It's easy to be afraid of the unknown. That's why we reached out to Bucky Fifth Quarter's managing editor Mike Fiammetta to clue us in on his Wisconsin Badgers leading up to Saturday's big game in Tempe.
Hopefully he can clarify if Montee Ball has graduated yet or not:
Q: This is probably a naive question with what we've seen through the first two games but can you give any insight into how to stop Wisconsin's power run game? Or is that just a lost cause?
Mike Fiammetta: I wouldn't say it's a lost cause, because Wisconsin's results across the board are inflated due to the quality of competition it's faced thus far. Still, some variation of "You can't stop them; you can only hope to contain them" feels proper here. The Badgers have a true three-headed beast blossoming in the backfield before our eyes. Corey Clement, the true freshman and No. 3 back, could most likely start at several Big Ten programs. He also, one could argue, is the most NFL ready given his size and prowess at running straight up the gut. James White and Melvin Gordon are the home-run hitters, and Gordon especially has forged a "What can't he do?" sort of reputation.
As far as stopping them, Arizona State would do well to win the early downs and force Wisconsin into 3rd-and-mediums/longs. Doing so would put the ball more frequently in the hands of quarterback Joel Stave, and while those hands are capable, there's a sense Stave could force a pass or make a bad decision at an especially ill-timed moment against true competition.
The Badgers will surely test the Sun Devlis' front early and often with its loaded backfield, but the difference in what figures to be a close game could be standout third-down performances on either side of the ball.
Q: On a related note, what is your impression of the Badgers' play action attack so far? Has Joel Stave shown an ability to make opponents pay with the fake or do you at least feel he has that ability?
Stave has definitely shown an ability to make opponents pay with the fake. His deep ball is the most impressive among Wisconsin's quarterbacks (some would turn to redshirt freshman Bart Houston here, but he's entirely too erratic to be seriously considered, in my opinion). The presence of those running backs in the backfield is enough to foster a quality play-fake, but Stave's adept on it and has a spectacular deep ball to truly kill opponents who don't say honest.
Add in the facts that Jared Abbrederis continues to be downright spectacular and Stave has already developed a deep-ball rapport with him this season, and you realize Arizona State has every reason to fear Wisconsin's playaction attack.
Q: How afraid should ASU fans be of the new 3-4 defense? This has to be the game when it's finally fully unleashed, right?
Yes, to that last question, and especially when once again recognizing Wisconsin's first two weaker opponents. The front seven is stacked; the unit could be two deep, and there's a healthy rotation of linebackers to keep everyone fresh and discomfort opposing offenses. Chris Borland at inside linebacker is the key -- he is as true of a fumble-forcer and tackle machine as there is in college football. The front, led by nose guard Beau Allen and experienced ends in Ethan Hemer, Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel, is as good as you'll find.
The secondary is where the questions are, and while Wisconsin hasn't surrendered a single point this season, it's entirely too early state the secondary isn't a true weaknesses. Senior strong safety Dezmen Southward is the undisputed leader of the secondary -- heck, he's the only leader, considering the presence of the four other freshmen getting playing time around him. He'll be all over the field, but everyone else remains a mystery. Freshman cornerback Sojourn Shelton had a fantastic leaping interception in Week 1, and he could very well be the x-factor in this game. Should he lockdown his man -- or, on the flipside, simply not get burned -- Wisconsin will have a dramatically easier time getting off the field.
Q: Much like Sun Devil nation, it sounds like y'all are no strangers to a nightmarish kicking game. For that reason, could you see Gary Andersen opting to go for it on fourth down a few times Saturday to keep pace in shootout? Or has he projected more conservative so far?
Wisconsin's kicking game has been nightmarish for nearly two seasons now, and it certainly cost the Badgers at least a pair of games last year.
That said, Andersen has given every indication that he's the kind of coach who's more likely to build confidence by repeatedly sending a guy out there as opposed to benching him following a big missed kick. Yes, Wisconsin has two kicking options in Kyle French and Jack Russell. Andersen has also certainly acknowledged that the starting job remains a competition, and that the Badgers desperately need resolution there. Don't be surprised if both kickers end up out there, and definitely don't be surprised if a mistake on special teams factors greatly into the game's final minutes.
Q: Okay, it's prediction time. How do you see Saturday's game playing out? Go ahead, lay it on us and don't be gentle.
Perhaps its prediction rust after two light weekends of UMass and Tennessee Tech, but I'm struggling this one. Game-time temps indicate it'll be a scorcher, but I don't think that necessarily caters more to ASU than UW. It just stinks for everyone involved, if you ask me. The blackout sounds cool and will assuredly have the Sun Devils fired up, but really, Wisconsin is well acclimated to some of college football's toughest venues in Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan State and so on.
That said, and Vegas supports me here, I'm confident this will be a close game. I'll say Wisconsin wins 42-38, but not without a figurative heart attack or three that gets Badgers fans prepped for Big Ten play.
Thanks, Mike! And to see the game from the Badgers' perspective, head on over the Bucky's 5th Quarter for continued coverage leading up to gameday.