Wisconsin football takes a huge step forward in the level of competition this weekend with a primetime match-up in the desert with the Pac-12′s Arizona State.
The Sun Devils are 8-0 all-time at home against the Big Ten Conference and Wisconsin is 10-3 in their last 13 night games since the 2009 season.
Something has to give when these two teams play their first competitive game of the season.
Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0) Analysis: The Sun Devils enter the 2013 season as a sleeper pick in the Pac-12 South division. Due to a bye in week one, they come in 1-0 after laying a 55-0 beatdown on Sacramento State.
Offensively, Arizona State has a lot of talent to work with. The Badgers young/inexerienced secondary is going to have all they can handle with junior quarterback Taylor Kelly who is 76-of-102 passing for 1,005 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions over his past four games. Kelly has a battery-mate in JUCO transfer Jaelen Strong that could prove to be a match-up nightmare for Wisconsin on Saturday night.
There’s no doubt the Sun Devils will put up some points, making the battle between ASU’s defense and UW’s offense the crucial difference in this tilt. Arizona State’s defense struggled against the run a year ago, allowing Pac-12 teams to run up and down the field on them. Yet, they are still a scary unit led by projected first round pick and senior defensive tackle, Will Sutton. Sutton helped the team lead the nation in tackles for loss last season. If he has a great game against the Badgers offensive line, it will most likely be all the difference ASU needs to win.
Coach’s Quote of the Week: “I think it is pretty hard to run at Will (Sutton) or away from him. It doesn’t matter to me either way. We are going to do things to put him a position to make plays.” – Head Coach Todd Graham
Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) Analysis: The Badgers have put on cruise control in their first two games, outscoring college football misfits UMass and Tennessee Tech by a 93-0 margin. To further showcase how bad those teams have been, they crossed the midfield on only 4-of-25 drives and had no trips to the red zone.
UW’s primary focus this week should be on defense because everyone knows what the gameplan will be on offense (run the ball, wink wink …). Wisconsin’s only experienced player in the secondary is safety Dezmen Southward who’s surrounded by a ton of young talent which will need to play at their very best against the aeriel-prowess of the Sun Devils. Wisconsin is stacked in their front seven and they will surely need to help in coverage for the Badgers to have a chance.
On offense the Badgers need to keep the train chugging. Corey Clement (149 yards and Big Ten freshman of the week), Melvin Gordon (140) and James White (109) gave the team a trio of 100-yard rushers for the second consecutive week. Look for offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to switch it up a bit and mix in some more pass plays because ASU’s Sutton will be noticebly good on that defensive line.
Coach’s Quote of the Week: “I know, if I was getting ready to play in this game as an offensive lineman, it would be an exciting week for me because you’re going to play against a very physical front seven that plays the game good, and they’re not (just) good players, they’re verging on a couple of them being great players, in my opinion, and some other very, very good ones.” – Head Coach Gary Andersen
Brutally Honest Prediction: Arizona State 34 Wisconsin 27
This will be one of the most entertaining games on the Badgers’ schedule. For me, UW’s offensive line hasn’t been near enough impressive in pass protection for me to trust them going up against the Sun Devils’ highly-touted defensive line. Quarterback Joel Stave also isn’t the best against pressure and for that reason ASU will be able to hone in on UW’s running game. It will be a close one in the desert though.
TV Coverage: ESPN at 9:30 PM CT; Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Brian Griese (analyst) and Tom Luginbill (sidelines)
Betting Lines: Arizona State favored by 4 and over/under at 57.5 points
2013 Record straight up: 2-0
2013 Record against the spread: 0-2
2013 Record in over/under: 0-1
*no over/under for Tennessee Tech game
What do you think of the Badgers primetime match-up with Arizona State? Let me know by commenting below.
Nick Grays is a senior writer at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. He also enjoys sharing Fantasy Advice and pretends to be a Golf expert from time-to-time. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best. If social media is not your thing, shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Pictures obtained from buckys5thquarter.com and azcentral.com