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Biggest Pregame Storylines for Wisconsin Football vs. Washington State



Wisconsin football; Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai
Sep 2, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) looks to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Buffalo Bulls at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Week one didn’t go beautifully, but Luke Fickell won his debut with the Wisconsin football program in front of a sold-out crowd at Camp Randall

But we’re onto week two, where the Badgers will hit the road for a revenge game against Jake Dickert and the Washington State Cougars, who are coming off a 50-24 beatdown of Colorado State. 

Here’s a look at a few of the biggest pregame storylines for the Wisconsin Badgers week two matchup against Washington State. 

Can Wisconsin Football Slow Down Wazzu QB Cam Ward? 

Washington State defeated the Wisconsin Badgers at home last season despite a ho-hum performance from Incarnate Word transfer QB Cam Ward. However, Ward hit his stride later in the year and took a huge step forward in his development. 

Now, Ward is a legitimate weapon, and coming off a game where he posted a gaudy stat line of 451 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, along with a team-high 40 rushing yards and another score on the ground in a blowout win over Colorado State. 

Despite Pro Football Focus crediting Wisconsin football with 19 total pressures, I wasn’t enamored with the Badgers pass rush in week one. Players like Darryl Peterson and C.J. Goetz need to get home quicker this week because Ward has enough juice to make you pay with his feet if you don’t — and missed tackles were a big issue for UW against Buffalo. 

Either way, this game will be a dogfight, but Wisconsin’s ability to neutralize Cam Ward will be critical. 

Can Wisconsin Football Slang the Rock This Week? 

All eyes were on Phil Longo and the new-look Wisconsin football offense in week one — specifically, the passing attack. But in typical Wisconsin fashion, the running backs did the heavy lifting for the offense. 

Will Tanner Mordecai and the Badgers talented wide receivers have a coming-out party on the West Coast? 

Mordecai completed 24-of-31 pass attempts for 189 yards (6.1 YPA) with one touchdown and two interceptions against Buffalo. I’m not giving him a pass, but if Skyler Bell catches that 60-yard TD in the second quarter, Mordecai’s numbers jump to 249 passing yards, two TDs, and one pick with 8.03 yards per attempt. 

Even though the Badgers air raid offense was more of a spread ’em’ out and run the ball down their throat situation in week one — I’m anticipating Phil Longo opening it up against Washington State with some un-scouted looks to get Chimere Dike, Bryson Green, and Will Pauling more opportunities. 

Will the Wisconsin Badgers Rotate in More Players During Week 2?  

One thing that surprised me in week one was Wisconsin football, keeping their rotations short, specifically at cornerback and the offensive line. 

UW talked about wanting to play eight offensive linemen to help keep players fresh while playing with tempo — but Trey Wedig was the only reserve who saw snaps. The injury to Jake Renfro is likely the most significant reason they kept the rotations short, but I’ll be watching to see if they make any modifications this week. 

Lastly, Wisconsin football rotated just four players at cornerback in week one, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in the players listed behind them. The Badgers are appealing the NCAA decision on Air Force transfer Mike Mack, so true freshman Jonas Duclona is the next man up. If he’s going to see time against Washington State — and Luke Fickell suggested he will — it seems odd that you wouldn’t get his feet wet against Buffalo. 

Four players aren’t enough to get through an entire season — and perhaps Jim Leonhard got me used to seeing a lot of CBs rotating in — but this is a situation worth monitoring. 

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