This game more than likely will be a blowout but it is still good to know about a potential playoff team.
1. Everyone should know RB Jonathan Taylor, but who are the key offensive players that New Mexico should pay attention to?
The next person you’d look at is quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who completed 17-of-29 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns last week against Western Kentucky. The southpaw had a more-than-solid fall camp, and if he keeps the turnovers down to a minimum, could take this offense to the next level.
At wide receiver, you look at junior A.J. Taylor and redshirt sophomore Kendric Pryor. Pryor hauled in one of Hornibrook’s touchdown passes last week and showcased some playmaking ability in fall camp. Both will need to step up with Quintez Cephus
and Danny Davis
Zander Neuville should return at tight end for Wisconsin this week, but you cannot forgot the big guys up front. The offensive line–with All-Americans David Edwards, Beau Benzschawel and Michael Deiter, along with center Tyler Biadasz–really have an opportunity to cement themselves among the best offensive line groups to come out of Wisconsin.
2. New Mexico has a new offense attack that is quite unique with elements of spread, option and some passing as well and is different to what Wisconsin normally would face. How much of a problem could this be for the Badgers?
It should be interesting, but Wisconsin’s defense played well against an up-tempo, gadget-type offense last week against Western Kentucky. Despite losing seven starters and a couple of key contributors last year, there still are seniors that can lead this unit at all three levels of the defense. Inside linebackers T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly are arguably the best tandem in the nation at that position, while seniors Olive Sagapolu and D’Cota Dixon are anchors at nose tackle and safety, respectively.
That leadership and experience should help the team take on the option looks they could see from New Mexico. The young players responded well last Friday, like starting corners Caesar Williams and Faion Hicks, along with safety Scott Nelson–all first time starters. They will have to stay disciplined this week, however.
3. How seriously are Wisconsin and its fans taking this game?
Wisconsin players will always prepare for the next game and not look ahead to the weeks ahead–the coaching staff’s done a good job of installing that into their players year end and year out. Especially with what the Lobos could bring offensively, which put up those 680 yards last week, the defense will have to make the right reads and calls to not be embarrassed.
That being said, Wisconsin should absolutely win and win out big against New Mexico. To fans, it’s probably just another lighter non-conference game, but it still will be an intriguing match-up with the Lobos offense vs. a relatively green Badgers defense.
4. Let’s go big picture. What are the expectations for this Wisconsin team?
All the hype is around the College Football Playoff, and I think the team has the talent, work ethic, and coaching to do so. The schedule for 2018 is much more difficult than last season’s. This year, they have to travel to Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, Penn State and Purdue for conference road match-ups.
If the team can get through the schedule with just one loss–something that will be difficult with those road match-ups–I think they have a great shot at the CFP…that is, if they can win the Big Ten Championship game.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
I think New Mexico could throw some things at Wisconsin offensively that could challenge Jim Leonhard’s defensive unit, though I will that group put forth a solid showing against Western Kentucky that alleviated some concerns with so many new starters.
Wisconsin’s offense should continue to progress after a somewhat sloppy start last week, and I feel they should overwhelm a Lobos defense that gave up 566 yards to FCS opponent Incarnate Word last week.
I’ll go 48-13 Wisconsin.