."

While Wisconsin (1-0) knows what signal caller is going to be under center, Riley isn't ready to commit to either junior Ryan Katz or redshirt freshman Sean Mannion. Katz is the team's returning starter (2,401 yards, 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 12 starts) but struggled in the first half of the opener, completing 11 of 22 passes for 87 yards with one interception and two sacks. As a result, Katz ranks 97th among 100 eligible quarterbacks in passing efficiency.

Mannion finished the second half 8 of 12 for 143 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but did complete a 69-yard pass to receiver Markus Wheaton that set up the tying score and hit Wheaton for the two-point conversion and it was tied at 21.

Katz, who had surgery in the offseason after breaking a bone in his wrist in the season finale, is expected to start, but Riley said Tuesday both quarterbacks will play.

"Just like you do with different tight ends, wide receivers or running backs, sometimes there are different packages for different guys, so we're putting some things together for both quarterbacks," Riley said. "We intend to play them both. We don't know exactly how we are going to do that right now, but we know the packages that are getting put in place.

"We want to keep both guys going at this time … They both can help our team."

In addition to their quarterback problems is Oregon State's injury problems. Even before the injury to Agnew, the list is still a hefty one. Oregon State is believed to get tight end Joe Halahuni (shoulder) and defensive tackle Kevin Frahm (knee) back in the lineup, but the Beavers are still going to be without cornerback Brandon Hardin (shoulder), defensive tackle Dominic Glover (academics) and senior receiver James Rodgers, who is still two weeks away after coming off double knee surgery.

"We have a big week ahead of us and a lot of this is going to be a mental factor for our football team," Riley said. "As we all know in sports, confidence is a big deal. If we can't, in some fashion, take that last game and learn a lot from it and then focus on this week, we'll play a better football game and give ourselves a chance to win."

As a result of all the injuries, 14 players for OSU made their first career starts, including eight on the defensive side of the ball. There's no question that this environment will be more hostile than the negative environment they were in last Saturday.

"We love to embrace these venues that we get to play in and it's part of what Oregon State does," Riley said. "Frankly as a young guy, you've got to be able to handle it, go in anywhere and compete without being distracted. It's a learning process."

Oregon State (0-1, 0-0 Pacific 12) vs. No.8 Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, September 10 at 11 a.m. CT

Stadium –Camp Randall Stadium (80,321/FieldTurf)

Television - ESPN (Dave Pasch, Chris Spielman, Urban Meyer, Quint Kessenich)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 1-0-0

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 23-20, on Oct. 14, 1961 in Madison

Series Notes:

UW is 21-30-2 all-time against teams currently in the Pac-12, having played each team at least once.

Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Oregon State head coach Mike Riley are good friends and have a long coaching history together. Riley first hired Chryst as the WRs, RBs and TEs coach for the San Antonio Riders of the World League in 1991. They coached together for two seasons there.

When Riley started his first stint as Oregon State's head coach, he brought Chryst in as his offensive coordinator. After two seasons in Corvallis, Riley was named the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Chryst was his TEs coach in San Diego for three seasons. Chryst and Riley hooked up again for another stint with the Beavers in 2003 and 2004. Riley returned as head coach with Chryst as his offensive coordinator before Chryst left for Madison prior to the 2005 season.

In addition to a return game with Oregon State in Corvallis next year, the Badgers also have upcoming games against Pac-12 foes Arizona State (2013 in Tempe), Washington State (2014 in Pullman and 2015 in Madison) and Washington (2017 in Madison and 2018 in Seattle).

Wisconsin Notes:

Wisconsin has won 29-straight regular-season non-conference games. That trails only LSU (34) for the longest active streak among FBS teams. UW's last loss was a 23-5 home defeat to UNLV on Sept. 13, 2003.

W has won 10-straight games at Camp Randall Stadium, only the fourth double-digit home winning streak in school history. That is tied for eighth-longest active home winning streak in the country.

