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Wisconsin football: Quick hits from Monday’s press conference

Following Wisconsin’s 30-6 win over Michigan State in East Lansing this past weekend, head coach Paul Chryst and players met with the media Monday to discuss their most recent win and the next challenge against #4 Michigan this weekend in Ann Arbor.

Hornibrook praised for his performance.

Against Michigan State, Alex Hornibrook started his first game, in which he proved his ability to win and potentially the starting job as he is listed as the starting quarterback in Wisconsin’s official depth chart.

Click here to view Wisconsin’s updated depth chart.

“He did a great job with his first start, and he got us the win,” wide receiver Jazz Peavy said of his quarterback.

Peavy said Hornibrook appeared calm in the huddle, and that stems from his preparation throughout the week and his positive mentality going into every game.

“He’s a very goofy guy. He’s a character,” Peavy said. “[But] he puts in a lot of work, and he understands the position he is in now.”

Chryst stressed all last week that the team needed to improve on red zone efficiency and third downs. In the red zone, the Wisconsin offense produced a touchdown on every attempt. Hornibrook also felt the team showed greater success on third down conversions, though there is still room for improvement.

“I think one of the big things was there were a couple of situations where we were able to convert those third and longs and that definitely helped us out,” Hornibrook said. “At the same time, you can’t bank on that. We’ve got to do better on first and second down, not put that stress on our offense.”

Wisconsin’s elite defense reflects on dominating performance.

The Wisconsin defense garnered the most attention against Michigan State, especially outside linebacker T.J. Watt who had 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks on Michigan State’s quarterback. Watt stressed on Monday the importance of just having fun with the game, and the success will come from that.

“It’s hard to make a play in college, so after the play, you go with your buddy and pat him on the back and say ‘heck of a play man’ and have fun with it,” Watt said. “You’re only doing this for so long, so have fun with it.”

Head coach Chryst said that the defensive’s performance and their big plays allowed for a more successful overall team performance.

“It certainly has been really good when we are getting some takeaways or when you can have a short field.”

“I think when we are playing good defense, it’s because every guy is doing their 1/11th,” Chryst continued.

Click here to view the updated injury report.

Michigan will be a true test.

Wisconsin will travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Wisconsin has not played Michigan since 2010, a game that Wisconsin won 48-28. Badger players are excited to take on such a high-ranked team at their prolific stadium that will pose a challenge because of the electric atmosphere of Wolverines fans.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to play in the ‘big house,’’’ outside linebacker Vince Biegel said.

The #4 Michigan Wolverines pose a big challenge to Wisconsin’s defense. The number of skilled positions will be an obvious challenge, but Biegel remains confident in his defensive teammates.

“They’re very talented,” Biegel said of Michigan. “I can already tell on film they are well coached. They have some tight ends who are strong, and I can already tell Jim Harbaugh’s done a really great job of tailoring and coaching up the quarterback position. They’ve got multiple running backs that can run the ball.”

“They’ve got a historic football program,” Hornibrook said. “And we see their stadium gets a lot of attention.”

Chryst affirmed that Harbaugh has done a good job of turning this Michigan team around since he became the head coach.

“Jim is a good football coach and has got a good staff and good players,” Chryst said.

One Michigan player that has received a lot of media attention, and for good reason, is Jabrill Peppers, Michigan’s linebacker, safety and punt returner, who can play all three sides of football.

“He’s got to be the best player in college football right now,” Chryst said.

Wisconsin as always is poised to prove themselves as contenders. In high profile games such as LSU and Michigan State, Wisconsin has been the underdog, and it appears that streak will continue going into Michigan this weekend.

The team’s underdog status even as they enter Michigan this week 4-0 is something that motivates wide receiver Jazz Peavy and allows the team to continuously prove the disbelievers wrong.

“The fact that we are overlooked,” Peavy. “I feel like we are always overlooked, that people are always sleeping on us.”

Though Wisconsin is confident in their own abilities, Michigan will definitely be a challenge this Saturday on the road.

“Every unit is going to be tested and is going to be challenged,” Chryst said.

