When the Wildcats have the ball…
Arizona plays a very different scheme then either UNLV or Central Florida. Against the Rebels and Golden Knights, Wisconsin was able to stay in its base defense on every snap. Saturday, the Badgers could very well find themselves in nickel on most snaps against a Wildcat team that likes to spread the field and present multiple looks. In recent seasons, Wisconsin's defense has played reasonably well when it can stay in its base alignments but has had a much more difficult time when forced to spread out. The Badgers' speed at linebacker, however, gives Wisconsin some flexibility with its defensive groupings that it has not had in the past. However often, the Badgers' much lauded, but to this point untested, depth in the secondary will finally be put on trial.
The Wildcats offense is built around tailback Mike Bell, who suffered a minor injury in the team's loss to Utah last week and should be fine Saturday. Bell had just less than 1,000 yards rushing last year and has the potential to spring a big run. He is not as nifty or as explosive as UNLV's Dominic Dorsey, but does have a significant burst. Bell will also be running behind the best offensive line Wisconsin's vaunted defensive front has seen this season. It is safe to say the converse of that equation is true as well, however. Despite what, on paper, is a capable line and a pair of talented tailbacks in Bell and Gilbert Harris, Arizona is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry this season.
Arizona quarterback Kris Heavner has completed an astounding 77 percent of his passes (37 of 48), but has only 369 yards and one touchdown to show for it. The Wildcats have lacked for big plays in the passing game and the entire offense has struggled with five turnovers. The unit also has sputtered in the clutch, including a disastrous 2-for-5 performance (no touchdowns) in red zone against Utah last week.
Arizona should receive a huge boost with the return of receiver Biren Ealy from injury. Ealy was the team's leading receiver last season as a sophomore and is the Wildcats most dynamic offensive player after Bell. With Ealy back, Ricky Williams and Syndric Steptoe can become complimentary options, roles they are likely better suited for. The Wildcats have a legitimate weapon in tight end Steve Fleming, who, like the Badgers' Owen Daniels, can operate in-line, from the slot or split out wide.
None of this matters if Wisconsin continues to play as it has the first two weeks of the season defensively. If the Badgers' front four can disrupt the line of scrimmage, allowing Wisconsin's back seven to fly to the ball, it will be a long day for Arizona in its desert home.
When Wisconsin has the ball….
Like Wisconsin, Arizona has won its time of possession battle in both of its games. The Wildcats know that the onus for holding the ball falls on Bell. It is anyone's guess who will carry the load for the Badgers, however.
Booker Stanley will likely start but look for true freshman Jamil Walker early and often. It is not out of the question for Wisconsin to call upon Chris Pressley either.
John Stocco has been one of the least prolific starting quarterbacks in the nation so far this season, but he has only turned the ball over once and has thrown three touchdown passes. That efficiency will be key once again, but Stocco may need to be more of a factor, from start to finish, in Wisconsin's first road game.
Stocco has done a very good job spreading the ball around in his first two starts: seven players have combined for 22 receptions. Stanley leads the team with six receptions, followed by Jonathan Orr and Brandon Williams (four). Owen Daniels leads the team with 92 receiving yards.
Arizona's defense is built on speed but is not as experienced as the UNLV defense that gave the Badgers fits at Camp Randall last week.
The Wildcats have a star in the making in true freshman cornerback Antoine Cason, who has 17 tackles, three for loss, two fumbles forced and an interception in his young career.
There is experience and talent at both safety positions and redshirt freshman corner Wilrey Fontenot is also a potential playmaker.
The Wildcats front seven has some skilled players—namely defensive end Marcus Smith. Utah was able to push the Wildcats around a bit last week, however.
Arizona's defense has talent but is still rebuilding and could have its work cut out for it against a veteran Wisconsin squad. However, the Wildcats' vast improvement from a year ago should not be discounted.
The kicking game
Arizona and Wisconsin both possess players that can dictate field position. Badger freshman punter Ken DeBauche has not allowed a single return this season and is averaging 41.2 yards per punt. His counterpart in Tucson, Danny Baugher, was ranked No. 30 in the nation last season with a 42.6 average.
Wisconsin's Jim Leonhard is tenth in the nation in punt returns and Scott Starks gives the Badgers some speed on kick returns. For the Wildcats, Steptoe is averaging 25.3 yards per kick returns but could have a hard time getting an opportunity: five of freshman Taylor Mehlhaff's kickoffs have gone for touchbacks and the longest return against Wisconsin this season is 25 yards.
Field-goal kicking is the weakest portion of special teams for each squad.
Arizona's homefield advantage and considerable talent will show but Wisconsin is too deep and too experienced to go belly up in the desert.
BadgerNation.com prediction: Wisconsin 27, Arizona 16
Wisconsin/Arizona at a glance
Badger Nation Top Stories
Red/White ObservationsThoughts and observations from No.10 Wisconsin's Red/White Scrimmage at the Kohl Center Sunday
Badger Nation1:23 PM
Badgers Drop Out of Top 10Although its road win gave them an important tiebreaker in the Big Ten West, Wisconsin didn't impress enough pollsters to stay in the top 10 before its weekend matchup against No.7…
Game Balls: Wisconsin at IowaBadgerNation awards the game balls for No. 10 Wisconsin’s 17-9 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Badger Nation7:52 AM
Notes: Biegel's Return a Boost for WisconsinRead out Vince Biegel's return to the lineup, Wisconsin's two-quarterback system, its multiple offensive line system and more in our insider postgame notebook.
Badger Nation1:18 AM
Fresh Faces Make the DifferenceIn one of Wisconsin's most competitive rivalries, the Badgers' freshmen - namely Quintez Cephus, Kyle Penniston and A.J. Taylor - made a big difference.
Badger NationYesterday at 3:17 PM