On Saturday, No. 23/24 Wisconsin ventures away from America’s Dairyland to pay a visit to No. 4/3 Ohio State. Kickoff at Ohio Stadium in Columbus is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on your local ABC affiliate with Brent Musburger and former Buckeye Kirk Herbstreit calling the action.
Wisconsin is led by first-year head coach Gary Andersen, who came to Madison after four seasons as the head coach at Utah State, where he led a program that had just six wins in the previous three seasons to a 26-24 record in his four years at the helm.
Most recently, Andersen guided Utah State to its most successful season in history in 2012. The Aggies won a school-record 11 games, went undefeated in the Western Athletic Conference and captured their first outright league title since 1936. To cap the season, USU defeated Toledo, 41-15, to win the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Before taking the job the head coaching job at Utah State, Andersen was an assistant with stops at Utah, Northern Arizona, Park City High School, Idaho State, Ricks College and Southeastern Louisiana. Andersen was also the head coach at Southern Utah during the 2004 season going 4-7.
So far through four games this season, Andersen’s Badgers are 3-1 overall and 1-0 in Big Ten play on team that returned 14 of its 22 starters from 2012, with eight on offense and six on defense.
Following preseason camp, Andersen named sophomore Joel Stave as his starting quarterback over senior Curt Phillips right before Wisconsin’s season-opener vs. Massachusetts on Aug. 31. Stave is 60-of-95 (63.2%) passing for 761 yards with six TDs and three INTs.
Behind Stave, the Badgers have three very capable running backs with senior James White, sophomore Melvin Gordon, and freshman Corey Clement. Gordon leads the team in rushing with 624 yards on 53 attempts and seven touchdowns. White is second with 442 yards on 61 carries and three TDs. Clement has toted the rock 44 times for 334 yards and four scores.
Wisconsin’s top pass catcher is senior WR Jared Abbrederis with 23 receptions for 365 yards and three touchdowns. After that, the only other wideout with more than three catches is sophomore Jordan Fredrick (6 rec., 66 yards). Second on the team in receiving is RB White (11 rec., 115 yards) followed by senior TE Jacob Pedersen (8 rec., 101 yards, 1 TD).
Defensively, the Badgers are led by senior inside linebacker Chris Borland who tops the roster with 30 total tackles to go along with 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack.
I know a lot has been made of Ohio State’s supposedly weak schedule, but Wisconsin’s is even worse according to the Sagarin Ratings. So far the Badgers have played FBS schools UMass, Arizona State and Purdue who are a combined 3-8. Wisconsin lost to Arizona State who then got smacked around by Stanford last weekend. UW’s other win was against FCS member Tennessee State.
While the Badgers can run the ball effectively averaging 349.8 yards per game in rushing offense, Wisconsin is 90th in FBS in passing offense averaging 198.0 yards per game. Plus, this isn’t the same type of defense in past years that featured players like J.J. Watt and O’Brien Schofield.
More to come with our “Football Friday Preview.”