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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Wisconsin BlogPoller and King of All Duluth, Minnesota Media Bruce Ciskie was kind enough to answer some questions about this year's version of the Badgers, which seems a lot like every year's version of the Badgers. He'll have the inverse up sometime in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy some insight from the badger's mouth, as it were:

1. Michigan's offensive line has been wracked with injuries, but so has the Wisconsin defensive line. Who's out, who's questionable, and who replaces the absent? What kind of effect will it have on the game?

Ostrowski is out. He's a big DT who is a monster on NCAA '06. Jamal Cooper (the 220-pound DE) is out for the year (ACL). Nick Hayden plays one DT position and Jason Chapman starts at the other. Hayden is going to be a very good player. The line isn't nearly as good as last year's, mainly because they don't have that one unblockable player (Erasmus James was that last year). DE Kurt Ware has chicken pox and might be out. But don't sell this defense short. Come hell or high water, Bielema appears prepared to get these guys to make some plays. One of the guys he may call on is future NFL OT Joe Thomas, who might volunteer to play DE...regardless of Ware's status. Redshirt frosh DE Mike Newkirk might see some action, too.

[No offense to Bruce, but if Thomas ends up at DE that seems more like a Terrell-at-CB move than a Woodson-at-WR move. Sounds like they're scrambling. -ed]

2. The pass defense has given up a ton of yards so far. What's the problem there? Coverage? No pressure? Just general Omar Jacobs being awesome?

Baker (UNC QB) got lucky and unlucky on Saturday. He was peppered, but the Badgers didn't do a consistent job of finishing plays, leaving him upright to make some throws. Baker could have thrown for 350 if his receivers knew how to catch. The Badgers' problem is that their safeties aren't nearly as good as they've been in the past (they really miss Jim Leonhard). They can run with people, but they look to be a bit short on technique at this point. Their success against Jacobs in the opener came when they blitzed the living crap out of him in the second half. I'm a TMQ can't make a living out of blitzing people. Eventually, you're going to get burned. Badly. Up front, the line has been good, as I will mention later when I answer question 1, but they really don't have THAT GUY that can get pressure on his own. Jamal Cooper could have been THAT GUY, but he is only 220 pounds and now has a blown-out knee.

3. What do you think Wisconsin will do to try to limit the Michigan offense?

Hopefully, they'll go against my beliefs on defense and blitz. If they leave Henne alone, he'll find open people...unless the light comes on for this secondary this week. If they get some heat on Henne, they at least present the opportunity for some sacks and turnovers. The interior of the Badger defensive line is very solid, so I'm not too terribly concerned about Michigan running at will.

[I think that's probably what the Badgers will do given the problems Michigan had against the blitz versus ND. My guess is Martin starts since he's had a year of pass protection already and seems better suited to attack the outside of the UW defense. -ed]

4. Wisconsin's main tactic this year has been to pound the ball constantly, which worked well against MAC foes and UNC. Calhoun's off to a huge start. Do you think he'll duplicate his performance against Michigan?

Calhoun will be solid. He'll go over 100 yards, but it might take him 25 carries to do it. Obviously, numbers posted against the BGSU and Temple defenses are null and void. That said, I think Michigan is a bit vulnerable against the run, and the Badgers should be able to rack up some yards.

5. Calhoun reminds me a lot of Anthony Davis. How are they similar/different?

Calhoun is somewhat like Davis. He is a little bit bigger, and he strikes me as being a bit stronger on his feet. He runs low to the ground and delivers the shots more consistently than Davis did. Not only that, but a wet paper towel is more durable than Davis was. Hopefully, so is Calhoun.

6. Stocco hasn't been impressive when asked to throw. Is he just limited? Are the receivers not getting open?

Stocco looks more comfortable this year than last. His numbers haven't reflected it because, frankly, he hasn't had to throw at all. He had a few drops in the UNC game on Saturday, and he was largely effective when asked to throw against BGSU and Temple.

7. Who's the player Michigan fans haven't heard of that they should know about?

You may have heard of Brandon Williams, but most Michigan fans probably haven't. He wears #1, plays WR, and is a very good kick/punt returner. While he's deadly on runbacks, he's developed into a pretty good receiver. Outside of Owen Daniels, Williams has clearly become Stocco's favorite target.

8. Finally: what's your prediction?

There's no way I'm picking Wisconsin to win this game. I don't trust this defense yet, and I don't trust Stocco to play well enough to keep Michigan from using eight-man fronts to stop Calhoun. What really sucks is that I'm going to be on a bus home from Iowa during the game. Luckily, the VCR still works. Michigan wins, but it won't be easy...17-10.

[VCR? What, do you still have a player piano, too? OMG JOKING Bruce(!). -ed]

So, there you have it. Thanks much to Bruce for his input.