UW v Hawaii, matchup analysis

A close look at the Badgers and Warriors leading up to Friday's game at Aloha Stadium.

Hawaii offense versus Wisconsin defense

Hawaii projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

QB Colt Brennan (So. 6-3, 190) MLB Mark Zalewski (Jr. 6-2, 228)
RB Nate Ilaoa (Sr. 5-9, 248) WLB Dontez Sanders (Sr. 6-1, 223)
LT Tala Esera (Jr. 6-4, 295) SLB LaMarr Watkins (Sr. 6-1, 223)
LG Samson Satele (Jr. 6-3, 311) RE Kurt Ware (So. 6-4, 286)
C Derek Faavi (Sr. 6-1, 273) RT Nick Hayden (So. 6-5, 302)
RG Brandon Eaton (Sr. 6-2, 297) LT Jason Chapman (Fr. 6-4, 280)
RT Dane Uperesa (Jr. 6-5, 331) LE Joe Monty (Jr. 6-2, 252)
X-Receiver Chad Mock (Jr. 5-11, 171) SS Joe Stellmacher (Jr. 6-1, 216)
H-Slot Ryan Grice-Mullen (Fr. 5-10, 174) FS Roderick Rogers (Jr. 6-2, 181)
Y-Slot Davone Bess (Fr. 5-10, 187) CB Levonne Rowan (Sr. 6-1, 191)
Z-Receiver Ross Dickerson (Jr. 5-10, 185) CB Allen Langford (Fr. 5-11, 187)

Wisconsin's defense is rather used to facing spread-style offenses. But Hawaii's four-wide-receiver game plan is a whole new challenge, especially for a secondary that has had its issues.

Senior cornerback Levonne Rowan has played some of his best football the past two weeks, however, and will be trusted to step up this week. Redshirt freshmen Jack Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford and senior Brett Bell will also need to play well when called upon.

UW has often matched up against multiple receiver formations with a three-cornerback package and that very well could be the way the Badgers choose to combat Hawaii this week as well. Regardless of whether UW employs two, three or four cornerbacks, though, the Badgers will need free safety Roderick Rogers and linebackers Dontez Sanders and LaMarr Watkins to play well in coverage. 

Colt Brennan's favorite targets this season have been freshmen receivers Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen. Bess has 81 catches for 1,048 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Grice-Mullen has gone 64-922-9. The other starters, Ross Dickerson (45-658-3) and Chad Mock (34-393-1, six games), have also been productive. If Brennan has time to throw, give his receivers the edge against UW's secondary and linebackers.

The Warriors pass the ball more than twice as often as they run with it, but tailback Nate Ilaoa averages 6.7 yards per carry and 47.1 yards per game. Ilaoa has also caught 27 passes for 191 yards.

He will be lining up against a Wisconsin defense that is allowing 185.1 yards per game on the ground (No. 95 in the nation). The Badgers have the No. 88 pass defense (246.2 yards per game allowed).

Hawaii, meanwhile, is No. 2 in the country in passing offense (388.2 yards per game) and No. 11 in total offense (468).

To slow Hawaii's offense, the Badgers will need to pressure Brennan. With defensive end Matt Shaughnessy out for the season with a knee injury, UW will have to rely heavily on ends Kurt Ware and Joe Monty. True freshman Travis Beckum is listed as the top reserve at each end position this week and could receive his most extensive playing time of his young career.

Wisconsin's pass rush has been hampered by injuries all season but has generally been effective against teams that are not particularly stingy in pass protection (The Badgers had very little pass rushing success versus Purdue, Northwestern and Minnesota, by contrast). The Warriors have allowed 32 sacks for a loss of 175 yards.

