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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, May 05, 2021

5 things to watch


Freshman phenom

Chris Borland has played just nine games in his short career as a Wisconsin Badger. However, the freshman linebacker is already making quite a name for himself. In week three, Borland was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance against Wofford. Borland was then awarded Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors following Wisconsin's 37-0 win over Purdue, his first start. In that contest, Borland collected four tackles, including one for a loss, and forced two fumbles, while also recovering another. Against Indiana, Borland collected his sixth tackle for a loss on the season (third best for Wisconsin) and recorded his first career interception. The future seems extremely bright for Borland and the Wisconsin defense as a whole.


A new ball game

From the beginning of the season, Bret Bielema spoke very highly of freshman running back Montee Ball. Since seeing his first action against Minnesota, Ball has gradually accumulated more rushing attempts with each game. However, with John Clay on the bench for a large portion of the game against Indiana last Saturday, Ball finally secured his breakout performance. Ball rushed 27 times against the Hosiers, racking up 115 yards on the day and scoring two touchdowns. No longer just a promising prospect for the future of Wisconsin football, the Missouri native established himself as yet another threat in the Badgers' run attack this season. Along with the conference's leading rusher, sophomore John Clay, Ball appears ready to improve the running attack of Wisconsin that already leads the Big Ten in conference play.


15 minutes of fame

The Badgers have started games slowly the entire season, scoring only 38 points the whole year in the first quarter. However, Wisconsin has been absolutely dominant during the second quarter. Through nine games, the Badgers have scored 123 points, almost tripling their opponents in the second frame. This total also more than doubles the second most prolific quarter for the Badgers, the fourth quarter, where the team has scored 52 points. For the majority of contests this year, Wisconsin has kept the score even through one quarter, scoring only four more points than its opponents, then proceeding to put teams away after that with its second-quarter dominance. Not surprisingly, the only quarter in which the Badgers have not outscored their opponents is the fourth, losing that battle by 27 points, resulting in a number of near collapses, and unnecessarily close victories.


No easy way out

In his weekly press conference on Monday, Bret Bielema directly countered the constant nagging he has received for the Badgers' seemingly easy scheduling. Wisconsin currently owns the 14th toughest schedule in the entire Football Bowl Subdivison. Additionally, the Badgers have the most difficult schedule in the Big Ten conference. Although most of this is due to the large success of opponents Iowa and Ohio State, this statistic still illustrates an important point. Wisconsin, by no means, ever has an ""easy schedule"" while playing in the Big Ten. Sure, to ever be considered a national championship contender Wisconsin will have to begin to add tougher out-of-conference opponents (which they have begun to), but it's unfair to argue that Wisconsin has played a light schedule this season.

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Sprint to the end

After losing two straight against Ohio State and then Iowa, the Wisconsin football team seemed poised to repeat last season's collapse. However, following a convincing shut out against Purdue and a solid victory at Indiana, the Badgers look to be back on track. Although Wisconsin's final three opponents (Michigan, Northwestern and Hawaii) have a combined record of just 14-15, the Badgers are not about to let their guard down. Regardless of record, Michigan is always a tough opponent. In fact, the Badgers have only beaten the Wolverines five times in Camp Randall. Additionally, four of the last eight contests have been decided by three points or fewer, so expect a fight to the end. The Badgers have now won seven games in a season eight years in a row, a feat never before accomplished in school history. The Badgers can extend their win total and bowl attractiveness by finishing strong down the stretch.

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