1, Back to the Future
It can hardly be emphasized that the Badgers need to get back to their strength on the offensive line. After the tumultuous week that saw the highly unusual firing of a important coach in mid-season, the Badgers need to forget the recent past by emphasizing the slightly more distant past. New offensive line coach Bart Miller is a disciple of Bob Bostad, the guiding spirit behind an offensive line that led the Badgers to back-to-back conference championships. Departed coach Mike Markuson had some very different ideas when it came to drills and practice and the lack of punch at the line was obvious. Markuson emphasized fluidity of combined movement, the Bostad school looks for an unerring first step followed by a punch to nearest defender. The pads and medicine balls of a Markuson practice would have been an odd sight at a Bostad practice. We'll see if Bart Miller can return to a tough and flexible zone blocking scheme. It is to be expected Miller used more time for cage drills and the blocking sled. Badger fans can hope that it is not too late to re-establish a running game. If they show that they can do this early in the game it will be a very good sign.
2,Timing in the Short Passing Game
The Badgers showed that they, currently, do not have a strong second option at wide receiver. Expect the Aggies to key on this and limit Jared Abbrederis if he ends up playing. With a strong likelihood that a deep passing threat will be limited, O'Brien needs to once again find his timing in the short game, as he did against Northern Iowa. This won't be easy. The Aggies have a hard-hitting safety named McKade Brady. Easy or not, this is almost a necessity for the Badgers. Keeping the Utah State defense off balance will be a key to the Badger O-line returning to form and for Montee Ball to get his season on track.
3, Heisman Anyone?
BadgerNation's Keys to the game probably should have paid more attention to Montee Ball for the first two games. We won't repeat that mistake this time. If the above two points play to the Badgers' favor, expect Montee to break out. If not, Montee will have to make too many yards after first contact and the game will be close, with a probable Badgers loss.
4, Don't take Utah State lightly
You can say this for every game, but it seems particularly true for the Aggies. BadgerNation keyed in on UW's performance following the ugly loss at Corvallis. But make no mistake, this Aggie team is not a pushover. From 1981 through 2010, Utah State had only two seasons above .500. But in 2011 the Aggies went 7-6 despite losing three games (to Auburn, Colorado State and Brigham Young) by a total of eight points They finished the regular season 6-3 and then lost the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl by one point to a good Ohio team that beat Penn State in this year's opener. Four losses by nine points.
More bad news for UW fans: Utah State picked up steam in 2011, beating in-state rivals Southern Utah and Utah to start 2-0.
5, A Little Magic in the Night
The Badgers rarely lose at home and have won quite memorable night games in the last few years over national powers Ohio State and Nebraska. Additionally Montee Ball called for an increase in the energy from his O-Line and from the team. If any home field can deliver a jolt of energy, it is Camp Randall at night. An unthinkable night game loss to Utah State would signal a dismal season and would foster questions about Bret Bielema's ability to hire assistant coaches who were not Badgers legacies.
Fearless Prediction The defense continues to grow, particularly if defensive end Brendan Kelly can return to form. Michael Trotter, subbing for the sure-to-be missed Shelton Johnson, will make a big play, but it is the offense that worries Badger fans now. Keying off a solid short passing game and a steadily improving blocking scheme, Montee Ball will have 100 yards by the third quarter as the Badgers win 24-10.
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