First a quick review of BadgerNation’s Five Keys for the South Florida game.
The Badgers limited their turnovers to one, Melvin Gordon had another big game, Alex Erickson had a big game although Sam Arneson did not. The UW defense showed multiple looks and for the most part shut down South Florida. BadgerNation predicted a blowout. Wisconsin committed many unforced errors that sabotaged first half drives.
This kept the game much closer than it should have been. A mixed result for BadgerNation’s Five Keys. On to the Northwestern game.
1, The number one key is UW’s pass defense
Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian is the number one weapon; its passing game is ranked 67th in the nation while their running game is 108th. Siemian’s passer rating is a decent 107.4. The leading rusher, Justin Jackson, is averaging about 54 yards per game with only two TDs. It will be incumbent on Sojourn Shelton, Michael Caputo and Lubern Figaro to shut down Dan Vitale (12 YPC), Cameron Dickerson (17.3 YPC) and Kyle Prater (10.3 YPC).
2, Support the System
UW’s ability to support the running game with a reasonably effective passing game is vital. Opponents have had some success by stacking the line of scrimmage to defend against UW’s running game. Passing opportunities will be there again for Alex Erickson and Sam Arneson. It will be up to Tanner McEvoy to convert these chances. UW is entering the game with, possibly, an unsettled QB depth chart. Is Joel Stave really ready to play? Any hiccups in the passing game can lead to a loss for UW.
3, Run, Melvin, Run
If the passing game is even reasonably effective, expect Melvin Gordon to be able to run in the open field. In its loss to Northern Illinois, Northwestern gave up more yardage on the ground. In its victory over Penn State the pass defense was very strong and the Nittany Lions relied on the passing game as it was behind, double digits, early on.
4, A dry field
Northwestern’s field at Ryan Stadium does not react well to rain and rain looks to be in the forecast. Regrettably this seems to be a plus for the home team. UW’s passing game is not pin-point accurate to begin with and footing for Melvin Gordon’s shifty runs might be difficult.
5, A Little Salsa Dancing
Northwestern has always struggled on special teams but the Wildcats have blocked four kicks over the last three weeks. UW seems to have a kicker who can convert in Rafael Gaglianone. If the game remains close and as the rain dissipates as the day goes on, UW might need a long kick in a close contest to pull this one out.
If UW’s quarterback play shows some early stability Bucky will win handily, but we foresee a much closer game. UW winning 33-24.