Preview: (5) Wisconsin vs Maryland

wisconsin-football-quintez cephus
wisconsin-football-quintez cephus

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers (6-0, 3-0) vs the Maryland Terrapins (3-3, 1-2)

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The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: FOX with Joe Davis and Brady Quinn in the booth, and Bruce Feldman on the sideline.

The last time: Natrell Jamerson returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Dare Ogunbowale scored twice as the Badgers beat Maryland 31-24 in 2015.

The series: Wisconsin leads 2-0

The line: Wisconsin -24

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

WR Danny Davis (leg)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)

OUT

Game:

TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
RB Chris James (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
DE Chikwe Obasih (knee)
WR Jazz Peavy (leg)
WR George Rushing (leg)

Season:

LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) Get it going

Wisconsin has the running game and defense to challenge for a Big Ten title and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Now, the Badgers need the passing game to join in the fun.

The early-season success that quarterback Alex Hornibrook was having has been hit-or-miss in Big Ten play. After throwing eight touchdowns and just one interception in the non-conference, he’s got just three scores and five turnovers in three conference games. Some of it may have to do with a banged up group of pass catchers, but Hornibrook wouldn’t use those as excuses so neither will we. Simply, they need to be better.

2) Stop with the mistakes

The Badgers were sloppy in the 17-9 win over Purdue last week, but they’ve been that way more this year than really at any point in 2016. The three turnovers, including a goal line fumble, are avoidable, as were the eight penalties Wisconsin was called for. Add in the blocked punt, and you can see why the game was so close.

The penalties are really bothersome, especially the ones that come before the snap. A year ago, Wisconsin was second in the country in fewest penalties with 3.4 per game. This year? They rank 64th at 6.2 per game. The Badgers need to be more disciplined.

3) Quintez Cephus is rolling

While the Wisconsin passing game has largely struggled in Big Ten play, one guy that has flourished is wide receiver Quintez Cephus. He leads the Badgers in catches (23), yards (401) and touchdowns (5). His scoring prowess has him on pace to catch more touchdowns in a single season than anyone not named Lee Evans in Wisconsin history. He’s been the big play guy that the offense needed on the outside and he’s just going to keep getting better. More focused on basketball in high school, Cephus now has his full attention on football and is just scratching the surface of what he can become.

4) More Jonathan Taylor please

The freshman running back came up 14 yards short of hitting 1,000 in six games, but he’s a good bet to continue to roll on Saturday as Maryland’s 83rd ranked rushing defense comes to town. Taylor is ranked third in the country in rushing at 164.3 yards per game, which is 54 yards more than the next closest freshman, Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins.

It would not be a surprise to see Taylor top the 200-yard mark for a fourth time in his young career against the Terrapins.

5) More opportunities

Wisconsin is banged up in a number of areas, namely wide receiver and the defensive line.

The Badgers will be without seniors Jazz Peavy and George Rushing, and probably freshman Danny Davis, on the outside. While it’s far from ideal, it will give others an opportunity to step up. That includes redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor, whose first career catch came on an important third down last week. Coach Paul Chryst believes Pryor is ready for more and is excited to see him perform.

Along the defensive line, senior Chikwe Obasih remains out, while sophomore Isaiahh Loudermilk will also miss the game. It likely means more time for junior Billy Hirschfeld and sophomore Garrett Rand behind starters Alec James and Conor Sheehy.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Taylor has as many runs of 60 or more yards this season (3) as Wisconsin had in the previous 27 games before he arrived.

With a win Wisconsin can move to 7-0 for the third time in the modern-era and the first time since 2004.

Wisconsin’s defense held Purdue to just a field goal in the second half last week, which means the Badgers have now outscored their six opponents 119-24 after halftime this season.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 38, Maryland 13 (6-0 on the season, 3-3 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 41, Maryland 10 (6-0 on the season, 3-3 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 42, Maryland 10 (6-0 on the season, 3-3 against the spread)

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