Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst has to be pleased with how his team’s home opener went a week ago. In control from start to finish against Akron, the Badgers allowed their starters and, most importantly, the backups to get some valuable work and experience in a 54-10 rout. With Wisconsin one week away from beginning Big Ten play, Chryst would like nothing more to see a similar outcome against Georgia State in the first meeting between the two schools.
Here are BadgerNation’s five keys to a Wisconsin victory on Saturday.
1, Establishing the Run
If there’s one thing Georgia State has struggled with through two games it has been containing the run, as the Panthers allow a nation’s worst 394.5 yards a game. Even with Corey Clement not playing due to an ankle injury he suffered last week, the rest of Wisconsin running backs should be able to find success through the Panthers defense. The Badgers offensive line has been a nice surprise through two games, even with the injury problems at left guard, and the offense has flourished because of it. Considering the Panthers only have three tackles for loss through two games, the Badgers’ line should create the holes necessary for the backs to break some long runs.
2, Containing Robert Davis
If given the opportunity, the two-time All-Sun Belt wide receiver will find a way to hurt Wisconsin’s secondary, as Davis has registered 166 career catches and has made at least one catch in 39 straight games. To prevent chunk plays in the passing game, the coverage on Davis will have to be consistent. The good news is that the secondary has been solid through two games and has limited some talented, athletic receivers. Even though UW will have an inexperience player at nickel corner, the combination of Sojourn Shelton and Derrick Tindal should be able to make sure that Davis can’t get comfortable.
3, Spreading the Football Around
Through Wisconsin’s first two games, two different players have stepped up to led the way for the passing attack. With Akron paying attention to Troy Fumagalli (seven catches, 100 yards vs. LSU) and double teaming him at times, Jazz Peavy was able to have a career day with seven catches for 100 yards and two scores. Georgia State’s defense can follow a similar game plan but quarterback Bart Houston should be able to go through his progressions without being under much duress. If Peavy and Rob Wheelwright can continue to consistently catch the football, it should allow Fumagalli to be targeted more in the passing game and allow him to become a weapon.
4, Creating Turnovers
Wisconsin’s defense has created five through two games, all of them with a secondary player directly involved. Although GSU quarterback Conner Manning has only thrown one interception this season, the Panthers’ offense has fumbled the football four times, losing one of them. With GSU averaging 33.5 pass attempts a game, the secondary should have plenty of chances. If they can force a loose ball or intercept a pass, Wisconsin’s defense could put the offense in great field position.
5, Staying Healthy
Through two games Wisconsin has seen inside linebacker Chris Orr (right knee) lost for the season and starting nickel cornerback Natrell Jamerson (right leg) out 4-to-6 weeks. With Wisconsin a week away from entering a critical four game conference stretch, the Badgers need to be as close to full strength as humanely possible. That makes it important for the Badgers to copy the formula they used against Akron – have both starting units get off to a fast start, build a healthy lead and get the reserves in for the second half. That seems entirely possible with Georgia State allowing 39.5 points a game.
Wisconsin could have taken Akron lightly last week after coming off an emotional victory over then-No. 5 LSU, but the Badgers put together an impressive performance against an overmatched team. That should be no different this week. Even with a tough road trip to Michigan State looming, Wisconsin will likely be able to rely on a strong rushing attack and a hard-nosed defense to create the necessary separation and being able to control the clock throughout. Wisconsin wins, 59-6.