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Packers: Offense gets back on track in win over Lions

At least offensively speaking, this was the R-E-L-A-X game that Packers fans were waiting for. In a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates, Green Bay defeated the Detroit Lions 34-27, feeding off the strength of a first half aerial explosion reminiscent of 2014. Though the points and the win were much needed (especially with Minnesota throttling the Panthers on the road), the Packers still have plenty to get figured out as the season progresses. As I’ll address below, next week’s bye is sorely needed, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

Offense, Rodgers get back on track at home

Green Bay stormed out to a quick lead in the first quarter, as Rodgers threw for touchdowns on the team’s first three drives. First Davante Adams won a one-on-one slant route for a 14-yard score on third and seven, then on the next drive Jordy found a soft spot in the coverage and Rodgers zipped it in for an 8-yard touchdown. #12 would go on to find Richard Rodgers on a 2-yard bootleg set up by a massive pass interference call on rookie speedster Trevor Davis, and Jordy and Rodgers would connect again for a vintage touchdown before halftime.

The big 28-3 first half lead meant Rodgers only threw the ball 24 times in the win, completing 15 passes to 8 different receivers along the way. The highlight was watching his rekindled connection with Jordy – who now has four touchdowns through three games – which has always been the most important part of this offense. As Jordy continues to get his game legs back, it creates more ways for Green Bay to stretch a defense vertically and to be successful in the red zone. It also seems to make everyone have a little bit more fun out on the field.

Remember that 14-game streak where Rodgers didn’t have a passer rating over 100? That came to an abrupt end on Sunday, as he ended with a 129 passer rating and made all the throws fans are accustomed to seeing. McCarthy frustratingly took his foot off the gas in the second half, letting the Lions slowly creep back into the game. But when it mattered most, Rodgers used his legs in that casual I’m-going-to-run-for-the-first-down-and-it-doesn’t-look-like-I’m-trying style of his, essentially icing the game with a big third down conversion scramble.

Eddie Lacy has quietly looked pretty solid this season, running for 103 yards on 17 carries to raise his yards per carry to a healthy 4.98 on the season. He ran with a mature  combination of burst and patience, bouncing off would-be Lions tacklers throughout the day. He too iced the game with his legs, converting a big first down that allowed Rodgers to kneel the ball to end it.

Though it was mostly smiles in Green Bay on Sunday, there’s still plenty of work to do in the clubhouse. For one, Detroit was missing pass rusher Ziggy Ansah and middle linebacker DeAndre Levy, who are the team’s most effective players against the pass and run, respectively. Let’s not pretend that beating an average defense without its two best players – and at home – means the offense is fixed. It would still be nice to see James Starks be more effective with his touches, and McCarthy needs to find ways to get Randall Cobb much more involved. But after I called for a more up-tempo offense with quick throws and a more fluid personnel approach after last week’s loss, McCarthy responded with that and more, installing an effective offensive gameplan that harkened back to 2014. Rodgers got in a rhythm right away on some quick slants, which eventually opened up some deeper seem routes to Jordy, and Ty Montgomery and Trevor Davis were finally given more snaps. In the end, it was an effective day for the offense in need of a boost, and the upcoming bye week will give McCarthy and co. plenty of time to scheme for the Giants in two weeks.

Injuries pile up for defense

Speaking of the bye week, it couldn’t come any sooner for Green Bay’s defense. Coming into the game, Dom Campers’ unit was without outside linebacker Clay Matthews, safety and captain Morgan Burnett, cornerback Sam Shields, nose tackle Letroy Guion and outside linebacker Datone Jones to various injuries. These are all veteran playmakers who play key roles at nearly every level of the defense, and their presences were undoubtedly missed yesterday.

This defense is never the same without Clay’s wreckless playmaking, and it’s never ideal to play without a vocal captain that’s played in the system for many years. But the most significant injury appears to be Shields, as Damarious Randall has now been torched in consecutive weeks by Stefon Diggs and Marvin Jones. After Jones’ 205-yard two-touchdown explosion, Randall has now allowed over 300 yards and two touchdowns between the last two games (Jones’ 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown belonged to Josh Hawkins, not Randall). Shields is simply quicker than the young Randall, a converted safety, and has better technique that doesn’t get fooled as easily by double moves.

