Wisconsin enters Saturdays game unbeaten, and is looking to stay hot. Central Michigan comes in after a big win against an FCS opponent, but haven't proven they can play against top teams.
Here are the keys for each team to win.
Play Mistake Free
Nobody would say that Central Michigan is a great team, and not many would say they’re a good team. You may even be hard pressed to find someone who thinks CMU is an average team. The reason for that? They make a metric ton of miscues while on the field. In 2018, the Chippewas averaged over 70 yards in penalties a game, to go along with nearly two turnovers per contest. It’s hard to win football games when you shoot yourself in the foot so much, and it nearly came back to haunt CMU in their first game of the year against FCS Albany, after the Chippewas lost three fumbles and had 87 yards in penalties. Against the Badgers those mistakes won’t fly, so if CMU hopes to have any chance of winning they have to play mistake free football.
Lean on experience
The one thing Central Michigan has is experience. Only one starter for CMU is a freshman, and most others are upperclassmen. The experience those players bring to the team will be much needed when going up against a behemoth like Wisconsin. MAC crowds are fun, but they are nothing like playing at Camp Randall with the stadium rocking. Young players have a tendency to get caught up in all the fanfare around them at games, so the veteren players will have to be leaned on for a level head. If CMU goes down by a touchdown or two, the upperclassmen will have to help rally the team for a comeback.
Hope for divine intervention
I won’t sugarcoat it — Central Michigan will probably need divine intervention to win this game. CMU has been ranked among the worst teams in the nation this year, and that’s not a fluke. The Chippewas went 1-11 a year ago, and have only lost important pieces from that team. Jim McElwain may be a flashy and exciting name in coaching, but it’s hard to translate that into success in a coach's first year with a program. So, CMU’s third key to success is to channel their inner Appalachian State and hope for the best-case scenario to play out Saturday afternoon. Sometimes a game that looks like a cake-walk on paper turns out not to be, and sometimes David even beats Goliath. Don’t get me wrong, CMU has potential to pull off an upset, but they will need everything to go right. Sometimes it’s just better to be lucky than it is to be good.
Don't play dumb
The Badgers just can’t play dumb, plain and simple. On paper this game is a no contest win for Bucky, but we’ve all seen crazier things happen in sports. The players have to go into the game hungry for a win, and play disciplined football for all 60 minutes. If CMU puts up an early touchdown or two, the Badgers can’t panic. The whole team has to stay level in order to not fall into a trap, because if the Badgers want to seriously compete this year they have to show dominance in early games like this one. Wisconsin did well in Week 1 not letting outside pressure affect their game on the road, so now they have to prove they can do it at home as well. At the end of the day, as long as Wisconsin doesn’t make stupid mistakes they have a great shot at taking home the win.
Feed Jonathan Taylor
Jonathan Taylor should be fed early and often, with the Badgers highly touted line leading the way for him. Taylor is obviously the Badgers best offensive weapon, and his Hiesman campaign should roll on without a hitch against a CMU defensive line that is shaky at best. Props also have to be given to the Badgers offensive line, who has turned around its play after last year's flop. Taylor had four touchdowns on just 18 total touches against South Florida a week ago, including two through the air. His 188 total yards led all players, all without playing most of the second half. Wisconsin’s success runs through Taylor, and if they want to put the game out of reach early he should see an ample amount of touches.
Pass the ball, why not?
Unleash the beast that is Jack Coan. Or at least let us see if he has the potential to be a beast. Last week’s drubbing saw Coan stay in at quarterback all game, yet we rarely got to see him make plays. There’s nothing wrong with dink-and-dunk pass plays all game, but it's boring, and Wisconsin will probably win. So why not let him chuck the ball downfield a few times? Danny Davis needs love too after all, and he has the speed to torch defenders off the ball. Worst-case scenario: Coan can't actually play quarterback, and he goes back to being the game managing quarterback we all know and love. But let's just let him play a little — he could surprise us all and this game would be the one to experiment in.