04.Sep.2012 Wisconsin @ Oregon State
This game has so many angles I'm not sure where to start. This post is a jumbled mess and stream of conscious…no editing, just uncensored initial thoughts.
Some big picture stories
- Riley's September woes
- Beavs historically choking in the spotlight
- Wisconsin laying an egg vs Northern Iowa
- Montee Ball getting hit 35 times in week 1
- Danny O'Brien being a shell of Russell Wilson
- Badger O-line not looking vintage
- Beavs coming off a postponed game–good or bad?
I mean, how can anyone guess how all these things will play out on Saturday?
Some smaller picture thoughts:
- Riley will continue to underperform in September: The difficult truth is that Beavers are a soft team, both mentally and physically. They tend to harden as they take hits throughout the year, but they never start the season mentally or physically ready. Why would it be different this time? Well all know Wisconsin is vulnerable, but that assumes a Beaver team ready to take the game, and that's never been the case in big non-conference games, especially early in the season. If you think it's going to be different this time, give me good reasons.
- Wisconsin is not a great team. Based on what I saw, I'd say they're in the 25-30 range, a gritty, workaday bunch but nothing spectacular. The offensive line is weaker this year, the QB is half the player Rusell Wilson was, and the defense looks soft. But, they're Wisconsin and have a "brand" (or identity as Riley likes to call it). Even though the offensive linemen aren't as good, they hear over and over and Wisconsin is an O-line factory, and they buy into that and find confidence in it. What is OSU's identity? We tried "Linebacker U, West Coast" and that worked for a few years until Riley signed Pankey et al. An identity that changes yearly isn't much of an identity, and not having a pedigree to live up to doesn't exactly instill expectation or confidence in players. So, I don't know what to expect from OSU (probably a lot of pass attempts and a hodge podge defense?).
- The Beavs should be able to sling the ball around vs this defense. I'm confident in that. But will they be able to run the ball enough to keep the defense honest? Don't know, because I haven't seen the Beavs new O-line play a game. I think Isaac (and the return of Andrews) will bring some physicality to the line. But that still leaves three soft players who are susceptible to being pushed around, though two of them (Enger and Phillip) have great talent. Colin Kelly will be exposed once again–watch for this poor pass blocking to put Mannion on the turf.
- The defensive ends, specifically pass rush, are the strength of the Beav's D. The Badger staff knows this, and they'll formulate a plan to keep the ends off balance. Wisky doesn't like to pass, and when they do it's playaction or on non-passing downs, which to a degree neutralizes the Crichton and Wynn. Can't you see the D-ends bull rushing as Montee Ball runs right past them? Can't you see the ends playing on their heals on pass plays? I just think we'll be out coached and off balance. 3rd downs could be a nightmare.
- Beavs special teams will bite them. Field position and FGs will factor into the outcome, and the Badgers have a decisive edge.
- Never been a huge Montee Ball fan. I actually thought the backup, James White, looked more explosive. I could see Ball grinding OSU down for 4.5 to 5 YPC just because the DTs are so soft, and then White coming in and ripping off a big, backbreaking run. Ball had 35 touches last week, which is quite high. Not sure how that will play into this game.
These are just random thoughts, no real analysis because there's not much with which to work.
I have a strong conviction this game will come down to one major factor: Beavs being off balance on defense. When I close my eyes and picture the Wisconsin staff game planning, I can imagine methodical guys who identify OSU's weakness, and know exactly how they want to attack it. When I do the same for OSU, I imagine a haphazard mess, much like Craig Robinson's "street ball" game plans. The Beavs have had a extra time to prepare for this game. What I heard, is that Riley has been giving guys time off, lifting, and sending the team to the movies. No matter how you slice it, that is a soft, player's coach, and hence that's what we'll see on the field. The tougher team, both mentally and physically, will win the game. Yes, I can see why people love the Beavs chances in this game–their wide open passing attack should have success, no doubt. Wisconsin looked vulnerable. No doubt. I think a lot of fans are going to feel like OSU "should have won" this game come Sunday morning. There will be points left on the field, opportunities missed, etc. What people need to understand is that kind of sloppy play is highly predictable (i.e. our coach isn't detailed) and should be expected rather than viewed as a "missed opportunity" or feeling that "we were so close". The difference between being close to doing something and actually doing it come from repetition with focus on detail. At the end of the day football is about execution and toughness, and when teams are closely matched, the one that has those two traits will always win the game.
Wisconsin 31, OSU 20