Wisconsin offense versus Hawaii defense

Hawaii projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

Stub LB Tanuvasa Moe (Sr. 6-0, 225) QB John Stocco (Jr. 6-2, 197)
Buck LB Solomon Elimimian (Fr. 5-11, 224) TB Brian Calhoun (Jr. 5-10, 203)
MAC LB Brad Kalilimoku (So., 5-10, 204) FB Chris Pressley (So. 6-1, 256)
Will LB Kila Kamakawiwo'ole (Sr. 6-3, 237) LT Joe Thomas (Jr. 6-8, 303)
DE Melila Purcell (Sr. 6-5, 266) LG Matt Lawrence (Sr. 6-5, 295)
NT Michael Lafaele (So. 6-1, 297) C Donovan Raiola (Sr. 6-3, 294)
DE Ikaika Alama-Francis (Jr. 6-5, 215) RG Jason Palermo (Sr. 6-3, 307)
SS Lono Manners (Sr. 5-10,199) RT Kraig Urbik (Fr. 6-6, 317)
FS Lamar Broadway (Sr. 6-0, 186) TE Owen Daniels (Sr. 6-3, 247)
CB Ryan Keomaka (So. 5-10, 168) WR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
CB Kenny Patton (Jr. 6-0, 184) WR Jonathan Orr (Sr. 6-3, 190)

Brian Calhoun has been shut down the past two weeks. That will not happen to the first-team All-Big Ten selection this week. Wisconsin's running game has something to prove and Hawaii's run defense has not been anything to write home about this season.

The Warriors' 3-4 blitz packages will clog up running lanes from time-to-time. Wisconsin pulls its linemen frequently and Hawaii is bound to guess right every so often. But the Badgers should have an advantage up front and Calhoun should have a great deal of success running the football against the nation's No. 96 rush defense (186.9 yards allowed per game).

Wisconsin will be bolstered by the return of senior left guard Matt Lawrence, who started the team's first 10 games before missing the Iowa contest with an ankle injury.

Watch out for weakside linebacker Kila Kamakawiwo'ole, who is a big-time difference maker off the edge for Hawaii. He has eight sacks and 13 tackles for loss this season, and has forced three fumbles.

Hawaii's most productive defensive lineman has been its lightest, end Ikaika Alama-Francis, who has five sacks.

The Warriors pass defense has been abysmal: No. 100 in the nation in the pass efficiency defense (141.3 rating) and No. 81 in pass defense (239.8 yards allowed).

There are few playmakers in the secondary, especially with cornerback Turnarian Moreland out with a sprained knee. He has four interceptions in eight games this season; the rest of the team has four combined.

Hawaii does rush the passer pretty well, though, with 24 sacks. The Warriors will need to put relentless pressure on UW quarterback John Stocco to keep the Badgers from scoring at will. Badger wide receivers Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr should be able to work open and will be looking to bounce back after failing to make several big plays in the loss to Iowa two weeks ago.

Stocco has thrown for more than 200 yards in seven consecutive games, with more than 250 yards in four of those.

Wisconsin versus Hawaii special teams

Hawaii projected starters Wisconsin projected starters

PK/KO Dan Kelly (Fr. 6-3, 199) PK/KO Taylor Mehlhaff (So. 5-11, 179)
P Kurt Milne (Jr. 5-11, 208) P/H Ken DeBauche (So. 6-2, 219)
LS Tanuvasa Moe (Sr. 6-0, 225) LS Steve Johnson (So. 6-3, 247)
PR Andre Taylor (Jr. 5-11, 171) PR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)
KR A.J. Martinez (So. 5-10, 177) KR Brandon Williams (Sr. 5-10, 180)

Hawaii's specialists have not been particularly productive. The Warriors' return game is among the nation's worst and the team is ranked No. 110 in net punting at an atrocious 29.3 yards per punt.

Freshman kicker Dan Kelly, however, has made 9 of 13 attempts and has 11 touchbacks on kickoffs (55 attempts).

Wisconsin should have a significant advantage on special teams. The Badgers have been solid throughout the year. If Brandon Williams has an opportunity in the return game, watch out for a big play. He has not had many chances this season, with teams frequently kicking and punting away from him.

Final thoughts

This game is going to be a shootout. Unless Wisconsin cannot figure out how to block Hawaii's 3-4, the Badgers will put a lot of points on the board. The Badger defense can contain the Warriors, if they get pressure on Brennan and if they keep Hawaii's receivers in front of them and tackle well. For this defense, those are big ifs. Watch for Hawaii to have several big plays and plenty of success on offense.

However, Brian Calhoun will be too much for the Warriors to deal with. A 200-yard, three-touchdown day seems feasible. And the Badgers advantage on special teams should be worth at least a touchdown.

BadgerNation.com projection: Wisconsin 41, Hawaii 34

Badger Nation Top Stories