Badger Nation's Five Keys to Victory

Badger Nation's Brad Fedie takes his look at the upcoming Badger football game in his Keys to the Game against the Northern Illinois Huskies.

1, Who's The Man?

The depth chart released after preseason camp left more than a few Badger fans questioning Bret Bielema's mental state. Coach Bielema has tabbed Scott Tolzien and Zach Brown the starters at quarterback and running back, respectively, over fan favorites and expected starters Curt Phillips and John Clay. Bielema has stated that both Phillips and Clay will get a large chunk of playing time off the bench.

The question to be answered: Who will establish themselves as top dogs at their respective positions? You never get a second chance to make a first impression so Saturday would be a great time for anyone to separate themselves from their counterpart.

2, In the Line-light

Throughout the Badgers' recent successful seasons, one thing was constant: Big, imposing offensive lines. In 2009, the line is big, but with two players making their first starts (freshmen center Travis Frederick and right guard Kevin Zeitler) and two more stepping into more prominent roles (left guard Jake Bscherer and right tackle Josh Oglesby), will it be imposing? We'll find out.

If the Badgers can keep Tolzien on his feet, he should have no problem making the right decisions. If he has to run for dear life, Curt Phillips might be the Badgers only hope. After three seasons in the bottom half of the Big Ten in sacks allowed (9th in 2006, T-8th in 2007, and T-6th in 2008) the Badgers hope to keep improving and land in the top half in 2009.

Oh, and there is that whole running the ball down opponents throats thing that good Badgers teams do. The line would probably like to get that going early as well.

3, ¿No Inglés?

The Huskies showed great improvement last year, going from 2-10 to 6-6 with an appearance in the Independence Bowl. The bad news? That was the last game Larry English would play for the Huskies, as he moved on to the NFL after being selected by the San Diego Chargers 16th overall. It gets worse for the dogs. Six other members of the defense, the heart and soul of last years team, graduated. Now Northern Illinois is full of question marks on both side of the ball. Will they be able to answer any of them against a Badger team itching to erase last year's fall from grace?

4, High Watt-age

No Badger kept coaches jaws flapping this off-season quite like JJ Watt. After transferring from Central Michigan, Watt wowed everyone with his speed and ability to fly past the offensive line like they were standing still. The fact remains, however, that he hasn't seen game action in Camp Randall. Can he live up to his preseason hype?

5, Safety First

The indefinite suspensions of safeties Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter have left holes behind starters Jay Valai and Chris Maragos. Can the hard hitting duo stay on the field for the entire season, or will newly minted backups Kevin Claxton and Shelton Johnson be thrown into the fire?

Also, how long until Valai ends up on Youtube again with another bone crushing hit? My guess is with 10:32 left in the 2nd quarter. Book it.

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