After Gary Andersen bolted from Wisconsin for Oregon State at the end of last season, the Badgers turned to a familiar face to lead their program. Athletic director Barry Alvarez hired Paul Chryst, the team's offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2011, as its new head coach.
In his first season, Chryst's Badgers have ostensibly played well and have a good record to boot, but they still don't have a quality win and only have one chance to get one by the end of the season. Wisconsin's best win right now is probably over Nebraska, and Nebraska is terrible. Wisconsin's last three games are at Maryland, at home against Northwestern and at Minnesota. Beating Northwestern at home would be fine, but not anything to yell about.
For Wisconsin, that makes taking care of business this week even more important, as the Badgers visit Maryland Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kick at Byrd Stadium.The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and streamed at BTN2Go. Josh Lewin, Chuck Long and J Leman are on the call.
Wisconsin is a two-touchdown favorite and shouldn't have much trouble with 2-6 Maryland, but the game will take place on Maryland's homecoming weekend and should at least offer a good college football atmosphere. Perhaps Maryland can ride an upbeat crowd to some early success.
Wisconsin Badgers (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten)
2014 record: (11-3, 7-2 Big Ten)
Head coach: Paul Chryst (26-21 overall, 7-2 at Wisconsin)
All-time record vs. Maryland: 1-0
F/+ ranking: 23
5-year recruiting ranking: 36
Players to know
Joel Stave, QB, senior, 6'5/220, No. 2. Stave has taken over full-time as the Badgers' starter under center this year, and he's done pretty well with the job. He's got a mediocre 9-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but he's completing 60 percent of his passes and only gets sacked on 4 percent of his drop-backs. He isn't at all mobile, with just six true rushing attempts all season for 28 yards.
Corey Clement, RB, junior, 5'11/219, No. 6. Clement was projected to be one of the Big Ten's best running backs this year, but injuries have cut into his season. He's only played in two games, but he reemerged for the first time since early September with a 15-rush, 115-yard, 3-touchdown burst against Rutgers last weekend. If he's healthy, he's good.
Alex Erickson, WR, senior, 6'0/197, No. 86. Erickson profiles as a possession receiver, with a by-far-best-on-the-team 58 catches for 748 yards. He's targeted on a ridiculous 30 percent of Wisconsin's passing attempts, although the Badgers have a couple of receivers with better yards-per-catch and yards-per-target figures. Stave loves throwing to Erickson, and since he's 3 inches shorter than No. 2 target Robert Wheelwright, he'll almost definitely line up across from Maryland cornerback Will Likely.
T.J. Edwards, ILB, freshman, 6'1/238, No. 53. Edwards has been one of the better freshman defenders in the country. He's Wisconsin's leading tackler with 45, including 4.5 tackles for loss. The Badgers don't use him much as a pass-rusher, and he doesn't have a sack. He appears to have been quite a find: Edwards was just a two-star prospect as an athlete on the 247Sports Composite, but he's been a major presence on a good Wisconsin defense.
Vince Biegel, OLB, junior, 6'4/246, No. 47. A popular all-conference pick before the season, Biegel has had a strong season. He's got 5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss, and he's formidable against either the run or the pass.
Michael Caputo, S, senior, 6'1/206, No. 7. A well-regarded talent just like Biegel, Caputo suffered a mesmerizing concussion in the Badgers' season opener against Alabama. He's didn't miss any games, however, and has done more good work in Wisconsin's secondary in his last season. He's got 2 interceptions and a forced fumble, and he has 22 tackles out of the Badgers' defensive backfield.
Passing offense. Stave and his receivers have been highly efficient. The Badgers are No. 27 nationally in passing S&P+, even though they're just No. 46 in total passing offense with 251 air yards per outing. They're No. 10 in passing success rate, and seven different pass-catchers have either double-digit receptions or more than 100 yards on the year.
Passing defense. Wisconsin is the last Big Ten holdout to run a pure 3-4 defense under coordinator Dave Aranda, and their pass coverage is strong. They're No. 12 in total passing defense (allowing 171 yards per game) and No. 14 in S&P+. They give up almost no big plays, as they're in the top-10 in passing IsoPPP allowed and have ceded only six passing plays longer than 30 yards.
Bend but don't break. When teams get inside the 40-yard line against Wisconsin, they average just 3 points, which makes the Badgers the No. 2 defense in the country in their own half of the field. Maryland is No. 111 in the country in scoring on such trips (4 points, on average), which suggests the Terps won't be able to finish drives against this defense.
Finishing drives. While the Badgers are good at defending in their own half of the field, they're not very good at scoring on the other team's half. They score just 4.1 points per trip inside the 40, which puts them in Maryland territory among the worst teams in power conferences.
Explosiveness. The Badgers don't take a lot of big chunks on offense. They have 104 passing plays of more than 10 yards, which is No. 9 nationally, but get progressively less explosive (in relation to other teams) from there. They only have eight completions longer than 30 yards and one longer than 40, which is No. 127 out of 128 FBS teams. They're near the bottom of the country in explosive rushing plays, too, and overall rate No. 108 in IsoPPP.
S&P prediction: Wisconsin, 31.1-16.8. Badgers have an 80 percent chance to win.
Alex's prediction: Wisconsin, 35-17.