Randall’s technique will still improve in time, but the longer Shields is out the longer this becomes a serious position of weakness for the Packers. At defensive back alone, Green Bay gave significant playing time to two undrafted rookie free agents in Josh Hawkins and Kentrell Brice, with a third, Marwin Evans, sprinkled in as well. That’s in addition to the three starting cornerbacks (Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter) that are all sophomores, not to mention the three rookie linebackers who all logged plenty of snaps. As the offense took its foot off the gas, Matthew Stafford was able to lead a formidable comeback through the air. He hit Jones deep and outside the numbers for chunk gains, found tight end Eric Ebron up the seam for 69 yards, and Theo Riddick, Golden Tate, and Anquan Boldin were all effective on short and intermediate routes. Here’s to hoping Shields and the rest of the gang are able to get healthy over the bye with Odell Beckham Jr. and company knocking at the door.

Run defense continues excellent season

No need to cover much here, as it’s been a main takeaway from every game so far. This team’s run defense, a huge question mark coming into the season, has been the most consistent and best performer across three games. Even without run stuffer Guion, and Matthews and Burnett who typically make plays in the running game, Detroit had practically nowhere to run, gaining only 51 yards on 23 carries. Those numbers, inflated by a seven-yard Stafford scramble, don’t even tell the entire story, as Lions lead back Theo Riddick was continuously stuffed at the line throughout the game.

The unheralded linebacker trio of Joe Thomas, Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez continue to be quick at the point of attack and stuff holes before they appear, and it helps to have Mike Daniels continually winning his individual battles. Through two weeks Green Bay ranked first in footballoutsider.com’s comprehensive DVOA metric, and that rank is likely to stay put after swallowing up Detroit’s running game. Now through three weeks, opponents are only averaging a meager 1.8 yards per carry on the ground.

All of this comes without mentioning Nick Perry, who stepped up in Matthews’ absence and was Green Bay’s best defensive player yesterday. A former first round draft pick, Perry has never lived up to the bill thus far, with flashes of potential often marred by inconsistency and a slew of injuries. Finally healthy and in his contract season, Perry seems to be putting it all together at the perfect time. Perry stuffed Riddick in the backfield multiple times, batted a pass down at the line and recorded two of Green Bay’s three sacks. He finished the day with seven total tackles, two for loss, and was even held by Detroit’s rookie tackle Taylor Decker on a crucial holding penalty. Perry has quietly had a great start to the season and will be a key player to watch when the Giants come to Lambeau in two weeks.

Game Notes

  • Green Bay didn’t punt until the fourth quarter.
  • Ty Montgomery made an incredible heads up play on a kickoff, establishing his feet out of bounds while fielding the ball on the two yard line. The ball is considered out of bounds on the kickoff, resulting in a penalty that allows the offense to start its drive from the forty yard line. Montgomery continues to excel on special teams and has earned a larger snap percentage on offense.
  • Lacy rushed for 100 yards for the first time since December 13th (7 games including playoffs). Green Bay is now 8-2-1 when Lacy runs for 100 yards or more.
  • According to Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinal, Green Bay’s 128 rushing yards allowed is the lowest franchise total since the stat started being recorded in 1933.
  • Randall Cobb didn’t line up in the backfield a single time.
  • Tight end Jared Cook left the game early with an ankle injury; Full back Aaron Ripkowski saw his snaps increase before leaving the game with a back injury. Did I mention the bye is needed?

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

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Wisconsin football: What we learned from big win in East Lansing

The Wisconsin Badgers once again silenced the doubters when they beat Michigan State 30-6 this weekend in East Lansing. Before the now-#8 ranked Wisconsin team goes to Ann Arbor to take on the #4-ranked Michigan Wolverines, here are some takeaways from Wisconsin’s big win to start their Big Ten series play.

1. Alex Hornibrook’s first start was a huge success.

Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook played his first game as Wisconsin’s starting quarterback with great success. Coming off a second half comeback against Georgia State where Hornibrook went in for senior Bart Houston, he was announced as the starting quarterback against Michigan State. Head coach Paul Chryst stressed that both quarterbacks could play on Saturday though that did not occur with Hornibrook playing all four quarters in East Lansing.

