By the numbers
7-2: Overall record (4-1 Big Ten)
6.89: Offensive yards per play (eighth nationally)
4.24: Defensive yards per play (fourth)
-4: Turnover margin (T-97th)
41.3: Penalty yards per game (T-21st)
69th: Sagarin strength of schedule
Quarterback: Joel Stave
(642 yards passing, 6.9 yards per attempt, 5 TD, 6 INT)
He’s gaining confidence these past few weeks after an up-and-down start to his Wisconsin career. Stave’s 190-yard passing performance in the first half against Purdue last Saturday, on 15-of-20 throwing, was certainly a high point for him. But the junior is not a run threat. So the Badgers are still committed to a two-quarterback attack. Expect to see junior Tanner McEvoy — because he’s averaging 9.4 yards per carry.
Coach: Gary Andersen (16-6 at Wisconsin)
After a successful four-year rebuilding project at Utah State, Andersen took over a Badger program that had three straight Rose Bowl berths. Bret Bielema had bolted, though, and that left a bit of a grace period. You can bet that the expectations will only increase. And that’s a good thing. Wisconsin has the resources to battle annually with Nebraska for West Division titles, and occasionally make a national splash with a potential playoff run as well.
Offense: Pro-style, multiple
Coordinator: Andy Ludwig
Since Andersen’s arrival, Wisconsin hasn’t really departed from the traditional philosophies associated with the program. The Badgers will run the ball. A lot. They’re averaging just 23.2 pass attempts per game (only nine teams throw less often). Yet it’s still difficult to contrive a game plan for Wisconsin. The Badgers can attack with a downhill style, putting tight ends and fullbacks on the field and pounding you between the tackles. But they also run counters and fly sweeps. Plus, there’s a zone read option game out of the shotgun. The guy getting most of the touches is Heisman Trophy candidate Melvin Gordon.
Defense: 3-4 base
Coordinator: Dave Aranda
Wisconsin’s staff seems to place a heavy emphasis on its ability to scout opposing offenses, because there’s always some alteration within its scheme each week. The defensive line doesn’t always get the highlights and the statistics, but that unit’s responsible for clearing the path for the Badgers’ speedy and instinctive back-seven players to do work. It appears that the entire group is committed to the team-oriented style of play, which makes it difficult to find open creases or take advantage of busts. They just aren’t there too often. Wisconsin has given up 73 plays of 10 yards or more, the fewest in the country.
They said it
“Something that goes unnoticed many times with our receivers at Wisconsin and also the receivers at Nebraska is they’re very physical blockers. Nebraska takes great pride in blocking down the field. With the amount of fly sweeps and things they do to get to the edges, it’s a big part of their game.” — Andersen on NU’s perimeter blocking ability
“It gives a little bit of extra juice. Nebraska’s such a great program. There’s a lot to play for, but it’s also important to remember to not make the game bigger than it is.” — senior linebacker Derek Landisch on a matchup of two of the three teams tied for first place in the West Division
20: The number of runs of at least 20 yards recorded by Gordon through nine games. No. 1 in the country. More than 107 other teams’ total.
10%: The conversion rate of the Badgers’ league opponents on third downs of 8 yards or more. They’re 4 of 40. Wisconsin has also recorded eight of its 18 sacks during Big Ten play on third and long.
37.4: The Badgers’ average per punt. Not good. That ranks 119th nationally. They’re also giving up 11.9 yards per punt return, ranking 114th in the country.