After a devastating week one loss to the LSU Tigers, the Wisconsin Badgers will be looking to add a little more offensive firepower to the mix. Shuffling through the cards to find a starting quarterback will be head coach Gary Andersen‘s main priority heading into week two as the Badgers will need to win out to have a chance at the College Football Playoff.
Just one short year ago, the Western Illinois Leathernecks were as poor of a team in the MVFC as any, finishing 4-8. Not much was expected of them this season, but the Leathernecks opened the season with a 45-6 throttling of Valparaiso, outplaying the Crusaders in every facet of the game.
It was a tough go of things for the normally-potent Wisconsin offense as the Badgers had trouble passing the ball behind the game’s starter, Tanner McEvoy. The junior has been battling with Joel Stave for the starting job, but Stave’s shoulder is still not 100 percent and that has forced McEvoy into his first career start at QB. He finished a measly 8 of 24 for 50 yards and two interceptions, struggling mightily under center. The new starter relied heavily upon the run game to produce as the passing offense was nearly non-existent. Melvin Gordon picked up where he left off from 2013, accounting for 140 yards and a score on 16 carries while Reggie Love added a 45-yard touchdown run on his only rush of the game.
Western Illinois had much better luck than the Badgers on offense to begin the season. The Leathernecks finished with nearly 600 yards of total offense and it was balanced as 320 yards came through the air and 273 yards came from the ground game. Sophomore Trenton Norvell experienced the most success as he completed 20 of 28 passes for 320 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He spread the ball out well as he found nine different receivers and none had more than four catches. Hi-C Scott — yes, that is his real name — led the way with four catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns. J.C. Baker carried the run game as he finished with 17 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Leathernecks held Valparaiso to just six points and just 277 total yards — 103 on the ground and 174 through the air. It will be a much harder test to try and stop the Badgers’ excellent run game. Wisconsin held a tough LSU offense to under 400 total yards, but some late poor tackling did them in. Wisconsin did a solid job against the run, allowing just 126 yards and 369 total yards.
Western Illinois will travel to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers at 12 p.m. EST on Saturday, Sept. 6. The game will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 37, Western Illinois 13
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.