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October 7, 2013Follow @JohnVeldhuis
MADISON, Wis. - The No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats came up empty on Saturday night in their 40-30 loss to No. 4 Ohio State, but they certainly caught the Wisconsin Badgers' attention. With Pat Fitzgerald at the helm it seems as though Northwestern's days of football irrelevance are in the rear-view mirror: the Badgers saw a team that expects to win each game and has the talent to do it.
"Northwestern is a very talented team," Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said Monday during his weekly press conference. "They've shown that, not just last Saturday night but all year long. This is a mature team. They play hard, they play fast. They expect to win. They force a ton of turnovers and make big plays.
"No one can watch them and say 'That's just an OK team.' They're a very talented team."
Part of Northwestern's success stems from an actual two-quarterback system, which is almost unheard of in the Big Ten and college football as a whole. Most teams pick one quarterback and stick with him for as long as possible, but the Wildcats rotate senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian under center early and often during their games.
The Badgers have some experience preparing for multiple quarterbacks this season, when Ohio State was trying to work Braxton Miller back in to the starting lineup in place of Kenny Guiton. But unlike the Buckeyes, Northwestern's offense tends to do things a little differently when it's Colter or Siemian under center.
"Unlike Ohio State, the offense might change slightly when one or the other [quarterback] is in there playing," Andersen said. "[They're] a little more skewed toward option in certain situations, but they're both proven winners."
With Siemian under center the Wildcats tend to pass much more often, and for good reason: Siemian has completed 68.2 percent of his passes for far this season for 916 yards. Mark passes the ball as well, but he gives the Wildcats more options all over the field. Mark rushed for 894 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and already has 253 rushing yards on 47 carries.
To make things more interesting, Mark and Siemian are on the field at the same time in some cases, which prevents other teams from reading too much into which player is under center. And even though a true two-quarterback system is a rarity, Andersen said at the end of the day it works because both players have bought in to it.
"The key thing is that both kids believe in it," Andersen said. "That's what matters the most. It's not that the coaches are doing something magical, it's the fact that those two kids work well together, they respect each other and they make the offense work."
Andersen said that Melvin Gordon (knee), Jacob Pedersen (knee), Kenzel Doe (hamstring), and Dallas Lewallen (knee) should all be available for Saturday's game against Northwestern. Pedersen, Doe and Lewallen all missed last Saturday's game against Ohio State.
News and Notes
-- The Badgers are going to cut down their practice schedule from here on out from about 21 15-minute periods to 18 for the rest of the season. That should save Wisconsin's players about 15 minutes per day, which Andersen said is designed to help keep players a little healthier for the rest of the year.
-- Andersen and his staff sent out "care packages" with Wisconsin gear to a group of former players recently. Andersen said the packages help him to get to know some of the former players, and he wants those former players to be around the program as much as they can.
"Obviously I can't send a care package to every guy that's played here. I would if I could," Andersen said. "I hope they enjoy it and it's something they'll wear around those NFL locker rooms and in their communities.
"I want them back here, in front of the kids- whether it's by positions group or an offense or defense or the whole team. I know very few of them, but I'm excited about getting to know them. Ultimately this is their program. They built it. I'm here to be the coach now but I want them involved as much as I can."
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.