Badgers Look To Rip The Zips

When MTV signed on in August 1981, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the one-hit-wonder band The Buggles was the first video seen. In 1979, ESPN debuted with a pro slow pitch softball game. HBO began its life in 1972 with the Paul Newman / Lee Remick / Henry Fonda film Sometimes a Great Notion, a movie so well thought of today that it’s never been released on DVD.   


So it is that groundbreaking new cable ventures rarely start out strong. Such will be the case again on Saturday, when the new-to-most-of-you Big Ten Network joins Charter and Time Warner lineups throughout southern Wisconsin with the Akron Zips and Wisconsin Badgers game at Camp Randall. (As of this writing, it was believed, though not confirmed, that the BTN would be added to Charter and Time Warner by Saturday.)


Not that Charter and Time Warner customers shouldn’t be happy with this resolution that will allow most non-rabbit-ear households full access to all televised Badger football and basketball games. The time will come this season when cable subscribers will enjoy exciting Big Ten football that heretofore would have only been available to satellite customers.


The excitement just won’t be there Saturday. The 2008 Akron Zips have every chance to be one of the worst teams the Badgers have faced in years. The Zips, who finished last season on a 1-6 run, have been picked by many experts to finish dead last in the less-than-powerhouse MAC conference. One reputable publication lists this year’s Zips as the 111th best team (out of 120) in the country.


The low expectations are not unreasonable. The Zips’ roster is so thin this year that their coach was compelled to take their best running back, Bryan Williams, and move him to safety. They were also compelled to take their leading tackler, Andre Jones, and move him to wide receiver. Their desperation to add impact players reached the point a few weeks ago that they signed a running back out of high school, DeVoe Torrence, who was recently charged with having sex with an underage girl. Torrence was acquitted, even though several of his friends were not.


Akron sportswriters are even calling on Zips head coach J.D. Brookhart to rest starters this weekend for “winnable” games, but it’s doubtful that Brookhart (who left the team’s final scrimmage saying he was “disappointed” in the team’s performance) will do that, at least not until things get out of hand, which engage in their inaugural “Jump Around” of the season.


In short, the Zips are just the sort of team that the Badgers, who have high preseason expectations despite uncertainties at several positions, should be happy to be facing in week one. Offensively, new starting quarterback Allan Evridge hasn’t wowed anyone this spring, while the receiving corps, outside of tight end Travis Beckum, is largely unproven. Sophomores David Gilreath and especially Kyle Jefferson will have to be more productive to help out their developing QB. Fortunately for Wisconsin, the Zips are fielding new starters at every defensive backfield position, so Evridge and his receivers have a great chance to gain some early rapport. Hopefully Beckum, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury, will be set to play this week.


The good news for the Badgers offense continues to be at running back, where Wisconsin looks to have an embarrassment of riches with P.J. Hill, Zach Brown, and promising freshman John Clay. With this group, Wisconsin looks to do what it did so well last year – run the ball and dominate the time of possession, an important stat that the Badgers led the country in last year, holding on to the ball an average of 33:57 a game. The Zips’ front seven is more experienced than its backfield, but they will struggle going against Wisconsin’s brutal and bruising running attack.


Defensively, the Badgers hope to get off to a better start than they did last year in non-conference play, when they inexplicably gave up big points and tons of yardage to the likes of Washington State and The Citadel. Fortunately for Wisconsin, the Zips’ quarterback, junior Chris Jacquemain, was largely ineffective last year and held on to the job by virtual default. Of course, having a decided lack of weapons didn’t help his play. Facing a team determined not to repeat last year’s early stumbles in front of their home crowd doesn’t appear to be the best way for Jacquemain to erase the doubts of Zips’ coaches and fans.


Badger fans can finally rejoice now that the Big Ten Network has been released from the grips of satellite exclusivity, and they can watch Saturday’s opener against Akron in the comfort of their own homes – at least until Wisconsin builds a comfortable lead midway through the second quarter. Then perhaps fans may wish to spend the afternoon tackling some of those pesky house projects while enjoying the games the way they sometimes had to last year – by listening to them on the radio. The more things change . . .  








One Response

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