Air and Ground Attack

Whether it is the precision passing of senior quarterback Erik Ainge or the power running of Arian Foster, Tennessee brings a balanced attack that Wisconsin has seen before.

MADISON - The only time Tennessee and Wisconsin battled on the gridiron, UT head coach Phillip Fulmer was an assistant on the Volunteer sideline.

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema had a distinctly different angle on the game.

"I was 11 and couldn't get the game on the radio," Bielema joked.

Both coaches will be much more involved this time around when Wisconsin and Tennessee prepare for the 22nd Outback Bowl January 1st.

The only meeting between the two programs came in the 1981 Garden State Bowl, with Tennessee racking up 404 yards of total offense in a 28-21 victory. In the game, the Volunteer defense harassed Badger quarterback Jeff Cole into two interceptions.

Wisconsin reserve Randy Wright kept the Badgers in the game with two second-half touchdown passes, but could not propel Wisconsin to a victory in New Jersey.

"From what I heard, it was a heck of a game," Bielema said. "Hopefully the results will be different this time around."

On paper, Tennessee will provide a balance attack comparable to opponents Wisconsin has already seen this season.

Comparable to a team like Michigan State, Tennessee has plenty of offensive weapons that allow the Volunteers to throw and run the ball with great success.

Three-year starter Eric Ainge is a lot like former Badger quarterback John Stocco – he just wins. Compiling a 25-10 record as a starter, Ainge is third in Tennessee history in career passing yards with 8,335 and third in total offense with 8,106 yards.

"He's very poised, patient and experienced," defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said. "He doesn't hang on to the ball and knows where to go when there is pressure on him. He doesn't take risks, which is shown by only his 10 interceptions, and he has four receivers with over 40 catches. He's got a lot of weapons to choose from."

Those four weapons – Lucas Taylor, Chris Brown, Austin Rogers and Josh Briscoe – have combined for 215 catches over 13 games. Taylor became the fifth Vol to reach 1,000 reception yards in a season and ranked him first in the SEC with 73 catches.

Tight end Chris Brown has 40 catches and six touchdowns this season, catching at least one pass in 15 of his last 16 games.

Tennessee's running back – Arian Foster – has also been a big addition to the passing game. In addition to eclipsing 1,100 yards on the ground, Foster caught 35 passes out of the backfield.

"They have excellent balance with a running back that can run the ball and a quarterback that can throw the ball extremely well," Hankwitz said. "They have one of the best offenses that we are going to see all year."

Defensively, Tennessee's linebackers are the heart and soul of a struggling defense. Amidst a defensive line that has struggled to stop the run and a secondary that has given up 682 yards through the air the last two games, Tennessee's Ryan Karl, Jerod Mayo and Rico McCoy are one of the most physical trios in the SEC.

Mayo and McCoy rank first and second on the team in tackles with 127 and 101, respectively, with Karl's 82 tackles ranking fifth.

"They have a big physical defense that plays together well," fullback Chris Pressley said. "When they are out there, they understand what they need to do and use their speed and talent to get things done as a unit."

With plenty of time to prep and scheme, the Badgers feel confident that they will be prepared for a Tennessee offense that has scored 34 points or more six times. The Volunteers are 7-0 when they score 32 points or more and were a turnover or two away from being a BCS representative.

Just like the Badgers, who were another victory away from a potential BCS birth and rely heavily on a balanced offense, Wisconsin sees a lot of similarities between itself and Tennessee, which could mean an exciting football game.

"If they would have beaten LSU, they are in the BCS and if we had one more win, we probably would have been in the BCS, as well," Bielema said. "We come in at the same situation. All that matters is how we handle our business."


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