Early season games are sometimes hard to analyze as teams have yet to define themselves. However, whenever a team features a new starting QB, it is something that bears watching. Last year, there were questions about Tyler Donovan's ability to carry the load, and he responded with surprisingly consistent play. With a strong OL expected to lead PJ Hill and a strong running game against a presumably inferior opponent, the burden should be manageable for new starter, Allan Evridge. However, he must prove that he can be consistent with his decision making as well as his accuracy, both of which are question marks at this point.
The jury is still out after just 10 pass attempts by Evridge on Saturday. He made some nice simple accurate throws into the flat, but the interception in the endzone was a terrible pass, whether you consider it an issue with accuracy or with decision making. To be continued…
2. Roll Call
Who exactly will see the field and how healthy they will be is still a wait and see issue. Players such as Travis Beckum, Jonathan Casillas, Chris Pressley, Aaron Henry, John Clay, Jason Chapman, Dan Moore, Matt Shaughnessey, O'Brien Schofield, Kirk DeCremer, and Allen Langford are all players who are either hurt or are recovering from long term injuries. Who plays how much and how well remains to be seen.
As expected, many of the walking wounded were held out of action. Of those that did play, there appeared to be few ill effects. Langford was beaten deep once, so that bears watching. Sadly, it appears that the career of promising DE Kirk DeCremer is over following more complications with his troublesome back.
3. Testing the Edges
Barring injury issues, Wisconsin looks solid in the front seven. Their safety crew also returns from an erratic year, but presumably better with a year of experience. However, questions remain at corner for the Badgers. Aaron Henry is out while Langford struggled at times and is coming off knee surgery. Mario Goins and Niles Brinkley are untested, but may hold the key to how good this defense could be.
The Badgers showed some holes in their pass coverage, though much of that was the short middle of the field as opposed to the edges. The Badgers were beat a couple of times deep only to be bailed out by poor throws. Goins and Brinkley split time opposite Langford, but based on comments from Coach Bielema, Goins looks to have played better. As with the QB situation, this will be something that bears watching.
4. Home Field Dominance
The Badgers have won 16 straight non-conference games (regular season) and since 1995, has lost only twice at home to non-conference opponents. Akron does not look to be a strong opponent, so look for that streak to tack on another game.
Business as usual against an overmatched opponent.
5. Ground Chuck
Wisconsin's huge and experience offensive line leads PJ Hill and Zach Brown against a defense that returns only 4 starters and plays a front with only 3 defensive linemen. Look for Akron to try to use movement since they cannot match Wisconsin player for player up front. This could open some gaps if blocked well, leading to a big day on the ground.
No surprise that the Badgers had their way on the ground with over 400 rushing yards. The O-line was consistent in putting a helmet on the undersized Zips, creating some gaping holes for the backs. Hill, Brown, and Clay all ran with purpose and authority, doing a nice job of finishing runs.
There are some questions about this Badger team that limit our ability to see whether we are looking at an 8 win team or a 10 or 11 win team. However, barring a disappointing performance, this game should not provide us with a lot of answers, as Akron looks to be a weaker MAC team on paper. I think Chryst and Bielema play it safe to a degree and look to pound the ball, thus keeping the score down a bit, but the Badgers will gradually pull away, 38-10.
Well, minus a garbage touchdown late, I would say nailing the score perfectly is a pretty good start to the season. It was also no surprise that the Badger staff stuck with the run, playing it somewhat safe in the opening game.