The Wisconsin Badgers will head to Provo, Utah this weekend as they get set to take on their first real test of the season.
BYU, although unranked, has finished the previous 11 seasons with winning records, winning nine games just last season. Through three games so far this season, BYU has amassed a record of 1-2 with their offense showing little, if any, bite.
BYU’s defense, on the other hand, will be the real test of the weekend matchup. So far, they have limited their opposing offenses to 166 yards rushing per game and 210.3 yards through the air per game.
On the goal line, an area that Wisconsin struggled in against last week, BYU’s defense only allows a touchdown 33 percent of the time.
“On the goal line, a lot of blitzes and a lot of pressures coming. Definitely going to work on that a lot at practice,” freshman running back Jonathan Taylor said of the struggles on the goal line.
Wisconsin would later bounce back in the second half of last week’s game, punching in a touchdown from the goal line.
The running game will be extremely crucial on the goal line, as it always is, but also important in opening up the passing game for an offense trying to find its rhythm passing the ball.
“The way we were running with [Taylor] and Chris, that’s big because they’re going to be stacking the box,”freshman receiver Danny Davis said. “So that’s more opportunities for us too so as long as we keep flowing together and rolling together we’ll be fine.”
Taylor will likely be leading the trio of running backs who split time in the backfield. Last week he busted out for a 233-yard performance that included three touchdowns. Through two games, all be it against much lesser opponents, Taylor is averaging 8.9 yards per carry.
Fred Warner, a senior linebacker for BYU, will be looking to stop Taylor and the Wisconsin running game. Through three games Warner leads his team in total tackles with 26 and also has accumulated 2.5 tackles for loss.
This week, as compared to the first two games, Wisconsin will not be able to just rely on one aspect of the offense. An all hands on deck approach will be necessary if Wisconsin is to avoid the upset.
In the passing game, quarterback Alex Hornibrook will try to find a rhythm come Saturday. Over the first two games Hornibrook has shown glimpses of being a player that can carry an offense. as shown by his 222 yards per game and four touchdowns.
He has also shown glimpses of being just another quarterback, evident in his interception against FAU and his loss of rhythm while missing receivers.
“One way to get back into rhythm is trusting what you are seeing,” head coach Paul Chryst said.
Hornibrook had open receivers, but often later in the game was over throwing them or not leading them enough with the pass.
Looking to disrupt any rhythm that Honribrook may find Saturday will be junior defensive end Sione Takitaki and sophomore defensive back Troy Warner. Takitaki has dominated offensive lines with 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks. He may find even more openings than normal if injuries keep offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel and Jon Dietzan out. Currently both are questionable for the game and it would be a huge blow if they were unable to suit up. Keeping tabs on the wide receivers will be Warner. The 6’1″ and 195 pound defensive back has 16 total tackles and two pass breakups.
One thing that Wisconsin will be unable to prepare for is the thin air. Sitting at 4,551 feet above sea level, Wisconsin’s offense will be running in a completely different environment air wise. In Madison, which has a altitude of 741 feet above sea level, there is more oxygen in the air.
Players will have to adjust quickly Saturday as they have no way to simulate those conditions during the practice week.
Kickoff is set for 2:30pm CST in Provo, Utah.