At Michigan State, Hornibrook went 9-13 for 195 yards while adding a touchdown and a meaningless interception. He once again showed great chemistry with receivers. Wide receiver Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli each had four catches for 96 and 42 yards respectively. Hornibrook’s only touchdown pass of the day was in the first quarter to tight end Eric Steffes.

Hornibrook’s performance on Saturday may have sealed his starting position for the rest of the season. As a redshirt freshman, Hornibrook not only possesses natural talent and poise in the huddle, but also the youth to continue with the program for another three seasons.

2. Wisconsin’s defense is elite.

While Hornibrook excelled in his first start and the offense worked well with the young quarterback, it was the defense that really solidified the win on Saturday. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt was a key leader and playmaker against Michigan State. Watt had 3.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks on Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor.

Safety Leo Musso also showed his lightning-fast speed when he recovered a Michigan State fumble for 66 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter. Musso played running back in high school where he ran for 5,531 yards and 87 touchdowns. Despite switching to the defense, he showed his offensive background in his big second half play.

In the first half, cornerback Sojourn Shelton had a key interception that led to a one-yard touchdown run by Corey Clement. T.J. Edwards intercepted O’Connor in the third quarter and Derrick Tindal intercepted O’Connor in the fourth quarter.

Wisconsin’s defense time and time again has proved its physicality against tough teams and strong offenses. Against Michigan State, the defense forced four turnovers and made four sacks on O’Connor. This was also the first game since 2012 and the second game since 2000 that Michigan State was held to no touchdowns at home.

“It was a good plan by our defensive coaches because our kids understood it and they were able to execute it,” Chryst said in the post-game press conference.

To win against Michigan this weekend on the road again, Wisconsin’s defense will need to continue putting a stronghold on the offense and coming up with big plays to force turnovers and stop plays.

3. The play-calling was aggressive, but necessary.

A normally-conservative play caller, Chryst made some more risky calls on Saturday that lead to increased production for the team. Some may debate changing his starting quarterback in the fourth game of the season was in itself a risky call, but Chryst dismissed naysayers and proved them wrong with Hornibrook’s performance.

He also made the call to go for it on fourth-and-one on the Michigan State three-yard line. The fourth down play, a run by Alec Ingold, led to a first down followed by a touchdown from Hornibrook to Steffes in the first quarter.

While Wisconsin thrives at the traditional offense, more gutsy plays by Chryst would be useful against a high-ranked team in Michigan and a series of high-ranked teams going into the rest of Wisconsin’s Big Ten series.

4. The Badgers’ red zone efficiency was back up to Chryst’s expectations.

During this past week of practice, Chryst stressed the importance of red zone efficiency after less than stellar production these past few weeks.

“It drives me nuts,” Chryst said in his Monday press conference before Michigan State.

The team acted on Chryst’s words Saturday when they came away with points in every red zone attempt. Hornibrook delivered six third down conversions for the Badgers as well.

“In the end it comes back to execution. We’re just talking about pass protection. Then you’ve got to be able to throw it in the right spot, and then the guy’s got to be able to finish it,” Chryst said in his post-game press conference.

“There’s no magic to this,” he continued. “If it goes well, it’s because all 11 guys are executing and doing their part.”

5. Road warriors.

This was the Badgers second game away from Camp Randall and the first that felt like a true road game as the season opener at Lambeau Field had a large majority of Wisconsin fans in attendance. Not only was the team able to start Big Ten play on the road against a high-ranked Michigan State team, but they also did it with an injury-ridden roster including the loss of their kicker Rafael Gaglianone and with a redshirt freshman starting for the first time at quarterback.

“It was one of those [games] where guys just kept playing,” Chryst said.

The win against Michigan State also made Wisconsin football history. It was the first time since 1962 where Wisconsin beat two top-8 teams (LSU and Michigan State) in the same season. These games were both played away from Camp Randall.

Wisconsin will have one more road game against #4-ranked Michigan this weekend in Ann Arbor before their bye week. They will then return home to play Ohio State in their only night game of the season. Their last three road games will be at Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue. Chryst and his players remain confident in their ability to go on the road and play at home and win. Despite a daunting schedule, players have only spoken of the excitement at playing such high-profile and the realization that this was why they decided to play for Wisconsin.


