The Badgers finally come to a game that matters.
The part of the schedule that boasts a rich, creamy filling and loads of icing is done with after earning wins of 45-0 and 48-0.
This is the game that will showcase how good Joel Stave really is. A night road game against an opponent that will be jacked up because, well, Arizona State really hasn’t had a lot of reason to be jacked up lately.
The Sun Devils finished with a 10-3 mark in 2007, its best record since 1996 when Arizona State advanced to the Rose Bowl.
This is a middling program that has often been dwarfed by the Pac-12 behemoths like Oregon, USC, Stanford and UCLA. But they are going all-out in the desert for Saturday’s primetime West coast game that would pull the Sun Devils into the national rankings with a win.
It all comes down to the basic question: power or speed? The Badgers have the better offensive line, a better stable of running backs that have racked up seven touchdowns between Melvin Gordon, James White and freshman Corey Clement and a better linebacking corps.
But this game will come down to Stave. He looked shaky against Massachusetts by mishandling a couple snaps and being unable to connect with receivers despite being blessed with plenty of protection.
Stave was more efficient last week by throwing only three incomplete passes, but he still tossed a pick against a pretty flimsy Tennessee Tech defense.
The Sun Devils boast a much better secondary than Stave sees every day in practice. They start a pair of senior corners as well as Alex Agwuenu who is a converted senior receiver playing safety that is very athletic and will make it tough for Jared Abbrederis to get behind.
It’s the third game of the season and a second receiving option opposite of Abbrederis hasn’t materialized. Obviously the Badgers have managed to get around the issue with delicate scheduling but now guys Jordan Fredrick and Kenzel Doe are going to be tested. Abbrederis will be blanketed all night so, Stave must either manage to complete it in tight windows or have the confidence to check off and look in a different direction.
The Sun Devils play like most Pac-12 teams — fast. And it’s just the Badgers luck that their Achilles heel is its young secondary. The Badgers defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown in 13 straight quarters, dating back to the 2013 Rose Bowl. That will change on Saturday with the speedy Sun Devils scoring on big plays.
The Badgers don’t want to get into a track meet in the desert. The best way for coach Gary Andersen to tally his first road win at Wisconsin is to move the chains on the ground. Make the fast, Pac-12 defense stuff the run and respect the three-headed monster of Gordon, White and Clement. The Sun Devils boast 305-pound defensive tackle Will Sutton whose main job will be to clog spaces and make life difficult for the Badgers ground game.
But as long as Stave doesn’t make any glaring mistakes, which of course means turnovers, then the Badgers should be able to fend off a flurry of quick strikes by Arizona State and come back to Wisconsin with a win that actually means something.
People have wondered who the Badgers are this season. If they get out of Tempe with a win, that means the secondary is surprisingly good enough, the running game can compete with nearly anyone and Andersen will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.
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