This is the fourth and final installment of"5 Questions with B5Q" where we exchange five questions with Adam Hoge of SBNation's Bucky's 5th Quarter. Last week we learned about the Badger defense and this week we'll take a look at what to expect from the Badgers on offense. To check out the questions I answered for B5Q this week about the TCU 4-2-5 defense, click here. I hope you all enjoyed this in-depth look at the two programs and a big thanks to Adam for his insight into Badger nation.
MWC: The most discussed aspect of the Rose Bowl has been the physical running game of Wisconsin going against the perennial #1 ranked defense of TCU. It is obvious that at Wisconsin it all starts up front with the offensive line, tell us a little bit about this group and what makes them so special.
B5Q: The entire state of Wisconsin gets zero credit for the football talent it produces because it rarely produces NFL stars at the skill positions. Meanwhile, you can find a Badger on a ton of NFL teams playing offensive line, defensive line, linebacker or safety. But Wisconsin has made a specific habit of producing great NFL offensive linemen and that will continue this April when left tackle Gabe Carimi and left guard John Moffitt get taken early in the draft. But that’s just the start. Center Peter Konz seems destined for the NFL and right tackle Ricky Wagner will be the next great left tackle at Wisconsin starting next season. This unit is so deep that Travis Frederick was redshirted this season despite starting as a true freshman last year. It wasn’t injury related; there just wasn’t enough playing time to go around.
It’sreally not too hard to explain. These guys are just big and athletic. They can all play at any position on the line. Take a guy like Bill Nagy who played at center, guard and tight end this season. He will literally change jerseys in the middle of the game so he can line up at tight end with the proper number on his back.
MWC: The Badgers feature a deep and talented backfield with 3 runners who each possess a distinct running style. As a Pittsburgh Steelers fan I would call John Clay the Jerome Bettis, James White the Willie Parker, and Montee Ball is a bit of a hybrid of the two backs. I know Clay was dinged up and saw limited action the last 4 weeks which allowed Ball and White the opportunity to showcase themselves a little more, but with Clay now back to full health what do you expect the breakdown of the workload to be in the Rose Bowl?
B5Q: The word coming out of Pasadena this week is that the running back rotation is unchanged. Montee Ball is your No. 1 back, James White is No. 2 and Clay is No. 3. I personally have a hard time believing Clay won’t receive the majority of the carries Saturday though. He was on a roll before suffering a knee sprain against Purdue and was only held out for precautionary reasons because Ball and White have done such a great job. He’s the veteran and played his heart out this year while recovering from two offseason ankle surgeries. One thing is obvious though, you will see all three backs in the game. Wisconsin lives by the theory that you can never have too many running backs and that theory was proven this year. Ball was surpassed by White on the depth chart early in the season and there were rumors that he would transfer. That same week, he had to spell Clay and White at Iowa because of injuries and he made play after play before scoring the game winning touchdown. From there, he looked like the best running back in the Big Ten. All three of these guys could start for any team in the country and with a month to prepare, I have a feeling offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is going to find some creative ways to get all three guys involved in the offense.
MWC: With such a potent rushing offense Scott Tolzien seem to play second fiddle to the running game, but Tolzien is having an impressive season himself, completing 74.3 percent of his passes and throwing only 6 interceptions compared to 64.3 and 11 last season. What has changed this season to account for such a drastic improvement and tell us a little bit about Tolzien's game, i.e. what are his strengths and weaknesses?
B5Q: Well I wouldn’t say there has been a drastic improvement for Tolzien. His numbers might be better this year, but in both seasons he has started, he has been known for being consistent and not making mistakes. He knows this is a run-first offense so he doesn’t need to put all the pressure on his own shoulders. With that said, Tolzien has shown me this year that he can make NFL-like throws. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a starter on Sundays, but the guy will get a chance in the league and maybe even get drafted. The point is, he can make plays when you need him to, as evidenced by his performance at Iowa where he made an incredible play to avoid a sack and salvage a few yards, which allowed Wisconsin to fake a punt on 4th down that ultimately won the game. He also made a crucial fourth down throw on that same drive to Montee Ball that I think was the best pass he has thrown as a Badger. Everyone loves to talk about the running backs, but this offense is rolling at a high caliber because of Tolzien. His ability and steady play has kept defenses on their heels, allowing the running backs to have massive success.
MWC: Which player on the Badger offense do you think is the x-factor in this game, meaning who needs to have a big game for Wisconsin to win? Also, who is an unknown offensive player that could have a breakout game and become a household name in 2011?
B5Q: Tight end Lance Kendricks is a very important part of Wisconsin’s offense and is an obvious choice as an X-factor, but maybe too obvious. He’s battled some injuries, but he’s healthy so I almost think it is a given that he will have a good game. The name I will give you is Nick Toon. He’s Wisconsin’s No. 1 wide receiver, but he’s not always consistent. In Wisconsin’s only loss this season, he dropped a number of balls and some questioned his effort. I also didn’t like his attitude in the postgame locker room as he said he should have received more targets than he got. He’s very talented though and needs to step up for the Badgers if they want to win the Rose Bowl.
As for a breakout star, the Badgers don’t really hide what they have. You won’t see an unknown player breakout for three touchdowns or anything like that. I will say, however, that James White and Montee Ball are both candidates for a huge game and the Rose Bowl is the kind of stage that could launch them into a much higher level of conversation next season. The problem is, they aren’t exactly unknown right now. I’ll go with Ricky Wagner as my official answer. He’ll be playing right tackle so you might not notice his impact, but he’s pretty much been an unnoticed star all season as he gets lost in the hype of the older offensive linemen.
MWC: Alright, we have waxed poetic on this game for 4 solid weeks, it's time to get down to brass tax. Give us your prediction on how this game plays out including your offensive MVP, defensive MVP, and final score.
B5Q: Like you, I think this game could be decided between the TCU offense and the Wisconsin defense. But here’s the thing about the UW defense. They give up a couple of big plays and they allow the opponent to get into the end zone, but they also don’t let things get out of hand and they have a playmaker in J.J. Watt who no one has been able to stop. They are also a lot healthier after a month off so I can’t see UW allowing 38 points to TCU as you predicted. On the other side of the ball, I know TCU’s defense is good, but they simply haven’t faced an offense like Wisconsin’s. Beyond just being effective, the Badgers milk the clock, they don’t turn the ball over (currently No. 1 in the nation in turnovers) and they don’t commit penalties. If TCU builds a decent lead, the Frogs will be in good shape, but if Wisconsin gets the advantage, which I see happening, it’s possible the Badgers will win comfortably. Wisconsin 38, TCU 31. Offensive MVP: Scott Tolzien. Defensive MVP: J.J. Watt
MWC: In my defense part of my score prediction included a defensive touchdown (Greg McCoy pick-6), so we really aren't that far apart on the score for TCU. However I also don't see any possible way that TCU allows 38 points to the Badgers, and if the Frogs put up 31 they are going to win, period.