What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: Andrew at Bucky's 5th Quarter, SB Nation's excellent blog for all things Wisconsin.
1) When last we met, in the heady days of 2010, Iowa was dreaming of a Rose Bowl trip. One fateful fake punt later, Iowa football began to sink into a tailspin that it's only now (maybe) beginning to recover from, while Wisconsin went on to the first of their three consecutive Rose Bowl trips. Do you jerks feel guilty at all for the damage you wrought?! But seriously: it's been a while. How are things in Badger-land? Have you been taking good care of the Heartland Trophy?
Look, Melvin Gordon was likely going to flip. His homestate team was running the ball that much, and you have that deity that you seem to keep running afoul of. As a human, do you want bad things to happen to that sort of a special talent...oh. You were joking. LOL.
All seriousness, the state of Madison is strong, and yes we've kept the trophy shiny, as per the last will of Bert.
2) On the surface, it doesn't seem like much has changed with the Badgers under new head coach Gary Andersen -- is that accurate? It sure looks like the Badgers are still pounding teams with a multi-headed RB attack on the ground and then attacking them over the top with a little play-action. Is it a case of "it sure as hell isn't broke, so don't go trying to 'fix' it" or have there been some subtle changes to things? Do you anticipate more changes over time as Andersen begins to mold things in his own image?
Andersen's a coach that's smart enough to realize that you can't institute everything you want in year one. There are a couple of things you'll likely notice this season that weren't really there when the Badgers played in 2010. For one, Andersen's going to pass the ball a little more than just "to keep the opponents honest." Not to say the Badgers are going to chuck it 30 times a game, but it's closer to a 60/40 run-pass split than Bielema's 67/33. Also, you're going to see James White in the passing game. He catches three balls a game and has been integral in keeping coverages from completely rolling to one side.
Regarding future changes, Andersen's never been one to pass more than he runs, but he's looking to clean house at the wide receiver position next year. (The Badgers already have three commitments at the position, and the number could grow to at least five). Also, while Joel Stave's been a perfectly good quarterback for the Badgers this year, he's not a mobile one. The Badgers next two classes look to have mobile quarterbacks of some real skill in D.J. Gillins and Austin Kafentzis. I'm not saying he loses his job, but I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't have to win it again.
3) Even though Iowa hasn't played Wisconsin for a few years, I think it's fair to say that Iowa fans are still familiar with Melvin Gordon. He's very, very good. But who else should we be worried about on offense for Wisco? Who are some other key weapons for the Badger offense?
Jared Abbrederis is going to be an NFL receiver in 2014. Just that simple. He knows how to make plays and he's why the play action's been so dangerous lately. And while he doesn't have the same home run cachet of Gordon, James White is integral to the way the Badgers play offense. Otherwise, it's the offensive line. But you already knew that.
4) Similarly, I think Iowa fans are at least passingly familiar with Chris Borland (he's also very, very good), but who are some other defenders of note for the Badgers? The Badger offense has some very gaudy stats (6th nationally in scoring defense and total defense) -- are those legit or are they a bit of a reflection of the opposition? I know Wisconsin had a few non-conference blowouts (outside of the Arizona State game) and you've already played Purdue and Illinois in B1G play.
Obviously when you're dealing with a 3-4 defense that's doing well, all credit has to go to the front three that are holding up at the point of attack. It's experience rich, and Beau Allen is a hoss that can hold up at the point of attack. All credit has to go to the secondary, it still has holes to it, but the play of Sojourn Shelton as a true freshman and the emergence of Michael Caputo as one of those new fangled rover safety types have done well to make the passing game not as much of a weakness as it could be. I don't know if he can be called a star yet, but quarterback recruit and 6-foot-6 guy Tanner McEvoy has been seeing game action at safety and has been using his athleticism to make plays. With your propensity for multiple tight end sets, you'll likely get him used as an answer to that question.
As for the question of how real the defense is statistically, the way I've always said it is, the Badgers defense is good. But if you can complete passes on it, you can give them trouble. I've mentioned the young and talented guys in the secondary, but a quarterback who can stand the heat can get points off of them. In no form or fashion do I think the rush defense is more a form of strength of schedule than anything. The only rush offense the Badgers hand some trouble with was Ohio State's. And for one, the Buckeyes killed the Badgers through the air as well. For two, the Buckeyes are one of eight teams averaging six yards a rush. Long story short, I think this is a game Jake Rudock has to win for you.
5) How much did you miss us? Are you happy to have the Iowa rivalry back in your lives again (and, going forward, on a seemingly permanent basis)? Or have we moved down the rivalry totem pole for you guys?
Considering your recent history in jumping up and getting Badger teams that have had more talent, not as much as you'd think. That being said, absence does cool the hate down. Right now this is like the personal rivalry where the other person comes back into town and neither one is sure to go about acting toward the other. But? We do want this game. We want it very badly. You're not far from the hate in our hearts.
6) What are/were the expectations for this season? Was it "Rose Bowl or bust," given the last three seasons? What would constitute a successful season now? A fourth-straight Rose Bowl trip looks tricky unless Ohio State either loses two B1G games or they run the table and slip into the BCS national championship game -- is there an outcome other than another trip to Pasadena that would satisfy Badger fans?
Absolutely. Most Badger fans would be fine with 10-2, and if we don't sneak in as a BCS at-large, winning against a yet to be determined SEC opponent would be swell. It was that expectation at the start of the season. A Rose Bowl would have been nice, but last season's Rose Bowl by default lowered expectations enough that only fools and weirdos would be too disappointed by only potentially getting into the Orange Bowl.
7) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
I don't think this game is going to get into the thirties. I also think the talent level's are going to bear out. Some special teams deceit and the inevitable Melvin Gordon home run are enough to give the Badgers the win 28-17.
Thanks for being a good sport, Andrew, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Saturday. You can check out Andrew and the rest of the B5Q crew at Bucky's 5th Quarter. You can also follow Andrew on Twitter at @thegnc and B5Q on Twitter at @B5Q. The Iowa-Wisconsin game is in Iowa City on Saturday, November 2, and is scheduled to start at 11:00 am CT, with television coverage from ABC/ESPN2. Coverage map here.