Even though it is abnormal to have a bye week so early into the season, it may have been beneficial to Wisconsin to allow some injuries to heal and some youth to gain experience as they prepare for an up-tempo Bowling Green offense.
Predicted to win the MAC before the season, Bowling Green (2-1) has won its last two games despite losing starting quarterback Matt Johnson in the season opener, which included a wild 45-42 home victory over Indiana. Even though Bowling Green won an exciting affair, the Badgers’ offense should have opportunities against Bowling Green defense, which has given up at least 42 or points twice this season.
The rankings for the Front Seven are determined based on performance from last week, expectations this coming week and need. It was not easy determining who would play an important role in helping the Badgers keep the momentum going as they prepare for Bowling Green.
Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses
1, Tanner McEvoy QB (4): McEvoy was able to take a huge jump from week one to week two, looking like a different quarterback in the 37-3 victory over Western Illinois. Although people are quick to point out who the opponent was and that McEvoy had plenty of time to throw the football, the junior did complete 17 straight passes and got the offense into a rhythm. With that being said it will be interesting to see how McEvoy takes the next step in his development against Bowling Green, which gave up 347 passing yards to Indiana and an average of 412.3 yards through their first three games.
Although McEvoy showed that he could hit the deep pass against Western Illinois, he needs to consistently be able to do it. If he struggles like he did against LSU, it will be key for Wisconsin to put itself in third-and-short situations to help McEvoy keep the chains moving. McEvoy also needs to be able to pick up positive yards with his feet if plays break down. With McEvoy rushing for 55 yards against Western Illinois he should be able to use his feet to his advantage against Bowling Green. If he can hurt Bowling Green’s defense with his arm and legs, he should have another nice performance as he continues to gain confidence.
2, Melvin Gordon RB (1): Gordon will be the first one to say his performance against Western Illinois was a disappointment; it’s hard to gain any positive yards when the defense is stacking up to 10 in the box. It is expected that the Falcons will do the same in trying to slow down Gordon, but Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen and the rest of the staff have had two weeks to try and figure out how to make sure Gordon isn’t contained for two weeks in a row. Just like Bowling Green’s pass defense, the rush defense struggled against Indiana, allowing Tevin Coleman to gain 190 yards on 24 carries (7.9 average) and three touchdowns.
Gordon has shown that he can consistently bust the big plays, but hasn’t had as many big runs through two games that he would like. Outside of his 63-yard run against LSU, Gordon has only been able to bust three plays of 20-yards or more. That could change this weekend against Bowling Green. I would expect that offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig may have Gordon lined up in different areas on the field and not always behind McEvoy. They could put him in motion and try and use him on a reverse or two to see if that works and forces Bowling Green to take some defenders out of the box.
3, Joe Schobert OLB (NR): Bowling Green quarterback James Knapke threw for 395 yards on 73 pass attempts, meaning there is potential for UW’s pass rush if the Falcons decide to drop back that often again. Schobert currently leads the team in tackles for loss with three. Wisconsin is going to have to take advantage to make sure the Bowling Green offense doesn’t convert any big plays on offense. Even if Schobert can’t get a sack or a tackle for loss, he has been active in pass and run coverage and still should make his presence felt. If Schobert can create some sort of havoc, it should prevent any big plays from occurring and should create short drives allowing the defense to rest.
4, Alex Erickson WR (5): It is still early in the season but Erickson leads the team in receptions (13) and only three other receivers have recorded a reception. Erickson has developed chemistry and trust with McEvoy by getting open on slant and hook routes. It should be expected for the offense to run some screen plays to Erickson, which were so effective in the home opener. In order for that play to work, the other receivers are going to have to be able to effectively block to allow Erickson a chance to get up field and make some defenders miss. Through two games, it appears that Erickson will be the determining factor whether the passing game has consistent success or not.
5, Michael Caputo S (2): Caputo has been one of Wisconsin’s most consistent defenders through two weeks of play. With Bowling Green likely to throw the football consistently, Caputo, who is second on the team with 17 tackles, should have opportunities to help make plays in the secondary. Andersen mentioned on Monday that the coaches found 15-to-18 missed tackles vs. Western Illinois. The Badgers’ defense may not be able to afford that same opportunity because the Falcons could make Wisconsin pay more than Western Illinois did. If Caputo does line up at one of the linebacker spots, he’ll have to be ready to cover Bowling Green’s running back Travis Greene out of the backfield. Greene had three catches in the win against Indiana.
6, Marcus Trotter MLB (3): I don’t think many people thought that Trotter would be having the season that he has so far. The senior he has been active, consistently been in the opposing backfield, played smart and been able to find the gaps in the offense, which have allowed him to make plays. If Trotter can continue that trend, Bowling Green won’t have much success rushing the football. Through three games, Greene has rushed for 343 yards for an average of 5.7 yards per carry. If Wisconsin does a good job in pass coverage, forcing Bowling Green to run the football, Trotter will have his opportunity to make sure Greene doesn’t have the same success as he has to start the season.
7, Rob Havenstein RT (NR): Most thought the experienced offensive line would be able to consistently create holes for Gordon and Corey Clement, but that hasn’t been the case. In order for that to change, it will begin with the massive Havenstein to get the running game going. When Wisconsin does call a run, look for it to go toward Havenstein so he can use his strength to clear the path in hopes that it busts a big run or two. Havenstein and the rest of his linemates did a good job in pass protection against Western Illinois and will need to be able to do the same against the Falcons.
Others to Note
Tight End Sam Arneson: Arneson is second to Erickson on the team in receptions with five. With Wisconsin still looking for a second target behind Erickson, Arneson has been able to fill in well and seems to be making that next step as a tight end.
Running back Corey Clement: If Wisconsin can get the running game started, Clement could help wear Bowling Green’s defense down with his physical rushing style. Clement was the most effective of the two tailbacks two weeks ago in rushing for 57 yards on nine carries. If Wisconsin can strike the balance of run and pass, it will help keep the Bowling Green offense off the field.
Defensive End Chikwe Obasih: Obasih is tied with James Adeyanju for first amongst defensive linemen with six tackles. He has been active in getting after the quarterback and tipped the pass that led to a critical interception against Western Illinois. With the Falcons wanting to go up-tempo, Obasih is going to have to be prepared to play a majority of snaps if Wisconsin can’t consistently substitute like they have through two games.
Cornerback Sojourn Shelton: If Knapke passes it as often as he did against Indiana and Wisconsin can get after the quarterback, Shelton could come up with some big plays. Shelton hasn’t had as many opportunities this season but has the ability to take advantage with his natural skills.