Five Keys to Victory: Tennessee Tech

Melvin Gordon (Fleming/13)

After cruising in the season opener, will No.21 Wisconsin get a tougher test from the spread offense of FCS opponent Tennessee Tech? BadgerNation gives its five keys to victory for Wisconsin against the Golden Eagles.

As always BadgerNation first reviews the accuracy of last week's predictions. We noted that:

1, Getting used to the new 3-4 defense of head coach Gary Andersen

While not proving disruptive against a quick-release spread offense, the UW defense did shut down an out-manned Minuteman team which did not score in the game. In a relative sense the young Badgers secondary probably had the best day as corner back Sojourn Shelton recorded his first interception.

2, A very young secondary

The secondary is still very young, but played sound assignment football.

3, The game against Ohio State

Quality opponents are few in 2013 and this Saturday does not change things. Tennessee Tech is 1-0, having throttled Cumberland 63-7. The Golden Eagles will bring a different look on offense from the UMass spread. Tech is primarily a rushing team, gaining rushing yards at a 3-to-1 clip over passing in its season opener. No fewer than six tailbacks saw playing time, none gaining more than 70 yards.

4, Developing a solid QB

Well Joel Stave did get better in the game against UMass, but none of his deep passes hit the receiver in stride. Still Stave appears to have improved his throwing form. It remains to be seen how well he can deliver should the offense ever rely on him to win the game.

5, The starters on the offensive line

The O-Line actually looked very good against UMass and will do so again against Tennessee Tech. This is more than just a matter of overmatching an opponent in terms of weight class. The Badgers offensive linemen looked technically very sound in UW's 45-0 victory. Ryan Groy can be singled out for special notice. Of the trio of superb tailbacks nothing more need be said.

So what to look for this week?

1, The play of the front seven

Against a team determined to run the ball, it will be very interesting to see how the front seven of the defense varies its game plan. Against UMass the UW defense hid its intentions very well pre-snap. Senior 6-6 linebacker Brendan Kelly would drop back into coverage while safety Michael Caputo was very active on the line of scrimmage. Similarly, substitution packages were frequently employed as Ethan Hemer, Pat Muldoon, Tyler Dippel, Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring came on and off the field. Expect a more basic defense against a running team. The key to watch here is the play of safety Caputo against the run. The Badgers can pitch another shut out if Caputo and safety Dez Southward keep plays from developing on the backside.

2,The wide receiver/QB combination

Stave and Jared Abbrederis need to get in sync, and Jordan Fredrick needs to be more secure with the ball. To say that there are opportunities at wide receiver for those that shine is an understatement, but someone needs to step up.

3, More tight end usage

This is the Badgers' strength in the passing game, but they did not deliver against UMass. Fans will rest easier as Arizona State looms should Jacob Pedersen and Brian Wozniak deliver against the Golden Eagles.

Improvement of the special teams

Hit the field goals, please. Kickoffs were good, even if the coverage was spotty. Arizona State can be counted on to cash in if coverage doesn't improve.

5, The stout running game

The most important key to every Badgers victory this season? It just might be the tailbacks, every time. In this writer's opinion it is clear that Melvin Gordon should be the feature back. How long will the coaches start James White? It might seem ungrateful to point this out, but 10 carries given to White instead of Gordon might prove the difference against quality opponents. Gordon has alarming shiftiness in holes as they develop at a level not seen since Brent Moss was here, if that. Considering the string of tailbacks produced by UW that is quite a statement.

Prediction: Wisconsin 51, Tennessee Tech 7.

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