Wisconsin Badgers vs. BYU Cougars: What we’re watching for


RSS Reporter
The Wisconsin Badgers come in to Week 3 of the college football season at 2-0, but they face arguably the most difficult of the three non-conference opponents in the BYU Cougars.

With two games of film and some moving parts, Week 3 provides us with plenty of things to watch.

So, what are we looking at and what should you be focusing in on? Here’s what we’re watching in the matchup with BYU this week.

Out of the Starting Gate

If you’re in to the national media and coaches rankings, the Wisconsin Badgers aren’t impressing the voters. UW has won twice, but has managed to slip down the rankings in the process.

So, what gives? One theory for this could be the fact that the Badgers have yet to dominate a game from start to finish. In both the opener against Western Kentucky and the Week 2 win over New Mexico, the game was way closer in the first half than it should have been.

Wisconsin has managed to put up just 10 points in the first quarter through two games. It also trailed New Mexico 7-3 following the first quarter last week, only grabbing the lead for good on 16-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Taylor with 2:20 to go in the second quarter.

That’s simply not the stuff of national title contenders.

Yes, the Badgers did rebound from difficult starts to go on to dominate in the end, but this is a pattern that has become troubling over the past season-plus.

Wisconsin needs to show it can dominate an opponent from the first kick to the final whistle and that simply hasn’t happened. Doing so against a decent BYU team would certainly put some fears to rest, especially one week before the Big Ten opener.

Under Pressure

One of the hallmarks of the Badgers defense over the better part of the last decade has been the ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

This season, things have not started off so great for the Badgers though. There have been just two sacks through two games, after the Badgers have averaged over 2.5 sacks per game over the past two seasons. UW sits tied for last in the Big Ten with those two sacks so far this year.

What gives early on? It feels part little need to show all the cards and part figuring out things in a revamped front seven overall. Additionally, Jim Leonhard may be dialing back the overall pressure to take a look at what his young secondary can and can’t handle.

There’s also the interesting fact that a lot of the current pressure seems to be coming from the inside linebackers.

Both outside linebackers — Zak Baun and Andrew Van Ginkel — have been much more impactful against the run than the pass. Baun is second on the team with 11 total tackles and has just one quarterback hurry. Van Ginkel has been a bit better with three of the seven total pressures and one of the two sacks from this team so far.

Wisconsin may be playing vanilla as they can to avoid putting much on film for the Big Ten to take a look at, but early results suggest this is a defense trying to find where the pressure will come from.

It’s unlike previous defenses and we’ll have to see if it’s a byproduct of figuring out a new set of players or if it is about not showing the cards too early to the Big Ten.

Whatever it is, it would be nice to see the Badgers become the scary defense we’ve seen in the past decade. It’s been good, but not great so far in 2018.

Danny Davis Impact

Wisconsin will get sophomore wide receiver Danny Davis back after a two-game suspension for his part in alleged sexual assaults, where he was alleged to have taken compromising pictures of one of the women involved. He was not charged with a crime and head coach Paul Chryst made a strong statement with the suspension.

But, that time is up and it’s time to see what Davis can add to the offense. As we mentioned before, the Badgers have struggled to get moving out of the gate. Davis has been a spark plug in the pass game since he arrived on campus last season.

Add him to the Big Ten’s leading wide receiver — A.J. Taylor — and this is a dynamic group of wide receivers once again. BYU is going to have to game plan for more than two quality receivers, plus the emerging tight end Jake Ferguson in the passing game.

It’s exactly the matchup issues the Badgers were hoping to exploit all offseason. We’ll see how much of an impact Davis has upon his return to the field, but he has been able to practice with the team for each of the past two weeks. Davis won’t need much time to get in sync with where the offense is going because of that time around the team.

All I know is that more quality weapons for Paul Chryst to come up with ways to use, the better things are for the guys in Cardinal and White.

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I've said it before, and I still believe it. Paul Chryst is not the kind of coach who will rub anyone's nose in the dirt just for the sake of getting a little better "like" from some pollster who only gets a hard on over how much of a blow out top teams have over their defenseless victims early in the season. It isn't a mark of a great team, nor a great coach. It's the mark of a person who puts winning over everything. I'm glad we don't have a coach like that, and I hope every team who does have one falls on hard times, and ends up having their arse handed to them by someone else the same way they've treated others.