Media corner: Wisconsin picks and more
Media members who will cover tonight’s game at Memorial Stadium weigh in:
One of my favorite sayings from a coach is “Know Who You Are.” It comes from former Wisconsin basketball coach Dick Bennett, but those words seem to apply to this Wisconsin football team as well. This is a good team. Maybe not a great team yet, but it is good. It also is a veteran team, led by 23 seniors, many of whom have played major roles in winning three Big Ten titles. This season, each is getting the chance to represent the team for the pregame coin toss. As usual, the Badgers run the ball, and they run it well. James White is on pace to have the best yards per carry average in school history, and Melvin Gordon is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. The combo of QB Joel Stave and WR Jared Abbrederis gives Wisconsin the ability to stretch defenses. Abbrederis averages 18.5 yards per catch and has five touchdowns. Defensively, the Badgers are coming off their best game of the season. Northwestern had scored 30-plus points in seven straight games, but Wisconsin held the Wildcats to a pair of field goals. The players have embraced the switch to a 3-4 defense. Last week, coordinator Dave Aranda turned them loose, and the Badgers registered seven sacks from seven different players. With a new coaching staff comes some new ideas, but Wisconsin football remains a program that prides itself on being fundamentally sound. Maybe not always very sexy, the Badgers continue to know who they are. If that continues, they still have a chance to put together a special season.
Wisconsin State Journal
Senior linebacker Chris Borland, one of the UW leaders, had an interesting take this week when asked if the Badgers deserved to be considered the second-best team in the Big Ten Conference.
“I’m not so sure we’re not the best team in the conference,” he said.
UW lost any claim to that with its 31-24 loss at Ohio State. But Borland’s intent is clear: It’s a reminder to the rest of the conference, “Don’t forget about Wisconsin.”
The Badgers are on a mission to close out the regular season without another loss and see whether 10-2 might be enough to get them a spot in a BCS bowl game. The schedule is manageable and unlike the loss in Columbus, Ohio, when they were missing key players on offense, they are healthy. Despite all of the focus on Melvin Gordon, who ranks third nationally in rushing at 145 yards per game, this is a relatively balanced offense. UW and Oregon are the only FBS teams with at least 1,700 rushing yards and 1,300 passing yards. With a young secondary getting seasoned, the Badgers unleashed the blitz last week against Northwestern and posted seven sacks in their most dominating defensive performance in a season that includes two shutouts. The Illini have hung around the last two meetings before losing, trailing 10-7 after three quarters in 2012 and leading 17-7 at halftime in 2011. This should be more of the same before the Badgers pull away and end a painful streak of five straight losses in road night games.
Before and after today’s 7 p.m.
kickoff, tune in and participate at WDWS 1400-AM:
Saturday SportsTalk (9 a.m.)
Loren Tate and Steve Kelly chat up Illinois AD Mike Thomas, Wisconsin play-by-play man Matt Lepay, retired Illini volleyball coach Don Hardin and sports economist Scott Tainsky.
Illini Gameday Pregame Show (5:30 p.m.)
Steve Kelly talks shop with Tate, Voice of the Illini Brian Barnhart and ex-Illini standout Martin O’Donnell. Also included: Comments from players and coaches and pregame weather and traffic updates.
Illini Postgame Show (approx. 10:30 p.m.)
Brian Moline and O’Donnell host the call-in show (217-356-9397). Also, Kelly and Tate will interview UI coordinators plus key players from the locker room.