Photo Courtesy of AP Photos.

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Wisconsin volleyball: Badgers sweep first two Big Ten matches

MADISON, Wis. — After two weekends on the road, the No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers returned home and swept No. 17 Ohio State and Maryland 3-0 during the first weekend of Big Ten play.

In the first match on Friday night, Wisconsin faced Ohio State. Wisconsin took the lead quickly in the first set. The Badgers were very aggressive towards the ball. There were many long rallies. Wisconsin kept its composure throughout these long rallies, and ultimately won those points. Wisconsin had very few errors, kept the ball moving, and didn’t let its few bad passes affect the game. Wisconsin’s defense contributed four blocks to help the team win the first set 26-16.

Ohio State challenged Wisconsin’s domination of the first set in the beginning of the second. Both teams were playing at equal levels in the first half of the set. However, when Wisconsin committed an error, the team moved on to the next point. Ohio State seemed to unravel when things went awry. Wisconsin’s defense forced 11 errors for the Buckeyes in the set. Wisconsin won the set 25-19 after a service error from Ohio State’s Taylor Hughes.

Wisconsin was fired up for the third set. They came out after the break and took a 5-0 lead from the start. Wisconsin’s Kelli Bates had two service aces in a row, and Ohio State couldn’t defend Wisconsin’s aggressive offense. There were many net violations on both sides of the net. Wisconsin unraveled a bit after misjudging whether the ball was inbounds. However, Wisconsin took a strong lead and won the set 25-17. The Badgers swept the match 3-0.

Ohio State lacked the confidence on the court that Wisconsin exhibited. Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said the Wisconsin defense was what won the game for the Badgers. The Badgers’ defense had 15 blocks on the match, opposed to the Buckeyes’ 2 blocks. “You really have to have your eyes on them because this is a team that changes a lot. I thought we did a really good job defensively,” Sheffield said. Kelli Bates lead the Badgers with seven blocks on the night.

Wisconsin faced Maryland on Saturday night. From the start, Wisconsin dominated the match. Wisconsin took the lead 7-1 in the first set. Maryland couldn’t set up a play on offense. Wisconsin’s Lauren Carlini had four service aces in a row before Maryland was forced to call a timeout. Maryland had too many wild passes and errors controlling their offense, and Wisconsin capitalized on Maryland’s mistakes. Wisconsin won the first set 25-12.

The second set followed the first. Maryland could not get a good first pass to set up a play. Wisconsin made more mistakes in the start of the second set, but bounced back after every mistake. Wisconsin committed 10 errors in the set, but Maryland was unable to capitalize. Maryland found its groove at the 20-15 mark of the set, however Wisconsin maintained its lead the rest of the way and won 25-18. The difference in the second set was Wisconsin’s ability to move on after lost points or errors made.

Wisconsin started slow in the third set. The Badger fans’ enthusiasm helped get the Badgers more fired up on the court. This set was much more even, though Wisconsin was still clearly dominating the court. Wisconsin’s lead was tight by only 2 or 3 points throughout, yet Molly Haggerty’s perfectly-targeted kills helped give the Badgers the momentum it needed to maintain its lead. The Badgers’ defense gave Wisconsin a 22-18 lead after a block from Romana Kriskova and Haleigh Nelson. The Badgers won the set 25-21 thanks to a block from Lauren Carlini and Tionna Williams.

The Badgers dominated Maryland and swept the Terrapins 3-0. Wisconsin continued playing with the confidence it has exhibited all season. Even when the Badgers’ lead was challenged, Wisconsin relied on its confidence and home field advantage to pull through. “The fanbase is awesome, it was half-full by the time we got out there,” Lauren Carlini said. “Having that support, having everyone here and being back in the Field House, it’s a great feeling.”

“It was so loud that I almost couldn’t hear anything because everyone was screaming and running around and it was so crazy,” Kelli Bates said. “But those kind of momentum shifts make it so much easier for us in terms of keeping the momentum going and keeping everything in line and intact. The Field House makes a huge difference.”

