The Wisconsin Badgers slipped one spot in the latest AP Top 25 poll after defeating Western Kentucky 34-3 in the opening week of the 2018 season. The slip dropped them from No. 4 to No. 5, flip-flopping with Ohio State.
The Badgers will have another matchup in which they’re by far the more talented squad this week than the New Mexico Lobos. Here are three keys to victory for Wisconsin this week.
Last week was definitely a step in the right direction for quarterback Alex Hornibrook, as he didn’t turn the ball over. The same cannot be said for running back Jonathan Taylor as he put the ball on the ground once again. After fumbling eight times and losing six of them in 2017, Taylor put it on the ground again last Friday night.
To this point a fumble from Taylor has yet to significantly hurt the Badgers, and if Wisconsin takes care of business against New Mexico it won’t this week, either. That being said, Taylor cannot afford to keep this fumbling problem alive. It’s an easy bet that teams are focusing on trying to strip the football out of Taylor’s grasp.
That’s not going to stop anytime soon, but Taylor’s fumbling could cost the Badgers sooner or later.
Red zone defense
In 2017 the Badgers did a fantastic job of keeping teams either out of the end zone or off the scoreboard all together once they entered the red zone. Wisconsin limited Western Kentucky to just 1-of-4 in red zone situations, including putting up a zero following a fumble from Taylor.
Doing that just one time against New Mexico may be enough to demoralize the Lobos in their quest for an upset. The 62 points they put up against Incarnate Word is certainly a big number, but the Badgers should be able to handle everything that is thrown at them on that side of the ball.
The Badgers escaped the first game against Western Kentucky without any major injuries and more of the same this week would help to set up success long term. Wisconsin will actually be healthier this week than last as they’re set to get tight end Zander Neuville and defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk on the field for the first time this season. Those two shouldn’t have to play a normal load of snaps, as this is a good spot to ease them back onto the field.
Wisconsin is by far the more talented team this week. Staying as healthy as possible is not only the best-case scenario for getting through Week 2, but also for the team moving forward.