Wisconsin Badgers Football: Hawaiian Style

Who: Wisconsin Badgers @ Hawaii Warriors.

When: Saturday, December 5, 10:30 PM CST.

Where: Aloha Stadium, ESPN2.

In his recent memoir, David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer recounts seeing the famous (but still unavailable in any form on home video) 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show and noting what a letdown the performance by The Rolling Stones was after the iconic display put on by the penultimate act, James Brown.

After the performance by Brown, the Stones, good though they were, couldn’t compare to The Hardest Working Man In Show Business. Keith Richards would later call their decision to follow Brown the worst move of their long career. (Really? Worse than releasing Dirty Work?)

The UW Badgers football team this week is in the same boat that The Rolling Stones were in 45 years ago. Just as Mick and Keith paled in comparison to The Godfather of Soul, Bret Bielema’s team can’t follow what Bo Ryan’s basketball team accomplished on Wednesday night at the Kohl Center in upsetting No. 6 Duke, one of the biggest wins ever for a program that already can boast plenty of them.

It doesn’t help in fueling excitement for UW football that the Badgers are coming off a bad loss to Northwestern, a loss which knocked the Badgers from the national rankings and dropped them to fourth in the conference standings.

It also doesn’t help in fueling excitement for UW football – except for those fans fortunate enough to make the trip  – that the Badgers are playing Hawaii, a dangerous 6-6 team on a four-game win streak looking for a win to get an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl.   

Basically, Wisconsin is in a no-win situation here: If they win (and they are favored by 12), then many will apathetically shrug their shoulders.

If the Badgers lose – and it wouldn’t be that shocking if they did – then many fans will likely disparage a season that in many ways has gone better than most anyone had a right to expect.

Here are the Channel 3000 3 storylines for Saturday’s late – it kicks off at 10:30 PM in Madison – regular-season finale:

1. Don’t Pass Me By: The Badgers’ secondary has been torched in recent weeks – we’re talking to you, Devin Smith – as it has allowed 881 yards and eight touchdowns through the air over its last three games. Indiana’s Ben Chappell (323 yards, 3 TDs) and Northwestern’s Mike Kafka in particular (326 yards, 2 TDs) looked like the second coming of Dan Fouts against the Badgers.

The bad news for Wisconsin? The Hawaii Warriors rank third in the nation in passing offense, racking up nearly 350 yards per game. The Badgers secondary will have to play its best game of the season to slow down senior quarterback Bryant Moniz (QB rating of 132.8 this season) and his favorite target, junior receiver Greg Salas, who averages 130 yards per game.

2. Oh, So That’s Why They’re Just 6-6: The Hawaii Warriors haven’t been very heroic on the defensive side of the ball, though, allowing nearly 400 yards and 28 points per game against mostly weaker WAC competition.

When the Warriors have played good teams, their defense has had more holes in it than Tiger Woods’s post-car accident mea culpa: They allowed 54 points and 472 yards of offense to Boise State, and 42 points and 277 rushing yards to Fresno State.

While it will surely be tempting for Bielema and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst to let Scott Tolzien finish his at times inconsistent season with a flourish, the smartest offensive game plan will be to let simply let John Clay, Montee Ball, Zach Brown, and whoever else feels like getting into the backfield run the ball and keep Hawaii’s scary offense off the field. The strategy won’t shock anyone, but it should work.

3. Clay Possessed: While running back John Clay was recently named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, it’s likely he would surrender those honors if it meant erasing his crucial fumble late in the Northwestern loss as the Badgers were mounting what looked to be a game-winning drive.

If John Clay can use that fumble as motivation – as he has recently indicated he would – it should be a long night for the Hawaii defense.

Predicated final: Wisconsin 45, Hawaii 28.  


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