The teams: The No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) vs the BYU Cougars (1-1)
The time: 2:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.
The TV coverage: ABC with Bob Wischusen and Brock Huard in the booth and Allison Williams on the sideline.
The last time: Wisconsin got four touchdown passes from Alex Hornibrook in a 40-6 win in Provo in 2017.
The series: Wisconsin leads 2-1
The line: Wisconsin -22.5
The Badgers injury report:
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)
OLB Tyler Johnson (leg)
TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
ILB Griffin Grady (leg)
DE Kraig Howe (leg)
ILB Mike Maskalunas (leg)
S Reggie Pearson (leg)
RB Bradrick Shaw (leg)
DL Garrett Rand (achilles)
OL Blake Smithback (leg)
LB Mason Platter (leg)
WR Quintez Cephus
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1) Jump off point
A year ago, Wisconsin was 2-0, and while it had blowout wins over Utah State and Florida Atlantic, the Badgers had not been overly impressive. There were some that thought coach Paul Chryst’s group wasn’t as good as its top-10 ranking suggested. That narrative changed when they went out to Utah and dominated BYU 40-6.
“We went down there and [made] a statement,” cornerback Madison Cone said. “I felt that was the game that our team took off.
“That was a big confidence booster to launch us into the [season] we had.”
A year later, with BYU coming to town, Wisconsin is once again 2-0 with two blowout wins where not everything looked pretty. Can the Badgers put together a complete game and look more like the top-5 team everyone expected at the start of the season? If so, it would bode well for them heading into Big Ten play next week at Iowa.
2) Welcome back
A week after getting tight end Zander Neuville back, Wisconsin will add the services of wide receiver Danny Davis to the mix. The sophomore was suspended for the first two weeks of the season in relation to an incident where fellow wide receiver Quintez Cephus was charged with sexual assault.
Davis was among the Badgers best weapons on offense as a true freshman last year, catching 26 passes for 418 yards. He also scored five touchdowns, including three in the Orange Bowl. Though suspended, Davis was able to practice the last couple of weeks and his teammates believe he’ll hit the ground running against BYU.
“He’s a big playmaker. He’ll make those really contested [catches], the ones you don’t he can get and he’ll come down with it,” wide receiver AJ Taylor said of Davis. “That ignites the offense.”
3) Big and physical
Wisconsin’s offense is preparing for its most physical game of the season to date. BYU’s front is loaded with big and experienced players, including 340-pound nose tackle Khyiris Tonga and 6-foot-9, 275-pound defensive end Corbin Kaufusi.
“[They have] big guys in the middle,” left tackle Cole Van Lanen said with a laugh. “Really big guys.”
They do, but the Badgers have some really big guys of their own and they are guys considered by some to be a part of the best offensive line in the country. It’s a group that paved the way for 417 yards on the ground last week against New Mexico — the most by Wisconsin since 2014 — and it’s one that would love a repeat performance against the Cougars.
4) No looking back
Before lighting up the Orange Bowl last December, Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook’s best game of his career came against BYU. He went 18 of 19, breaking the single-season school record for completion percentage, and had four touchdowns in a 40-6 win. But asked about that effort this week, Hornibrook was not in a mood to reminisce.
“I don’t think anything carries over,” Hornibrook said. “[And] I’m not really worried about last year.”
Hornibrook is off to a solid start this year, throwing for 405 yards and three touchdowns.
5) Protect the ball
Jonathan Taylor leads the country in rushing yards per game (199.0), but he’s also at the top of the list in terms of fumbles lost. The sophomore has coughed the ball up twice this year, losing both of them. Add that on to the six fumbles he lost last year and it’s fair to say the Heisman Trophy candidate is fumble prone. Taylor and the Badgers have put a ton of effort into solving the issue, but it remains one. And while the greatness of Taylor overshadows the issue, it just feels like something that could cost Wisconsin a game at some point this season.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
A victory on Saturday would be win No. 700 for Wisconsin as a program. Only four other Big Ten teams have accomplished that — Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska.
Six true freshmen have played so far this season — Travian Blaylock, Donte Burton, Aron Cruickshank, Taj Mustapha, Rachad Wildgoose and Bryson Williams. That’s already the most during Paul Chryst’s tenure.
Alex Hornibrook has won 88 percent of the games he’s started. That’s the best mark in school history, with the next closest being Scott Tolzien at 80.8 percent.