Week 3 - Wisconsin at Arizona State

Posted Sep 11, 2013

Week 3 Fearless Prediction & Preview - Wisconsin at Arizona State

Wisconsin (2-0) at Arizona State (1-0) Sept. 14, 10:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: The Pac-12 and Big Ten are battling it out in several interesting matchups, but under the radar compared to UCLA-Nebraska, this could be the most telling. Really, how good is Wisconsin under new head man Gary Andersen? Really, is Arizona State ready to become a major player under second-year coach Todd Graham? This will be a key indication for both teams and their respective conferences of where they all are in the overall national pecking order.

The Badgers couldn't have been more perfect in their first two wins over UMass and Tennessee Tech. The defense has yet to allow a point, the offense has cranked out three 100-yard rushers in both games, and the team looks finely tuned and far, far sharper than it did at any point early on last season when it made a trip to Oregon State and got stuffed. Ohio State has been handed the Big Ten title already, and Michigan is the league's hot team of the moment, but this could be the game that chances perceptions. There isn't a J.J. Watt, Montee Ball or Russell Wilson, but there have been rumblings that this might be a better all-around Badger team than any of the recent Rose Bowl losers. If that's true, there shouldn't be any problems with a road game like this.

On the flip side, Arizona State could use a splashy victory to kickstart things into another gear. The best win last season came against an okay Arizona team, but this is a veteran team with explosion, athletes and a whole bunch of talent, and now it's time to show it off in what should be a wild atmosphere.

It's the third meeting between the two programs with the Badgers winning a 20-19 thriller in 2010. Arizona State crushed Bucky in 1967 and 1968 by a combined score of 97 to 23.

Why Wisconsin Might Win: Get ready for Wisconsin to be Wisconsin, but ASU needs to prepare for more. The Sun Devil defensive front is loaded with talent, and it should be able to use its speed and athleticism to get behind the line and bother QB Joel Stave, but it's not expected to be a rock against the run. Will Sutton is a next-level talent, but the Sun Devil line got shoved around at times last year, and overpursued way too much. Wisconsin might not crank out the 390 rushing yards it's averaging, but it might not have to. Stave has been extremely efficient and effective throwing the ball, adding more than just a bruising ground game. However …

Why Arizona State Might Win: Stave isn't going to get ten days to throw. The Badger passing game has been fantastic over the first two games, but that's partly because Stave was able to drop back, hang out, and let the deep passes develop. Against the quicker more talented Sun Devils, he's going to have to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry against a potentially devastating pass rush. As always, the Badger offensive front should be fantastic when it's able to get physical, but pass protection could be a totally different story against a defense with most of the key parts back from a group that finished second in the nation in sacks last season and led the way in tackles for loss.

Who To Watch Out For: The Wisconsin three-headed monster has been unstoppable so far. James White is the team's best running back, Melvin Gordon isn't far behind, and Corey Clement is the freshman who brings a little bit of thump. Gordon leads the team with 284 yards with two scores, White is second with 252 yards and two touchdowns, and Clement is the fourth quarter, garbage-time guy with 250 yards and three scores, and all three have hit the 100-yard mark in the first two games. The Badgers will always have a fresh back ready to roll.

- It might be the best overall matchup of the weekend, outside of anything that happens in College Station – the Wisconsin ground game vs. the Arizona State defensive front. Will Sutton might be the best defensive tackle in college football, while Carl Bradford should be a terror on the outside. The two combined for 24.5 sacks and 44 tackles for loss, and the Badgers have to be prepared to deal with a slew of negative plays.

- Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis is the team's most valuable player – there isn't a second receiving option. Averaging 18.4 yards per grab so far, he's making his big plays count, catching two balls for 122 yards and two touchdowns against UMass, and eight passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against Tennessee Tech.

- Going back to the 25-22 loss to Louisville in 1994, Arizona State has gone 6-0 in home games against non-SEC BCS conference teams. The Sun Devils lost to Georgia in 2008 and LSU in 2005.

What Will Happen: The Badgers will take the next step. The offense won't be a well-oiled machine, and the Arizona State passing game will hit a few home runs, but Bucky will be steady, effective and efficient, pulling away in the second half after a few key defensive stops.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31 … Arizona State 27
Line: Arizona State -5.5 o/u: 53
Must See Rating: (5 Boardwalk Empire – 1 Teen Beach Movie) ... 4