A quick review of our assessment of the Illinois game. BadgerNation predicted a 45-10 score and the late score of 38-14 was close to the mark. It should be noted that the Illini did manage to move the ball and that is a telltale sign for the Maryland game.
1, Defending the Pass
The first key to victory in UW’s first football game against Maryland will be to defend the pass. UW’s pass defense has not improved with the season as Coach Ben Strickland’s unit continues to try new personnel assignments. This includes the occasional, and surprising, substitution for promising cornerback Sojourn Shelton. Illinois was able to gain substantial yardage on a few big plays against the Badgers through the air. Northwestern was able to convert important third downs just often enough to keep its three scoring drive moving and passing the ball was part of the game.
This is not good news for the game with the Terrapins featuring the best set of wide receivers in the conference. Stefon Diggs, No.1 on your scorecard, is a junior and probably the most talented wide out the Badgers will need to defend in conference play. He has 45 receptions for 580 yards. Shelton, or a possible replacement, will need a strong game. Maryland’s other receivers are strong as well (Deon Long, Marcus Leak), but Diggs vs. Shelton will tell the tale early on.
2, QB Health, Mental and Otherwise
Will Joel Stave’s confidence level be improved? Will C.J. Brown be physically fit? Brown left the game against Iowa with back stiffness but return to lead the game-clinching drive. Brown has a QB rating of 122 for the season and is quite capable of running the ball, leading the team in rushing yards. UW will need to score points to win with Maryland being a good bet to score 28. Stave will need to be on his game and playing without distraction for UW to win.
Is Warren Herring ready to play? He was sorely missed against Northwestern, and his presence will help contain Maryland’s passing game by pushing pressure on the quarterbackgetting to the QB and by tilting down and distance to a factor in favor of UW.
4, Making Field Goals
This will be a close game and a field goal might well be the deciding factor. Rafael Gaglianone has been anything but consistent for UW.
Melvin Gordon is a talent that can keep a team in a game where it otherwise does not belong. Even with a limited passing game, UW is not out of a contest because of an early deficit, as Gordon can find the end zone from any part of the field.
Point No.1 is all important this week. And the more thought given, the less likely seems a UW victory. Maryland 31 Wisconsin 24.