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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Despite their strong offensive start, the Badgers have had troubles against zone defenses this season. 

Three Keys: Coan needs to get back on track, Kent State to get creative on offense

Wisconsin 

Get back in rhythm in Offense

While as a whole, Wisconsin has had one of its more dominant seasons ever on offense, scoring over 42 points per game, Jonathon Taylor and the Badgers were stymied by Northwestern, scoring only ten points off of a Taylor touchdown and a field goal. This shouldn’t be concerning against a Big Ten defense, but the Badgers should look to get back into rhythm against a weaker Kent State defense that has surrendered 42.5 points to Power 5 programs this season. While it is important to focus on the game at hand, the Badgers would do well to view this as a tune up game before facing much tougher competition in Big Ten conference play. 

Throw the Ball

While Kent State lost its premier player on defense in nose tackle Kalil Morris, the Golden Flashes do return four experienced run stopping linebackers. While it Jonathon Taylor and the rest of Wisconsin’s RBs should prove a much tougher challenge, it’s not a bad idea to get Jack Coan some more reps from the pocket against a less formidable secondary. Coan has exceeded expectations this season, and after a bit of a lackluster game against Northwestern, it would be beneficial for him to improve his confidence against a weaker team and open up the run game for Taylor. 

Continue Making Plays on Defense

The Badgers’ D has been second to none this year, giving up only 7.25 points to opposing offenses per game. A large part of this has been their ability to make plays in the red-zone, including a highlight reel fumble recovery against Michigan. Red zone opportunities have also been very slim for opposing teams. This is in part due to the Badgers’ ability to force turnovers, 16 on the year. Turnovers aside however, offensive units have had an extremely difficult time moving the ball. The Badgers have allowed less than 2 yards per rush attempt, and less than 5 yards per pass attempt. If the Badgers defense is able to keep up the momentum, then Wisconsin should be able to run away with the game early.

Kent State

Throw the Ball

Looking at both teams’ offenses and situations, it shouldn’t be too surprising that both teams should consider trying to put the ball down field. Kent State’s strength as an offense against Wisconsin could be its QB, Auburn transfer Woody Barrett. Barrett has struggled thus far, completing only around 50 percent of his passes, but was able to complete around 60 percent in the 2018 season. It could be beneficial for the Golden Flashes to try and make a few big plays. In addition, WR Antwan Dixon, who was one of last year’s Mayo Clinic Comeback Players of the year, returns after catching a team-high 52 catches last season. If the Golden Flashes want to win this game, it will be very difficult for them to do so conventionally, they simply don’t have the size or the speed to compete with Wisconsin up front, they will need to air out the ball and hope for the best.

Shut Down Jonathon Taylor

It goes without saying that Heisman candidate Jonathon Taylor is Wisconsin’s best player by far. The Junior RB out of Salem, NJ is averaging nearly 7 yards per carry, and has 8 touchdowns so far, despite taking extended rests during games. Taylor has also opened up a new facet of his game as well. He’s become a much better receiver, catching 9 passes so far this year, including three for a touchdown, beating his career high despite only playing 4 games thus far. These past two years he has rarely been held to less than 100 yards in a game. He’s lightning fast, reads coverage well, and can power through tackles. There really isn’t a key to stopping Taylor, but the key to stopping Wisconsin runs through Taylor. Excluding his Freshman year, Wisconsin is 2-4 (USF excluded due to Taylor sitting 2nd half) when Taylor is held to under 150 rushing yards in a game. These two wins come from 2019, which isn’t shocking considering Wisconsin arguably has more offensive weapons, including an upgraded WR corps, and improvement at the QB position in the form of Jack Coan. In games that Taylor has rushed over 150 yards, the Badgers are 12-1. For Kent State, it is a much easier said than done, but it is the only way they can hope to compete against the Badgers in Madison, especially for a defense that allowed 467 yards per game last season.

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Get Creative

As stated previously, the Golden Flashes will find it extremely difficult to beat Wisconsin on the road if they stick to a conventional game plan. While they are 2-2 this season, these wins came against Bowling Green and Kent State needed an overtime period to finish off Kennesaw State, a non-North Dakota State FCS team. According to an Athlon Sports Poll, the Golden Flashes are ranked 116 in the FBS, a far cry away from Wisconsin, who currently stands at 8 in the AP poll. Upsets this huge don’t happen very often if ever. Kent state is going to have to get creative if they want to stop the Badgers dominant offense, and get past a formidable Wisconsin defense. The one ray of hope they have however is on special teams. Sophomore Kicker Matthew Trickett converted 14 of 17 FG attempts last season, if they are able to get close to the red zone, they will likely be able to score if they avoid turnovers, but if they want to keep up with Taylor and the Badgers offense, they will need to put up 7 consistently.

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