Musings from Maragos - Indiana

Fresh off the bye week, No.4 Wisconsin looks to get back to work this weekend against Indiana. In our weekly feature, former Badgers safety Chris Maragos breaks down the pros and cons of the bye week and what the realistic expectations are for the Badgers this season.

MADISON - Maybe Chris Maragos was the good-luck charm the Seattle Seahawks needed.

Working the scout team since signed to the practice squad in mid September, the Seahawks are 2-1 since Maragos joined, the only setback being a two-point loss to Atlanta, and are fresh off registering a huge upset over the Giants in New York heading into its bye week.

Just as Maragos and his teammates head into the bye week, No.4 Wisconsin comes out of the bye week fully rested and ready to keep its momentum clicking against Indiana (1-5) this Saturday.

In our weekly feature, Maragos talks about his impressions from the bye week he took part in at Wisconsin and how it benefited his teams as the season progressed.

Badger Nation: In your experience, how did the bye week impact you and your teams at Wisconsin? Was it overwhelming positive that you could take a slight mental break for a week and get healthy or was is a little frustrating because you wanted to keep playing and keep some momentum?

Maragos: I think the bye week can be a blessing or a curse and I think it depends on how each team takes it. For instances, it gives the team and opportunity to get healthy and get some key players back that they'll need down the stretch. The good thing is Wisconsin has a coaching staff that are going to make sure that they keep the team healthy, but at the same time keep the team primed up. Sometimes, players could look at the bye week as just a week to take off and you lose your rhythm. You really have to find that balance of getting healthy and rested up for the rest of the year and being able to really continue to work.

Badger Nation: In 2008, your bye week came after you were 3-0 and your bye week in 2009 came after the second of consecutive losses at Ohio State and home vs. Iowa. How much of a difference does it make where your bye week is from early in the season compared to midway through the season?

Maragos: When it's early in the year, you aren't too banged up and you are trying to get in a rhythm of the season and find the identity of the team. You don't really feel like it's that necessary early in the season compared to later in the season where your body is a little banged up and mentally you need a break from game planning every week. That's definitely better to have something later in the season than at the beginning of things.

Badger Nation: Bret Bielema often talks about how important the bye weeks are not only for resting players but for developing players that could make an impact down the road. You didn't have a bye week in 2007, but do you remember how important that developmental work to you and how that impacted your career?

Maragos: That was really, really big. Wisconsin does such a great job of utilized that bye week and putting the guys through individual periods and doing some good on good and getting the younger guys the bulk of the reps throughout the day. I can remember that was big for me because it sets you up for the spring time. A lot of these guys will be going into the bye week knowing that what they are doing is going to set them up for the spring. It's really important for those guys to stay in it and get into a flow of what they are doing and get comfortable with the different systems.

Badger Nation: Who are some of the players you think have really taken advantage of that developmental work?

Maragos: Definitely the two safeties Shelton Johnson and Dezmen Southward. Those two guys having Jay Valai and Aaron Henry taking the bulk of the things last year and being used sparingly, they have firmed up the secondary and played a big part in a lot of the success the defense has had this year. Another guy is Ethan Armstrong. The depth they have been able to provide because of him has been really impressive.

Badger Nation: Is depth the biggest positive a team can have and the biggest advantage Wisconsin has right now? Not only do you have a guy like Dezmen Southward stepping in for an injured Shelton Johnson, but two healthy safeties are going to push each other because Shelton knows if he struggles, Southward can step right in.

Maragos: No question. That's exactly what it is. When you have depth on a team, it makes everybody better. It makes the team better because if you are a situation where your starter goes down, you have a guy that can come in and play. It makes your starter better because he's always trying to perfect his craft because he has a guy underneath him pushing him. It really allows you to do different things and different packages. From an offensive standpoint, it allowed you to utilize your entire situation to maximize your athletic potential. You can really set up some packages to highlight something a guy does well, and makes everybody that much better.

Badger Nation: You've been in a couple NFL locker rooms the past two years with people from all over the landscape. From talking to guys, I am curious how the perception of Wisconsin has changed, if at all?

Maragos: I'd be lying to say if it did. I think you always get a lot of respect from guys in the Big Ten, guys saying Wisconsin is a tough team with talented players. Now, you are starting to see respect from guys that were in the SEC, the ACC and Pac 12 schools. You are starting to see them acknowledge Wisconsin as a national contender and opening eyes at those sorts of schools. Even from last year to this year, it's been really interested to see.

Badger Nation: A lot of people thought Nebraska was going to be the one school to challenge Wisconsin in the conference. With that challenge passed with flying colors, who do you think on the schedule will give Wisconsin its toughest test and in what areas?

Maragos: I think it's going to be Michigan State because they do a lot of things well. They have got a really quarterback who can handle things that is different than Nebraska. I think Kirk Cousins has a lot more poise in the pocket and has a better command of the offense. I think it's a team that when it matches their defensive line against our defensive line, skill players and defensive backs, I see a better matchup than any other school. Even so, I think Wisconsin has the upper hand on anyone they are going to play before the bowl game.

Badger Nation: What do you think it's going to take for fans and the like to look back on this season and say it was a success? Does it have to be more than a Big Ten championship?

Maragos: That's actually a really good question. To be honest with you, with all the hype after the first third of the season, for people to really look back to say it was a memorable season, I think it would have to be a Rose Bowl victory and a conference championship. When you've got a guy like Russell Wilson, the expectations are increased. You have a good offense, a defense that is playing really well, two big running backs, great wide receivers and tight ends and I think that has created those expectations and given something for people to expect.

Badger Nation: You said most people, so what are Chris Maragos' expectations for this year's Wisconsin team that you can look back on and be proud of? Does it have to be the things you have mentioned?

Maragos: For me honestly, just from knowing those guys and appreciated the smaller things that I see when I watch a game that most people wouldn't pick up on, I am just proud from the way they have handled themselves and the type of people they are. All those guys do things the right way and that's success right there. I think any fan should be proud of them and have a sense of pride. In terms of what they accomplish on the field, I think this team is set up and is poised with the leadership, talent and the hard work mixed together is a recipe for success. I wouldn't be shocked to say that could go all the way and that it isn't out of the realm of possibilities.

Badger Nation: Has John Moffitt quieted down in that Seattle locker room or is he still the big goofball?

Maragos: (laughing) I think every rookie knows his place, just with what they need to do. Believe me, he is in tight with all those guys and he still is ‘the John Moffitt.' You really have to love and appreciate that. I definitely missed him the year I was gone.

Badger Nation: I'd ask you what the key to victory is this week but that seems pointless. Instead, I am going to ask you if you think Wisconsin can cover the 39-point spread?

Maragos: That's a good question. I am going to say that they are probably going to be right where the spread is. I don't think they are going to run the score up because I don't think they are in that type of business. I think they are going to give the younger guys a lot of time to progress, especially in the fourth quarter. You might not see the scoring increase as much at that point, so I am going to go Wisconsin 58, Indiana 14.


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