Badgermaniac's Keys to the Game

Badgermaniac takes his final regular season look at the upcoming Badger football game in his Keys to the Game against the Cal-Poly Mustangs.

1. Beach Boys

For the second consecutive week, the weather could play a factor for both teams. However, given the visitors are from California, it always bears watching to see how they react to the elements.

2. Here They Come

The Cal-Poly front is very small by Big Ten standards and has no chance to match up head to head with the massive Wisconsin offensive line. Lucky for them, they have no intention of doing so…against pretty much anybody. They line up in what looks like a 3-4 set, though their "flex" system sends players from all over the place in an attempt to make plays in space via their movement. If the Badgers can get helmet on helmet in the front seven, the running game should be very successful. If not…?

3. Allen Langford vs. Ramses Barden

Barden is Cal-Poly's version of Randy Moss, circa Marshall. Barden is long and think with gaudy numbers (1000+ yards and 15 touchdowns) that are impressive despite the quality of competition. Wisconsin has not faced many elite receiver types this year, so the matchup with the Badger corners will be one to watch. We never know whether defensive coordinator Dave Doernen will shadow Barden with Langford or let the formation dictate coverage, but either way, the Badgers cannot let him go crazy.

4. Gap Control

On the other side of the ball, the Mustangs also run a very unique offensive system. Their version of the triple option provides a run-pass balance in a package that has not been seen by the Badgers this year, nor any other recent year for that matter. Past Badger teams have generally fared well against option style teams (we won't mention that one Indiana game), though Cal-Poly provides some unique looks. The primary key against any option team is gap control and maintaining responsibilities. With the veterans up front, this should not be a major issue, but it is anyone's guess as to how any team reacts to a system like this.

5. Ready for the Big Time?

While the Mustangs won't face the full Camp Randall experience (as has been discussed ad nauseum), but they are still facing an upper level D1 team, something they are not at all used to. Elite FCS division teams have proven that when all falls right, they can compete (as Appalachian State demonstrated last year), but that game still stands out as a fluke. They are skilled, but is the level of athlete from top to bottom simply too great? Let's just say that the UW scout team offense probably had quite the crash course this week.

Badgermaniac's Prediction

This group of seniors will go down as very successful group throughout their years in Madison, though their final year cannot be viewed as anything but a disappointment. They can still close strong with a moderate level bowl, but a loss against Cal-Poly would not only close their careers in ignominious fashion, but it would also end bowl hopes for the most part. I don't expect a Badger destruction. Cal-Poly is too good and too unique, but I do expect a solid workmanlike win. Let's go with Wisconsin 41, Cal-Poly 21.

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