As Wisconsin comes off a disappointing loss to No. 3 Alabama, the Badgers will be able to return to friendlier confines when they make their home debut against Miami (OH). The RedHawks are on a different spectrum compared to Alabama. The RedHawks are coming off a 2-10 season under first-year head coach Chuck Martin, the former Notre Dame offensive coordinator.
The RedHawks won their season opener, 26-7, over Presbyterian and will try to break the Badgers’ 32 game nonconference home winning streak, the eighth longest in NCAA history during the modern era (since 1946).
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 will be important in helping the Badgers to their first win on the year against Miami (OH), the first all-time meeting between the two schools.
Last Week’s Rankings in Parentheses
1, Joel Stave QB (1): Stave was one of the bright spots against Alabama, finishing 26-for-39, 228 yards, two touchdowns and a late interception. The good news for Stave is that he should have more time in the pocket on Saturday. Miami (OH) wasn’t able to supply a lot of pressure last season, registering 17 sacks and 23 quarterback hurries. With a potential lack of pass rush, Stave should be able to continue to make good decisions with the football. The Redhawks registered 11 interceptions last season but seven of those came from current Green Bay Packers rookie Quinten Rollins. Only Heath Harding (two) and Marshall Taylor (one) return from last season who recorded an interception. Stave and head coach Paul Chryst acknowledged the offense would like to take more shots down the field. With Stave’s strong arm and not nearly as much pressure coming at him on Saturday, Stave should be able to find a way to connect to one of his wide receivers to open up the running game.
2, Joe Schobert OLB (NR): Schobert was all over the field against Alabama and that will likely continue all season. Schobert picked up where he left off last season, as he led Wisconsin with four tackles for loss and two sacks. Alabama had trouble keeping Schobert from consistently being in the backfield and that should be similar against the Redhawks. If Miami tries to contain him by throwing a double to his side, it should allow Vince Biegel to create havoc on the other side. After averaging 18.2 yards per completion, Krummer is set to make his second career start and won’t have the same luxury he did against Presbyterian, meaning he’ll likely have to rely on short intermediate throws. With Krummer still being inexperienced, pressure from Schobert could lead to turnovers, mistakes or errant passes. Wisconsin will need to capitalize after not creating a turnover against the Crimson Tide.
3, Alex Erickson WR (7): One of Stave’s favorite targets on Saturday was Erickson, who had six receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. If Stave needed to pick up a first down or come up with a critical play against Alabama, Stave targeted Erickson. That combination should continue against the RedHawks, as the secondary might have trouble slowing Erickson down. Erickson will likely be defended by either Marshall or Harding, as the RedHawks secondary allowed Presbyterian to pass for 163 yards. Erickson’s biggest impact comes by his average yards in reception, as he has the ability to get behind defenses and generate big plays. That aspect of his game was lacking against Alabama, as Erickson only had a long of 23 yards. If Stave can get into a rhythm and Erickson can find ways of getting open, it should create other opportunities for wide receivers. Not to mention that If Corey Clement can’t play or his limited, it wouldn’t be surprising to see if Erickson gets the football in his hand off on a jet sweep.
4, Tyler Marz LT (5): The RedHawks’ biggest strength on defense is across the defensive line with returning all four starters from a season ago. Marz’s likely opponent on the defensive line will be either defensive end Bryson Albright (six sacks in 2014) or J’Terius Jones (five sacks). Albright had a quiet game in the opposing team’s backfield last week with only a half tackle for loss and will now be tasked with trying to be a three-year starter. Marz played a solid game against Alabama’s defensive line and shouldn’t allow Albright to find much success in Wisconsin’s backfield. The one clear focus Marz and the rest of the offensive line will work on this coming week is being the more physical team up front to create a bigger push in the running game, something they struggled with against Alabama. Although that likely will change against the RedHawks defense, it will begin with Marz.
5, Sojourn Shelton CB (NR): Shelton played well on Saturday and appears to have bounced back from his sophomore slump. There were a couple of times against Alabama where Jake Coker tried to go after Shelton but the junior corner was able to find a way to break up the pass without being called for a defensive pass interference, something he struggled with last season. When Shelton lines up against the RedHawks he won’t be facing a player as skilled as Alabama’s wide receivers but he will still have to be careful against Rokeem Williams and Jared Murphy. Murphy led the RedHawks wide receivers in receptions (five) and receiving yards (101) against Presbyterian. If Shelton can stay with his receiver and make sure there isn’t much of a window to throw to, Wisconsin’s secondary should be able to control the game.
6, T.J. Edwards MLB (NR): Edwards debut at inside linebacker against Alabama was a mixed bag, even though he finished the game with 12 tackles and one tackle for loss. Although Edwards was productive, Alabama was able to take advantage of his youth, something the RedHawks will try and duplicate with runs up the middle or crossing routes, the latter of which Alabama hurt the Badgers with. Miami (OH) rotates between two tailbacks with Alonzo Smith (12 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns) and Kenny Young (10 carries for 59 yards). Edwards will be tasked of clogging up the middle and preventing any run plays from getting to the secondary.
7, Corey Clement RB (2): It is hard to know how healthy Clement will be Saturday after having only eight carries Saturday, including one in the second half. Chryst said Monday that he could have gotten a little more out of Clement but didn’t want to risk a more severe injury. Clement will have a light practice week to hopefully allow his groin injury to heal. It’ll be interesting to see how much Clement plays and how his injury will dictate how many carries he receives. Clement’s availability will add another weapon on offense that Miami (OH) will have trouble slowing down, as they allowed 5.1 yards a carry last season.
Others to Note
Vince Biegel OLB: Biegel was right with Schobert in getting after the quarterback as he finished with five tackles (one for loss) and a quarterback hurry. If Biegel and Schobert can consistently find there ways into the RedHawks backfield it will be difficult for their offense to know who they should try and slow down.
D’Cota Dixon S: Dixon might be slated to make his first career start depending if Michael Caputo is cleared following his concussion. Dixon wasn’t expected to play as big of a role as he did on Saturday but was able to survive for the most part after slowly getting adjusted to game speed. Regardless of whether or not Caputo plays, Dixon should see plenty of opportunities again and will need to show that he was able to correct the mistakes he made against Alabama.
Tanner McEvoy WR: Chryst made it clear that Wisconsin has to try and do a better job of getting McEvoy involved in the passing game after the hobbled senior had no catches and only three targets against Alabama. Alabama may have done a good job of taking McEvoy out of the picture but the RedHawks don’t have the athleticism or size to match up with McEvoy. It will be interesting to see if a) McEvoy is targeted earlier in the passing game to try and get comfortable and b) if he plays at all on defense.
Dare Ogunbowale RB: Clement’s unknown status will mean more opportunities for Ogunbowale in the offense. Ogunbowale was a big weapon in the pass game with six receptions, five of which came on third down. If Clement can’t go, Ogunbowale will need to be ready for a spike in carries, getting a good opportunity to show that he can be a weapon.