Wisconsin is continuing to prove that it is a national powerhouse by sweeping the weekend, and the first of its Big Ten competition, 6-0. The team is playing its best volleyball. This confidence-booster for the team will be huge as the Badgers travel to No. 14 Purdue, Indiana, and Rutgers in the next week and a half.


Photo courtesy of UW Athletics.

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Wisconsin football: Badgers move up in the polls with win over Michigan State

After a 30-6 win against Michigan State on the road, the Wisconsin Badgers have moved up again in the Amway Coaches and AP polls.

Previously ranked #10, Wisconsin moved to #8 in the Amway Coaches Poll. Michigan State fell down eight spots to #16.

Wisconsin ranked #8 in the AP poll, moving up three spots from #11.

Wisconsin plays Michigan again on the road next weekend on Saturday Oct. 1 at 2:30 p.m. Michigan ranked #5 in the Coaches Poll and #4 in AP’s poll after their 49-10 win against Penn State. Vegas ranked Wisconsin a 10-point underdog going into the game.

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Wisconsin football: Badgers’ defense dominates, stunning Spartans 30-6

Coming off of a rough game against Georgia State, Wisconsin came into East Lansing with a new starting quarterback in redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook.

#11 Wisconsin rolled into Sparty-land, defeating #8 Michigan State, 30-6.

After a week of preaching how important third down conversions and offensive efficiency were, head coach Paul Chryst had to have been happy with how his offense responded.

Hornibrook led the offense in converting early and often on third down, going 9 for 12 on third down, and converting six first downs. The first time starter was also able to spread the ball around and throw beautiful balls downfield. Jazz Peavy finished with four catches for 96 yards, Troy Fumagalli finished with four catches for 42 yards, and Rob Wheelwright finished with three receptions for 34 yards.

Chryst did not shy away from gutsy play calls. On 4th & 1 from the three-yard line in the second quarter, Alec Ingold kept the team’s first drive alive, getting the first down. Hornibrook then finished the job completing a touchdown pass to tight end Eric Steffes, giving the Badgers a 7-3 lead. His gutsy calls early on gave the Badgers some fight in a tough road game.

But, despite Hornibrook’s successes, the Wisconsin defense was the story of the game.

The biggest play in the first half came when linebacker T.J. Edwards applied the pressure on Michigan State quarterback Tyler O’Connor and senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton intercepted a pass as Wisconsin took control on the Michigan State 28-yard line. The Badgers would capitalize on a 1-yard touchdown run from Corey Clement.

Wisconsin’s defense quickly responded in the second half when D’Cota Dixon forced a fumble that was taken all the way back 66 yards for a touchdown by safety Leo Musso.

The Spartans would muff a snap on a punt that led to another Clement touchdown. In all, the Badgers forced four turnovers and added four sacks. T.J. Watt led the pass rush with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss.

For the first time since 1962, Wisconsin has defeated two top 8 teams in the country in the same season. Both of these have come away from Camp Randall. 

The Badgers will face another daunting task next Saturday as they face Michigan in Ann Arbor.


Photo courtesy of AP Photos.

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Wisconsin football: Clement (ankle) will play vs. Michigan State

Wisconsin starting running back Corey Clement will play on Saturday against Michigan State, per source.

Clement missed last week’s game against Georgia State after leaving the Akron game in Week 2 with an ankle injury.

Though still banged up, Clement is expected to start on Saturday, pending a setback in warm ups.

Both LG Micah Kapoi and RB Taiwan Deal, questionable entering today’s game, are expected to play too. 

Follow our coverage for today’s 11:00am CT kickoff for the latest.

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SSTFFB: The Luck of the Draw

Fantasy Football can be the best and worst thing to happen to you in a given week. One matchup you can completely lay an egg and struggle to break 90 points, and the next matchup you can nearly double your opponent a score an excess amount over 100.

For me, that is exactly what happened. Entering the league, I was feeling pretty good about my team. That is, until I was smacked 104-89 in the opening week. While the scoring difference wasn’t all too bad, what really hurt was looking at other scores from around the league and seeing that I would have beaten more than half of the teams had I been playing them.