Wilson is just the second UW quarterback to throw for at least 250 yards and run for at least 50 yards in the same game, joining Mike Kalasmiki, who threw for 252 yards and ran for 72 yards vs. Minnesota on Nov. 17, 1979. Just two other quarterbacks in the country (Richard Brehaut, UCLA and Zach Maynard, California) threw for at least 250 yards and ran for at least 50 during the opening weekend.

Dating back to the end of the Ohio State game last year, the Badgers have scored points on 31 of their last 38 offensive possessions (81.6 percent), including 27 touchdowns, at Camp Randall Stadium. That does not include three drives that ran out the clock at the end of games.

In its last three games at Camp Randall Stadium, UW has only punted seven times (no turnovers) in 38 offensive possessions. In the first half of those games, the Badgers have been even better, punting just twice out of 21 drives, scoring 17 touchdowns and two field goals.

Oregon State Notes:

The Beaver coaching staff should be able to learn something first-hand about the Wisconsin Badgers from first-year OSU assistant coach Brent Brennan. The wide receivers' coach spent 2005-10 at San Jose State and last year the Spartans traveled to Madison, losing 27-14. Brennan also was a member of the UCLA team that lost to Wisconsin in the 1994 Rose Bowl (21-16).

Oregon State has made a habit in recent years of playing in big college stadiums. Saturday the Beavers will play in front of the 14th-largest crowd in the program's history at Camp Randall Stadium (80,321). Recent travels for OSU have taken the team to Penn State (2008/108,159/largest stadium in college football), LSU (2004/91,828), USC (2007/85,213) and UCLA (2008/83,478).

Since the 2002 season, Oregon State is tied for first in the Pac-12 for the number of times a player has reached the 1,000-yard rushing plateau with nine (missing only 2004). California also has nine, followed by Oregon (8), USC (4), UCLA (3), Stanford (3), Washington (3), Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State with one each.

Oregon State running backs Ken Simonton, Steven Jackson, Yvenson Bernard and Jacquizz Rodgers (all four this century for a combined 16,408 yards) all rank in the top 10 of the Pac-12 Conference for career rushing. USC and OSU are the only schools in the league with more than one player in the top 12, each with four.


Rebounding from a tough loss is nothing new for Oregon State. In four of the Beavers' first five losses last season, Oregon State found a way to win the following week. After losing by one-point in double overtime at Washington, Oregon State crushed California by 28 the following week. After being outscored 48-28 in back-to-back losses at UCLA and against Washington State, OSU thumped No.20 USC 36-7.

Riley says the lessons learned are simple because some teams start good and some teams don't, but the good teams improve the most as the lengthy season goes along. The lessons Wisconsin have learned this week is that Oregon State has a habit of turning around negatively very quickly.

"They are a well-coached team that has some playmakers," co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash said. You look at them from a year ago, they were a little inconsistent. They lose a game you wouldn't think they would and they come back and beat somebody you didn't expect."

While Wisconsin looks to have some challenges defensively, the Badgers look to have the upper hand on offense. After being ranked 108th out of 120 FBS teams in 2010 in third-down conversion defense, the young players on defense continued that poor trend, allowing the Hornets to finished 7 of 14 on third-down conversions, including the game-winning touchdown and two-pointer to Reed.

The storylines of this game has changed drastically since the contract between these two schools was signed years ago, as the Badgers being the first Big Ten team to travel to Corvallis since 1971 next season seems to be more intriguing and competitive.

The point spread has been steadily increasing from 17 points up to as high as 21 as of Thursday morning and I can't pick against Wisconsin for two reasons. One, Wisconsin's first-team offense piled up 51 points in the first 36 minutes, 15 seconds and was on pace for 84 points. Two, Oregon State has to prepare for a 9 a.m. Pacific kickoff by waking up early at 5 a.m. to eat its pregame meal.

Pass the brats, and a Wisconsin victory.

Wisconsin 45, Oregon State 20

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 1-0

Against the Spread: 1-0

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