The Badgers shocked LSU last Saturday in one of Wisconsin’s many tough games this year. With back-to-back weeks against cupcake teams before the Badgers start arguably their toughest six game stretch in the history of the program, the Badgers have a few things to focus on against Akron and Georgia State.
1. Solidify the middle linebacker position.
Coming into the season, middle linebacker was probably UW’s biggest strength and deepest position. However, after T.J. Edwards hurt his foot and Chris Orr hurt his ACL against LSU and is now out for the season, the Badgers have to figure some things out at the position.
Edwards, Orr, and Jack Cichy were supposed to be a three-headed monster at linebacker, but Cichy is now the only one healthy. With Orr and Edwards out, sophomore linebacker Ryan Connelly played more than expected. Connelly faired pretty well, making a big tackle on Leonard Fournette while evading a blocker on third down to save the game.
If Connelly is able to continue to improve, the Badgers will be fine. Also, moving Leon Jacobs back to ILB should help depth. Most importantly though, the Badgers have to get Edwards healthy. He is currently listed as questionable for Saturday, but the Badgers should strongly consider letting him sit out this game to ensure that he is healthy. Best case scenario, he plays against Georgia State and gets enough reps to be ready at Michigan State on September 24th.
2. Get wide receivers more involved.
Of Bart Houston’s 19 completions, only eight of them went to wide receivers. Furthermore, only three wide receivers caught passes. Jazz Peavy and Robert Wheelright had drop problems, and George Rushing had a key fumble. Tight end Troy Fumagalli was unstoppable on Saturday, catching seven balls for 100 yards, but the offense is going to have to be more versatile when they hit the thick of the Big Ten schedule.
3. Create a more explosive running game.
Obviously LSU has a terrific defense and it will be one of the best defenses the Badgers play all year, but the longest carry of the day for UW’s offense was 14 yards from Dare Ogunbowale. Corey Clement’s longest carry was 12 yards, and he only averaged a little over four yards per carry. The Badgers running backs will need to break off more explosive runs in the coming weeks, although they looked good against LSU.
4. Let Houston throw the ball and get as many reps as possible.
Getting Bart Houston repetitions is going to be a huge component over the next two weeks. Houston threw the ball 31 times against LSU, which is probably more than anyone should be comfortable with.
Houston did a good job of moving the offense up and down the field, but his two interceptions, both completely his fault and both devastating to the Badgers, negated a lot of his good play throughout the game.
Hopefully with some more game reps over the next two weeks, he won’t make situational errors like he did against LSU.
5. Improve open field tackling.
The Badgers swarmed the ball during the first half, but in the second half, LSU was able break down Wisconsin’s defense and create big plays, even though their offense only scored one touchdown. Leonard Fournette had multiple big plays during the second half because he was able to break tackles at the second and third levels. LSU’s only touchdown came off of a wide receiver screen where D’Cota Dixon got shoved down by Travin Dural on his way to the end zone.
Photo courtesy of Getty.