Who you are matched up with every week is everything in Fantasy Football, but also filled with luck at the same time. I bounced back this past week, scoring 110 points and holding the highest scoring total of the league, meaning I would have beaten anyone I played this week. My opponent? She scored 64 points (Sorry Margaret), the third lowest that week. Oh, and get this: The second lowest outing of the week (62 points)…won!

It really is the luck of the draw, which turned out well for me in my last victory as I was playing against Andrew Luck, who mustered just nine fantasy points.

Need some more proof?

There are three 2-0 teams through two weeks of play. Only one of them leads their division in points for. As matter of fact, one of the teams is in last. Go figure. What makes me feel even worse about my 1-1 record is that I have more points scored than all three.

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Red = Undefeated teams and their PF

Blue = Me and my PF

This week, I play the league’s top leading scorer through two weeks, but she is also 1-1. I have no idea what to expect.

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Wisconsin vs. Michigan State preview: Banged up Badgers on road in tough first Big Ten matchup

The #11 Wisconsin Badgers are on the road this weekend as they take on the #8 ranked Michigan State Spartans in their first Big Ten game of the season. Kickoff is set for 11:00am CT on Big Ten Network.

Wisconsin fans were already preparing for a difficult series of games as Wisconsin plays nine straight Big Ten games including two on the road. Following the injury report before Thursday’s practice, fans may have more than just talented teams to be concerns about.

Wisconsin reported four key playmakers as out against Michigan State. Most notably was starting kicker Rafael Gaglianone with a reported back injury. Wisconsin’s kickoff specialist, senior Andrew Endicott, will replace Gaglianone on Saturday.

Gaglianone’s role on the Wisconsin special teams unit has been vital in Wisconsin’s three wins to start the season. On Saturday against Georgia State, he kicked three field goals to help Wisconsin win 23-17 in a surprisingly close game at Camp Randall.

Losing the starting kicker will put a greater role on the offense to make the plays they missed last week and become more efficient in the red zone—something Coach Chryst stressed in Monday’s press conference.

“It drives me nuts,” Chryst said of red zone inefficiency. “Those are opportunities, and you don’t know when you get them or how you get them. You appreciate the points when you can get them, but you’ve got to get touchdowns. That’s an obvious area where we’ve got to get better.”

A key adjustment in the offense’s starting lineup may help Wisconsin improve their red zone efficiency—Alex Hornibrook.

Hornibrook was named the starter going into this Saturday’s game against Michigan State. After a stellar performance in the second half against Georgia State that helped Wisconsin win the game, Hornibrook earned the right to start this week. Teammates stressed their confidence in both quarterbacks, emphasizing Bart Houston’s knowledge of the game or Hornibrook’s poise in the huddle.

Ultimately Chryst said, while Hornibrook will start, having both quarterbacks ready is, as always, necessary and an obvious advantage for his team.

“I think he’s [Hornibrook] done a good job in practice, in games, and he’s earned the right to play. And Bart also earned the right, and he will play. We’re going to need both of them,” Chryst said on Thursday.

Whether that means Houston will see significant game time on Saturday is uncertain, but as with Georgia State, there could always be a quarterback adjustment to improve offensive momentum.

The receiving corps openly supports both quarterbacks, expressing confidence and assurance in both Houston and Hornibrook’s ability to lead the team and produce a win. On Saturday Wisconsin will have to demonstrate the connection between quarterback and receiver facing a touch Michigan State secondary.

“They’re very well-coached, a very talent group athletically, very physical group,” wide receiver coach Ted Gilmore said. “We’re going to have to be ready to play a physical game. Run and pass. We can’t flinch. We’ve got to face it head on, welcome the challenge and compete.”

Gilmore, like Chryst, addressed the offense’s red zone inefficiency, which must improve this week against Michigan State.

“Obviously as we move forward, the lesson too is we can’t play that kind of football,” he said. “We’ve got to play our kind of football. We’ve got to play smart. We’ve got to play with the details.”

The Wisconsin run offense was looking a little thin this week with several key players on the injury report. On Thursday’s official injury report, Bradrick Shaw was listed as out with a shoulder injury and Clement (left leg) and Deal (right leg) were both listed as questionable for Saturday’s game, leaving senior running back Dare Ogunbowale as the only healthy running back.

