Preview: Not Wanting to Waffle

After two less-than-comfortable victories, Wisconsin football heads into its final non-conference tune-up before the start of the Big Ten season. With the defense facing a triple-option Wofford attack, the Badgers will certainly be tested against the Terriers.

MADISON – The numbers were ugly, the play was suspect and the flu bug was running wild throughout the Wisconsin football program.

In the end, however, the only thing that mattered was the Badgers survived a close game after a season of close losses. A season removed from UW losing three conference games by a combined six points, Wisconsin – who had roughly 40 players miss practice time because of the flu – came back from two 14-point deficits to move to 2-0 on the young season.

"Being a Division 1 football team, we have a lot of competitors that want to play to win and not use anything as an excuse," said sophomore Aaron Henry. "The flu came up, it was what it was, we got over it and we go out and beat Fresno. Win or lost, we wouldn't have wanted to use that as an excuse.

"We have a lot of fighters on this team and that's starting to show."

A division-one Wisconsin isn't the only team that has competitors, let alone the only football subdivision that produces quality talent, something the Badgers will find out this Saturday when the host FCS opponent Wofford.

Led by Coach Mike Ayers in his 22nd season and 25th overall, Wofford (1-1) was picked to finish second by the Southern Conference coaches behind four-time defending champion Appalachian State. Over the past 10 seasons, the Terriers, who will receiver a $500,000 paycheck for the match-up, have scheduled at least one game against a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) program.

Wofford, located in Spartanburg, S.C, has certainly caught the eye of UW Coach Bret Bielema, simply by the way the Terriers recruit their players. One of the main differentiation between the two football subdivisions is that while an FBS team has to offer a full scholarship, an FCS team is allowed to get more numbers by dividing that money allotment in half or partial scholarships.

"What Wofford does is very unique," Bielema said. "They get players that can fit into that offensive scheme and defensively with what they do … The one thing that you can see when you turn on the film, those kids play very hard, they are very well coached and play with a tremendous amount of pride."

Despite having to replace 20 senior and 13 starters from last season, it's the offensive scheme that makes the Terriers difficult to defend. Running a triple-option attack, Wofford has rushed for an average of 285.5 yards per game this season, ranking them No.2 nationally in its division.

Even with sophomore fullback Eric Breitenstein (the team's leading rusher with 187 yards and three touchdowns) missing four-to-six weeks with a knee injury, the Badgers will need to be leery of sophomore quarterback Mitch Allen and junior tailback Mike Rucker.

Wofford's offense will look very familiar to the one Cal Poly used during its near upset over UW last November, as the Mustangs rushed for 276 yards during its 36-35 overtime loss to the Badgers.

"Everyone saw Cal Poly last year. There offense can cause defensive coordinators (heck)," Henry said. "It's a time-consuming offense that requires us to play responsible Wisconsin football."

Although the team is predicated on running the football, Wofford will throw the ball once in awhile, although they have completed only 10 of 23 passes for 109 yards in its first two games.

"The way they get you is they lull you to sleep," sophomore cornerback Devin Smith said. "Being DBs this week, we can't be lulled to sleep, we need to be on top of our keys every single play and read the receivers. Once you fall asleep, that's when they can hit you big."

Having battled through adversity in two fourth-quarter games, the Cal Poly debacle fresh in people's minds and the conference opener a week away, the agenda of Wisconsin and its secondary this week is a simple one.

"We want to go out there and send a message," Henry said. "At the end of day, we have to be the dictators. We want to beat everybody opponent and we don't want to leave anything out there that will make us a liability. This going to be the biggest crowd they probably will see, they are going to give it their all. We're going to play our butts off."

Wofford (1-1, 0-0 Southern Conference) vs. Wisconsin (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, September 19 at 11:01 a.m. CT

Arena – Camp Randall Stadium (capacity: 80,321 / FieldTurf)

Television - Big Ten Network (Matt Devlin, Glen Mason and Jay Wilson)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – First Meeting

Last Meeting - First Meeting

UW Notes:

Dating back to last season, seven of the Badgers' last 13 games have been decided by three points or less (UW is 4-3 in those games). Two of those games have gone into overtime, with Wisconsin winning both of those contests.

Tolzien ranks fourth in the Big Ten in pass efficiency rating at 156.4. The school record for pass efficiency in a season is 155.2 (Darrell Bevell in 1993. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes. Only Bevell in 1993 had a better completion percentage for a season.

UW ranks fourth in the Big Ten in passing yards. The Badgers' 506 passing yards in their first two games is their highest two-game total since passing for 514 yards vs. Ohio State and Michigan on Nov. 3-10, 2007.

With his 143 yards, John Clay went over the 1,000-yard mark for his career (he now has 1,070 yards). Backfield mate Zach Brown enters the Wofford game with 964 career rushing yards.

For the 10th time in head coach Bret Bielema's four seasons as head coach, UW had a 200-yard passer (Tolzien) and 100-yard rusher (Clay) in the same game. Wisconsin is 10-0 when that happens under Bielema.

Wofford Notes:

This will be the first meeting between Wofford and Wisconsin on the football field. The two teams did meet in 2007 on the basketball court, with the Badgers winning 70-43.

The game will be the first time the Terriers have played a team from the Big Ten and mark the second opponent of the season from the FBS, as the Terriers were defeated 40-7 by South Florida in the season opener.

Wofford does not have any players from Wisconsin and the Badgers do not have any players from the state of South Carolina. The Terriers and Badgers have several connections among players. Wofford RB Matthew Boggs and Badger LB Culmer St. Jean and DL Anthony Mains are from Naples, Florida ... Wofford DL T.J. White and Badger OL Jake Current played at Troy (Ohio) High School ... Terrier Mike Niam and Badger OL Bill Nagy played at Hudson (Ohio) High School.

Prediction

A year ago, the Cal Poly offense did a number on the Badgers defense and it was painful to watch. Defensive Coordinator Dave Doeren tried many metamorphoses with his defense to try to plug the running lanes and the Mustangs kept finding room to run. Thankfully, UW's defense doesn't see the triple option in the conference. Of course, that is also a detriment when trying to prepare for Wofford.

Although its offenses are similar, Wofford is not Cal Poly. The Terriers don't have a standout wide receiver (heck, they hardly throw the ball), they struggle at times on defense and their leading running back is going to miss this game. Wisconsin (stated as a 26.5 favorite on one wagering site) is the better team. Question is, can the Badgers show it for all four quarters?

There are plenty of things I would rather do on my birthday that watch Wisconsin play Wofford. However, there aren't many things I want besides a Badgers win. I'll consider a solid UW performance as my gift from Bielema.

Wisconsin 45, Wofford 20

Worgull's Predictions

Straight up: 2-0

Against the Spread: 2-0


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