Andrew Rosin, who covers Wisconsin for SB Nation's Bucky's 5th Quarter, was kind enough to drop in and answer my questions before the Terps head to Madison for Saturday's game. Andrew's a good follow on Twitter ahead of the weekend.
Let's do it:
TT: Gary Andersen follows a couple of pretty well-regarded college football coaches in Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema. What's your impression of the job he's done leading the Badgers so far, and are you satisfied with the direction of his program right now?
AR: Most people are generally fine with where everything stands with Andersen. He's recruiting well, and while the team is likely going to fall short of expectations, most people believe the problem is one that's easily solved. Me personally, I'm still trusting the process. The Badgers are taking a shot at being something more than just consistently good. I still believe.
TT: In case people hadn't heard, the Badgers have had a little success on the ground this year. What's the key to Wisconsin's prolific rushing attack: linemen, backs, a combination?
AR: Melvin Gordon is a special talent at running back. I'll explain further as to what's going up against him, but he's doing this work despite the fact the offensive scheme has some problems. It's not to say that the offensive line isn't something that is a typical Badger blocking bunch. Because it's good and experienced and can do things despite the fact the scheme as it stands is fundamentally flawed.
TT: On the flip side, the team's passing and receiving statistics are mostly underwhelming. What's held them back in that regard, and will it be fixed against Maryland?
AR: I'll answer the second question first. Probably not. I'll double back as to why because the first first one is an easier and less rant-based answer. Bret Bielema was never the best at recruiting talents at receiver and its been a problem since 2012. Outside of Jared Abbrederis, the second wide receiver has been a giant gaping hole. Now, there's no Abbrederis, and with the graduation of James White and Jacob Pederson, there's been an open question on who gets passes. Alex Erickson and Sam Arneson are both quality threats and most Badger fans agree Troy Fumagalli's been criminally underused. But, it's hard to get them the ball.
And this circles us back to why I don't see this being fixed this week. To put it in the most polite terms possible, our offensive coordinator (Andy Ludwig) is calling a game that does not jibe stylistically with what the coach wants to do on offense. This hurt a lot when Tanner McEvoy started. McEvoy's a great athlete, mobile as heck, and strong in the short passing game. He got very few designed chances to show off his mobility and there were a lot of passes that developed slower. The Badgers brought Stave back for the Northwestern game because the playcalling wasted what McEvoy can do.
Stave is who he is. Servicable. Aggressive. Can do some damage in the 10-20 yard range with passes. But you look at Andersen's history with Utah State and the quarterbacks he got to recruit for Wisconsin? He had his way there would be a scheme designed to help McEvoy be the best he can be instead of the 'why doesn't he just play receiver already' that he is.
TT: Strategically, describe the Badgers' offense. Will the Terps see any spread at all? Power formations? Options? How do the Badgers attack opposing defenses?
AR: They will run. A lot. A lot of the formations will be double tight ends and a single back, especially if Derek Watt doesn't come back. Between the tackles mostly, but there will be some outside running with jet sweeps and stretches. Melvin Gordon touches the ball 30 times a game. Corey Clement will get it 15. Expect the passing game to involve a lot of bubble screens and play actions and Badger fans to boo once or twice because this has been a sore subject.
TT: Other than Melvin Gordon, who should the Terps be wariest of on that offense?
AR: Here's the reason why you should really be wary of Melvin Gordon. He's been doing this with a broken offense. They know he's coming and he's still doing this. Honestly? The tight ends are underrated, and if the Badgers have to pass, making sure they're well covered is going to be the key to your success.
TT: The Terps haven't seen all that many classic 3-4 defenses this year. What kind of looks should we expect the Badgers to throw at Maryland on that side of the ball?
AR: It's a defense predicated on speed and pressure. So they will come after you from every angle that they can think of. The Badgers are averaging a shade over 3 sacks a game and have 13 defenders credited with sacks. They have been thin on the defensive line, so it is possible that you'll see a 2-4 scheme, especially if Warren Herring can't go this week. This does allow one on one coverage between Badger corners and your receivers. So that Stefon Diggs guy could have a good game in this scheme.
TT: Last, your prediction - what's the final score from Camp Randall on Saturday?
AR: You have good receivers, and William Likely versus the Badgers punt coverage is a decided advantage for you. That said, Melvin Gordon versus a slightly below average rush defense? If the Badgers take care of the ball, they'll win. I think they do enough of that. Wisconsin 28, Maryland 23.