UW v UNC – Five things to watch

BadgerNation.com's keys to UW's matchup with North Carolina Saturday in Chapel Hill

On the road: A young Wisconsin team faces its first road test of the season Saturday. North Carolina is a more veteran bunch and a night time home opener is bound to spur considerable emotion. The Badgers will learn a lot about their mettle Saturday night.

"I think the biggest thing is just keeping your poise and having patience," UW quarterback John Stocco said. "There's going to be momentum swings both ways. But the difference on the road obviously is they are going to have their crowd. So I think the younger guys need to know that we're going to get the momentum back. We're going to get our big plays too and just not to panic and just keep your poise."

Playing with urgency: It is only their second game, but this is pretty close to a must-win for the Tar Heels. With a ridiculously challenge schedule, UNC will be clawing for wins all season. The Tar Heels are a good enough team to make some noise in the ACC and qualify for a bowl game. But with the likes of North Carolina State, Utah, Louisville, Virginia, Miami (Fla.), Boston College and Virginia Tech to look forward to, UNC could be looking at a rather long season. A win Saturday versus a team on the brink of the top 25 would do wonders for the Tar Heels' confidence.

The Badgers, meanwhile, understand that this is their toughest test to-date and that a win Saturday would grant them a measure of respect — and a 3-0 record — heading into Big Ten play.

Offensive grind: The Badgers will not score 60 points Saturday. They may even go a few series in a row without scoring a touchdown. UNC's defense is not the steel curtain, but it may seem that way with Bowling Green and Temple in the rearview mirror. If UW's offense is slowed for a considerable stretch, how will it react? How well the Badgers persevere once challenged could be the deciding factor in this game.

Run, run, run: North Carolina needs to get its running game going to take pressure of quarterback Matt Baker. If tailbacks Barrington Edwards and Cooter Arnold again struggle to produce more than three yards per carry, as they did last week against Georgia Tech, UNC has little chance of winning this game.

When UW has the ball, expect the Tar Heels to load up against the Badgers' rushing offense, which heads into Saturday ranked fourth in the nation. UNC's run defense was weak last season and will get a good idea where it stands this year come Saturday night.

Brandon Williams: Brian Calhoun and Owen Daniels may have had the big games in the Badgers two season-opening wins. But Williams has been a special playmaker early this season. He has made big plays as a wide receiver, but has been at his most dangerous in the return game. He scored a touchdown on punt return against Temple and his 85-yard kickoff return set up UW's second touchdown versus Bowling Green and changed the complexion of that game. Williams is playing the best football of his career right now. He has produced 329 all purpose yards on just 12 touches.

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