Breakdown/Prediction: Western Illinois

BadgerNation breaks down No.18 Wisconsin matchup with Western Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium this morning and offer our prediction.

Western Illinois (1-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley) vs. No.18 Wisconsin (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, September 6 at 11:01 a.m. CT

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

Television –Big Ten Network (Scott Graham, Brandon Williams, Brooks Bollinger)

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

Series –Wisconsin leads 2-0 (Wisconsin leads 2-0 in Madison)

Last Meeting –Wisconsin won, 34-10, on Sept.9, 2006 in Madison

Series Notes

The Badgers are 11-0 all-time against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), including a 5-0 record against the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Saturday’s game vs. Western Illinois marks the last contest the Badgers have scheduled against an FCS opponent.

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin seeks to win its 19th-consecutive home opener and continue a streak that has seen UW win its first home game in every season since a 43-7 loss to Colorado on Sept. 2, 1995.

In his last two games — against top-15 ranked SEC opponents South Carolina and LSU — Gordon has run for 283 yards on 41 carries (6.7 ypc).

A total of eight Wisconsin players were credited with a tackle for loss vs. LSU, led by senior ILB Marcus Trotter’s 2.5 TFLs and junior OLB Joe Schobert’s 2.0 TFLs. The Badgers’ 9.0 TFLs as a team marked the UW defense’s most productive game behind the line of scrimmage since tallying 9.0 vs. Northwestern last season.

Western Illinois Notes

Western received six votes in The Sports Network 'Top 25' poll and three votes in the FCS Coaches poll... This is the first time versus a ranked FBS opponent since playing #11 LSU in 2003 when WIU was the number one ranked team in the country. LSU eventually won the nation title that season.

Last year Western ranked 16th nationally in turnover margin and was 12th in turnovers gained... Since the start of 2013, when the team commits fewer turnovers than the opponent Western is 5-2. However, when the turnovers were equal (0-2) or WIU made more miscues (0-4) the squad went winless... On four occasions Western has not committed a turnover, and the team owns a 3-1 in those games.

Twenty-six Leathernecks in the Valpo game took the field for the first time in a WIU uniform. Of those 26, 13 were freshmen (including four true-freshmen).

Breakdown

We’ve heard all about the negatives coming out of Wisconsin’s 28-24 loss to LSU last weekend that most of us can recite the negatives quickly (Ready? Go: quarterback, wide receivers, injuries, poor communication on the field, poor communication off the field, blowing a 17-point lead).

As much as those areas were a focus internally and externally, there are plenty of positives Wisconsin can hang its hat on going into week two. Gordon looks vibrant and can be the guy – when healthy – to carry the offense (he’ll have to if the passing game doesn’t take flight), and the defense – particularly the front seven – was a pleasant surprise with the amount of pressure it generated, passes it defended and being stingy against the run.

But just like on offense, the defense has to improve if Wisconsin wants to be a championship-level team.

Marcus Trotter knew that a fake punt was coming from LSU in the third quarter last Saturday. Along with Michael Caputo, the senior linebacker could tell from the way the Tigers were in their stances that something fishy was coming. He guessed right, but he also guessed wrong.

With LSU down 17 and facing a fourth-and-4 and its own 43, Trotter surmised the play was going to be a pass. Instead, Kendall Beckwith carried the ball and managed to stretch over the first down marker to extend the drive.

“If I would have widened out my alignment, I probably would have stopped it faster,” said Trotter. “We stopped them, but they got the first down. Everything kind of went downhill from there.”

Trotter can’t quite put the finger on why exactly things snowballed on the defense. LSU started running more 11 personnel when the Badgers lined up in their nickel formation, allowing the Tigers’ quick tailbacks to reach the next level with ease. It might have been different had Wisconsin had its two seniors on the line.

Trotter described Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski as strong, fluent players who hold gaps well. That was evident when both players were out of the lineup and the push from Wisconsin’s defensive line vanished, which was comprised of players who hadn’t played meaningful game reps until last weekend.

Bottom line though if Wisconsin didn’t make enough plays no matter what formation they were in or what personnel they had on the field.

“When someone gets down, someone has to step up,” said Trotter. “We have to play consistently,”

Now a senior and one of the leaders on Wisconsin’s defense, Trotter is making sure the young players know how to handle a tough loss, process it and do what they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“I try to instill hope in everyone,” said Trotter. “Everyone is hanging their heads down that we were winning, we were doing really and all of sudden like this they came back. We have a very young team and it might be really bitter on them. They might feel it’s their fault. It’s just one game at a time. It’s just the first game. I rather lose this game and win each other game and do really well in the season than win this game and lose another game down the road because we got too cocky.”

As he unthawed from a frigid night in Minneapolis, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said he thought the Badgers were a great team, although he kidded he wasn’t going to tell that statement to their faces. That was forty week ago, and the Badgers haven’t won a game since.

Stuck in a three game losing streak dating back to last Thanksgiving, Wisconsin needs a good performance to put last week’s on-field and public-relation disasters behind them. Western Illinois is a good, young team from the FCS level that will give the Badgers trouble should issues from last week continue to arise.

In the Leathernecks’ 45-6 win over Valparaiso last week, quarterback Trenton Norvell threw for over 320 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, and tailback J.C. Baker led a rushing attack that racked up 273 total yards with 177 all-purpose yards, as WIU picked up 14 first downs through the air and 12 on the ground.

Granted, Western Illinois playing Valparaiso is like Wisconsin playing, well, Western Illinois, but it’s a performance and a team that still warrants attention.

Prediction

Western Illinois holds the distinction of being the only non-military institution to officially have its nickname derived from a branch of the military service. The school began use of the Marine Corps’ official nickname, “The Fighting Leathernecks,” in 1927 when then-athletic director and head baseball, basketball and football coach Ray “Rock” Hanson was granted permission by the U.S. Navy, based on his status as a Marine hero, to use the Marine’s official seal, bulldog mascot and nickname.

The reason I tell you this because after tomorrow, Wisconsin may never play a FCS school again, which is exciting news for a fan base pleading with the Badgers to up the ante with their nonconference schedule. Therefore a little history lesson seemed appropriate.

Since the start of the 2009 season, the Badgers have won their 15 nonconference home games by an average of 21.1 points (37.8-13.7). I think this game will be competitive for at least a half, but the hope is for Wisconsin to pull away in the second half and to get their younger players some valuable reps. I say that’s the hope because if the alternate happens and the Badgers are in a four-quarter game, fans are going to be jumping off the walls over the next two weeks.

Wisconsin 34, Western Illinois 17

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 1-0

Against the Spread: 0-1

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