Chryst said on Thursday that Clement was able to do a little more in practice this week, which gives the coach some optimism about a quick return. That is yet to be determined, however.

On the defensive side of the ball, players are hoping to start Saturday’s game strong and continue that momentum throughout the game. Against Georgia State, the defense struggled to contain Georgia State’s offense in the third quarter when they started to control the clock and make some big plays down the field.

“Last week we definitely didn’t play up to our potential, but we got in the film room, we fixed our corrections and we’re coming out this week feeling better than ever,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said after Wednesday’ practice.

While the defense did have a period of stagnation last weekend, they were able to pick up the tempo in the fourth quarter and make the big stops against Georgia State when it was most needed. As Watt said, “The defense took it upon ourselves to get the energy going.”

“We just have got to keep working on not letting one big play turn into two and turn into three,” inside linebacker Jack Cichy said, “We really improved as a unit, and I think we matured a lot because of it.”

This week the defense will face an offense more similar to that of LSU than of their last two games against Akron State and Georgia State. That being said, Michigan State can do it all in terms of offensive production.

“They run ball real hard and then they can spread you out and run jet sweeps and then they have a good quarterback who’s going to throw to some talented receivers as well. I feel like we are just going to have to stay true to our basics and stop the run and then adjust to the pass,” Watt said.

On both offense and defense Chryst has drilled into his players the need to focus on execution more than anything else. He said on Monday that the focus has to be on “executing and doing the little things.”

“If you want to win consistently,” Chryst said. “I think you have to be consistent in red zone offense, red zone defense, third down and takeaways or turnovers.”

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Wisconsin football: Big Ten rivalry renewed in East Lansing

It has been four years since Wisconsin has played Big Ten rival Michigan State and five years since they have traveled to East Lansing to do it.

Despite consistently producing winning seasons, each earning three Big Ten titles in the last six seasons, the two football programs have not had to opportunity to play each other in quite some time.

Their last meeting in East Lansing was not a pleasant one for Wisconsin fans. The undefeated Wisconsin football team, under the leadership of Bret Bielema with key playmakers such as Russell Wilson and Montee Ball, lost in the most disappointing way for any football fan—a last second Hail Mary play. The pass from Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Keith Nichols would give Michigan State the win, knocking off the 6-0 Wisconsin Badgers 37-31.

Five years later, Wisconsin travels back to East Lansing territory to take on the same head coach Mark Dantonio and his number 8 ranked Spartan team.

“You see some of the same qualities from his earlier teams,” Chryst said of Michigan State’s football program. “Tough, play smart, physical, playmakers on both sides of the ball and that shows up in the special teams.”

Big Ten football is always high energy for the players. It is why they decided to play for Wisconsin. Opening their Big Ten schedule with such a well-known opponent and historic rivalry gives Saturday’s game even more meaning for some players.

“Obviously I saw the Big Ten championship game a couple years back [2011], and I think in the past 10 years, the record is 5-5 between the two teams, so obviously they are two very similar teams offensively. They both kind of run smashmouth football,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. “This is the game I came to Wisconsin to play against a big team like this. It’s going to be a fist fight, and I can’t wait for Saturday.”

Inside linebacker Jack Cichy also said of the rivalry that it does add a heightened sense of energy to practice this week. While the mentality and schemes haven’t necessarily changed, there is increased excitement to kick off Big Ten play on the road in East Lansing.

“Both programs are kind of power football programs,” Cichy said. “In my mind we play the game how it should be played. We play physical downhill football, and we know what each team is going to bring. They’re going to bring the physicality and we are too. It’s going to be a full four quarter game.”

Wisconsin will have to take that ‘four quarter’ mentality to the rest of their season. Wisconsin will play nine straight Big Ten games including two on the road against Michigan State and Michigan. Players and coaches have expressed that while the schedule is undoubtedly a difficult one, it gives the team a chance to showcase who they are and what is Wisconsin football. For that, they are nothing but excited.

“Everything’s got to ramp up even more,” wide receiver Jazz Peavy said of the team’s mentality going into the rest of the season. “We’ve got to take everything up a notch because it’s big time now. Everything is really going to start counting and mattering, so we have to make sure we prepare every day like we did the first week. We can’t take steps back.”