Breakdown: UMass at No.23 Wisconsin

After nine months, Wisconsin football finally returns to Camp Randall Stadium, as the 23rd-ranked Badgers take on UMass this Saturday. Badger Nation breaks down the matchup.

Massachusetts (1-11, 1-7 MAC in 2012) vs. No.23 Wisconsin (8-6, 4-4 Big Ten in 2012)

Date/Time - Saturday, August 30 at 11 a.m. CT

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

Television – Big Ten Network (Wayne Larrivee and Jon Jansen)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas), Sirius 91, XM 91

Series – First Meeting

Last Meeting – First Meeting

Series Notes

Wisconsin is 29-2 all-time against members of the Mid-American Conference, including a 27-2 mark at Camp Randall Stadium. UW's setbacks against MAC teams both came in 1988 to Western Michigan (24-14, Sept. 3) and Northern Illinois (19-17, Sept. 17).

Since the NCAA divided into the subdivisions now known as the FBS and FCS in 1978, Wisconsin is 55-12 against FBS opponents from outside the six "BCS AQ" conferences, including a 40-7 mark at home.

The Badgers' last loss to an FBS opponent from outside a BCS AQ conference was UW's 21-19 defeat at the hands of No. 2 TCU in the 2011 Rose Bowl. That loss snapped the Badgers' run of 21 consecutive wins over non-BCS AQ teams.

UW has won 16 consecutive homes games against FBS teams from outside the BCS AQ conferences, dating back to its 23-5 loss to UNLV on Sept. 13, 2003.

Saturday's game will be a homecoming of sorts for UMass defensive coordinator Phil Elmassian who coached at Wisconsin from 1997-1999 helping the Badgers reach the Outback Bowl in 1997 and the Rose Bowl in 1998 and 1999. All four of the Badgers' defensive backs under Elmassian's tutelage earned first team, second team or honorable mention all-conference honors in 1999.

Wisconsin Notes

Entering the weekend, UW has gone 25-3 at home over the past four seasons, matching Alabama and South Carolina for the fifth-best home winning percentage among BCS conference teams at .893. Among Big Ten teams, only Ohio State (27-3, .900) has won a higher percentage of its home games in that span.

The Badgers are 55-6 at Camp Randall since the start of the 2004 season, good for a winning percentage of .902. That's the third-best mark of any FBS team over that span, trailing only Boise State (.948) and Oklahoma (.927).

Wisconsin has won its season opener every year since 1998, a run of 15 consecutive victories that is tied with USC for the third-longest active streak in the FBS, trailing only Nebraska (27) and Florida (23).

The Badgers have won 17 consecutive home openers at Camp Randall Stadium, dating back to 1996. UW will start a season at home for the 13th time in the last 18 seasons.

UMass Notes

UMass returns four true starters on offense and seven on defense. The specialists return all six key members of the group.

The 2013 season will feature the debut of UMass' best recruiting class in program history. The freshman class is expected to see playing time throughout the season much as last year's class did. All told in 2012, 18 freshmen or redshirt freshmen started in games.

UMass will be eligible for the MAC Championship and is bowl-eligible this season.

UMass joins UConn (Big East) and Boston College (ACC) as the only New England FBS schools.


Every year since Dezmen Southward has been on campus, he's heard what people have been saying about his position group.

"I think the DBs have been labeled as the weak link," said Southward.

Fair or unfair, Southward is kind of right, but that's more so because the group in front of him has been and continues to be so incredibly talented and deep for the Badgers. All six players on the depth chart from the front seven are seniors or juniors while Wisconsin's linebackers are even deeper.

Gary Andersen calls his ideal linebacker physical, tough, a good tackler and the right mindset to handle Wisconsin's 3-4 defense. Everybody knows those traits accurately describe Chris Borland, but the senior linebacker took it a step further. Of the four linebacker positions listed on the depth chart, the Badgers list four seniors, three juniors and one sophomore, and doesn't include freshman Vince Biegel, Leon Jacobs and others.

"Probably the best (group) that I have been a part of," said Borland. "We have a really solid two-deep, and even (walk-ons) Jake Rademacher and Ben Ruechel can contribute if need be. It's a really solid and deep linebacker group. We've had a great camp and I have a lot of confidence in the younger guys."

Andersen said the 3-4 isn't "the most complicated defense in America," but the players need to have the intelligence to understand the schemes, gap assignments and basically know the scheme inside and out.

Borland not only sees a group of players who can go sideline to sideline and make plays because of their athletic ability, but a group that approaches every week like they would be ready to step in and play.

"They conduct themselves like they are starters," said Borland. "It's rare. Guys have the propensity to relax when they aren't going to get the starting nod, but those guys are in the playbook, they are asking questions in meetings and they are executing at practice, which is great to see. You need depth in this league because injuries happen and it's a long season."

Southward uses the same phrases as Borland to describe his fellow defensive backs: hard-working, talented, willing to learn and ready to play.

"We're going to be a very strong unit, and we don't consider ourselves the weaklings by any means," said Southward.

The next two weeks are going to be a catch-22 for Wisconsin. The Badgers finally get to start the season, but their first two opponents, in theory, are hardly going to provide a challenge. A 44.5-point underdog, the largest point spread between two FBS teams in week one, UMass will be playing without two of its top players on offense as tailback Jordan Broadnax (knee scope) and tight end/team captain Rob Blanchflower (undisclosed). For a unit that averaged 12.7 points per game last year, that's not a good sign.

Defensively, offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig says UMass' defense is a group of young, hard-nose players who attack the ball extremely well on film. James White said the group flows well to the ball and will come into Madison expecting to win, but he also said that Wisconsin is riding a wave of momentum now that the starters are in place.

"It's like a new era here of Wisconsin football, and everybody is ready for that fresh start," said White. "I know Coach Andersen is excited and we're excited to go out there and make his first game special."

According to Las Vegas oddsmakers, the greatest point-spread upset in college football history was 41 points, when Stanford toppled No. 1 USC, 24-23, on Oct. 6, 2007. Yeah, can't see that happening in Madison this weekend.

A new era starts off with an easy win over the Minutemen.

Wisconsin 56, UMass 10

Worgull's 2012 Predictions Straight up: 12-2 Against the Spread: 12-1 Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!

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