Breakdown/Prediction: South Florida

BadgerNation breaks down No.19 Wisconsin matchup with South Florida at Camp Randall Stadium Saturday morning and offer our prediction.

South Florida (2-2, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) vs. No.19 Wisconsin (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, September 27 at 11:01 a.m. CT

Stadium –ESPNU (Adam Amin and John Congemi)

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

Series –First Meeting

Series Notes

Badgers own a 7-2 record against current members of the American Athletic Conference, including a 6-1 mark at Camp Randall Stadium. UW’s last meeting with a current AAC member was a 65-0 win over Temple in Madison in 2005.

This marks the third time the Bulls have played on the road in the Big Ten (Penn State 2005, Michigan State 2013).

USF will be facing its second Big Ten team this season (L, 24-17 to Maryland) and fourth in program History (0-3)

USF is scheduled to play seven games vs. Big Ten opponents over six seasons (2013-18), including a road trip to a Big Ten school in three straight seasons (2013-15) and in four of the six seasons overall.

This is the first game of a scheduled home-and-home. Wisconsin will travel to Tampa to play USF on Sept.16, 2007.

Wisconsin Notes

Over the last four seasons, the Badgers rank second nationally in rushing yards per attempt at 5.9, fourth in rushing touchdowns with 133 and sixth overall in rushing at 258.5 yards per game — leading the Big Ten in all three categories.

Junior quarterback Tanner McEvoy leads all FBS quarterbacks in rushing average at 9.73 yards per carry. He ranks seventh among quarterbacks in rushing overall at 84.3 yards per game after running for a UW quarterback record 158 yards vs. Bowling Green.

Averaging 510.0 yards of offense while surrendering just 266.0 total yards on defense, Wisconsin ranks No. 6 nationally with a total yardage margin of plus-244.0 yards per game.

The Badgers have held 7 of their last 15 opponents without an offensive touchdown, matching Alabama for the most such games of any FBS team since the start of the 2013 season.

Wisconsin is 37-15 in its last 52 games (.712), with 25 of those wins coming by at least 20 points and all but one of the losses coming by seven points or less.

South Florida Notes

The Bulls are sixth in the FBS in turnovers gained with 11, and seven of those 11 have been forced by underclassmen.

The Bulls’ leading rusher, receiver and tackler are all in their first season in a USF uniform. USF saw 17 players see their first action in a Bulls uniform in the 2014 season opener, that accounted for 30 percent of the Bulls that saw action in the game.

Punter Mattias Ciabatti was named American Conference Special Teams POW (9.22). The preseason All-AAC pick averaged a career-best 47.3 yards per kick in the season opener. He ranks 15th in the FBS and 1st in AAC averaging 45.4 yards per kick and has dropped 9-of-23 kicks inside the 20.

Sophomore quarterback Mike White won his first game as a starter in the season opener, making his sixth career start. He became the third true freshman starter at USF in 2013 and posted the best-ever debut for a starting QB in USF history throwing for 311 yards, two TD and 1 INT on 26-of-41 (63.4 percent) at Houston.

Wide receiver Andre Davis stands second all-time on the USF charts with 118 career catches and 2nd with 1,586 career receiving yards. He needs 14 catches and 162 yards to overtake the top spot on both charts. Davis has a USF record streak of 31-straight games with at least one reception.

Breakdown

Derek Landisch knew the comparisons were inevitable. An undersized inside linebacker with a knack for making plays, Landisch knew people would draw lines between him and Chris Borland – one of the great linebackers to play at Wisconsin. To make matters worse, Landisch wore No.44 in high school.

“But I’ve just got to play my game,” Landisch said prior to the season.

Through three games, he’s done just that. The Arrowhead High native has been one of Wisconsin’s best pass rushers through the first three games of the season.

In Wisconsin’s 68-17 victory over Bowling Green, Andersen labeled Landisch’s performance as “unbelievably good,” as the senior blitzed effectively, had great pre-snap awareness for himself and his teammates against a challenging up-tempo offense and also made the key pass breakup that led to a game-changing interception in the second quarter.

Entering the final nonconference game against USF, Landisch leads the team or is tied for the team lead in sacks and quarterback hurries, not to mention being second in tackles for loss.

“I've always thought this about great pass rushers: They're born, they're not taught,” said Andersen. “They've got to have just a unique athletic ability.”

Landisch missed the start of last season with a foot injury and took time to get into a rhythm. This offseason Landisch missed little time and tuned his game, working on his pass coverage by staying on his target’s hip and moving with him stride for stride, something that he struggled with at points last year.

That development has allowed him to be involved in every scenario for Wisconsin’s defense instead of being a package player.

“There's just a natural instinct that young men have the ability to do that,” said Andersen. “But he does take coaching very well. You can see he's developed the moves that are important to him. He's not the tallest guy in the world, so his pass rush moves are within his own confines of what he's comfortable doing, and he sets people up very well. Where you think he's going is probably not where he's going to be going in the next couple steps.

“And then his overall knowledge of the defense is impressive. He gets protections now, and he kind of can see things before they happen a little bit sometimes, and that's helped him, also.”

There’s no question Wisconsin’s defensive front seven has been the pleasant surprise through three games. With an entirely remade front seven, Wisconsin is holding opponents to 16.0 points per game, 266.0 yards of total offense, 91.0 rushing yards and forced five turnovers, all of this coming with a secondary that’s yet to play at its full potential.

That play of the defense has allowed the offense time to find its rhythm. Although Wisconsin put up gaudy numbers in its 51-point win over Bowling Green, the Badgers are converting on only 38 percent of their third-down conversions, which has contributed in part to the Badgers being slow starters in the first quarter this season.

“It's going to be definitely a point of emphasis,” said Andersen. “We didn't get into a lot of third downs last game, and we want to convert when we get into third down. That's an obvious statement. But can you win and be effectively? Andy (Ludwig) has his own goals and his mindset of where we would like to be, and we would like to get better at third downs, and I believe we're getting close to getting better at third downs.”

After getting the running game going last week and the offensive line offering better protection, the goal of Wisconsin this week is to develop some rhythm and flexibility in its passing game – both in developing the number of reliable targets at UW’s disposal and down-field attack – with the conference opener coming up next weekend at Northwestern.

Prediction

Wisconsin showed a good balance of run and pass in the first quarter last weekend to loosen up the defense. The South Florida defense is better than Bowling Green, but not by much. Wisconsin is a team building toward a championship this season while USF is building for a championship a few years down the road. That should tell you all you need to know about this matchup and why the point spread is 33.5.

Expect a big day again from the running game and some progression in the passing game to make everyone feel pretty good about the way this team rebounded from the opener heading to Evanston next weekend.

Wisconsin 47, South Florida 10

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 3-0

Against the Spread: 1-1

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