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September 6, 2013

All-Out Blitz: Tennessee Tech





Welcome to BadgerBlitz.com's "All-Out Blitz,", where you'll find everything that you need to know about the Badgers' next opponent. The Badgers (1-0, 0-0 Big Ten) thumped UMass 45-0 in their first game under head coach Gary Andersen, and will try to improve to 2-0 on the season when Tennessee Tech visits Camp Randall Stadium this Saturday.

In the meantime, here's what you need to know about Tennessee Tech:

Head coach: Watson Brown (7th season @ Tennessee Tech), 28-39
Tennessee Tech All-Time Record: 477-552-22 (.464)
2013 Record: 1-0 (0-0 MAC)
Ranking: NA (AP), NA (Coaches Poll)
All-Time record against Wisconsin: First meeting

Did you read this?

Walking the Beat: Tennessee Tech

Last year

Tennessee Tech won the Ohio Valley Conference and made the FCS Playoff during the 2011 season, so expectations were pretty high for their 2012 campaign. However a few key injuries held them back, and the Golden Eagles finished the season with a disappointing 3-8 record, including losses to No. 4 Oregon, but the team's injury bug did allow playmakers like quarterback Darian Stone to get extra reps near the end of the season.

Season outlook

Tennessee Tech's season will largely turn on whether they can stay healthy. They have an experienced roster, and are getting a few players back from injuries. We've seen what they can do when they're at their best- the Golden Eagles scored 63 points against Cumberland (an NAIA team), but we'll have to wait and see if their experienced roster has enough firepower to keep up with the Badgers in Madison.

This year

Tennessee Tech's Golden Eagles run what the Badgers are calling a "true spread," meaning that they're much more comfortable running the ball than some other "spread" teams, who pass the ball much more often. Their offense revolves around quarterback Darian Stone, a dual-threat player who other media members have described as a "-lite" version of Braxton Miller. Stone started the last four games of Tennessee Tech's 2012 season, and passed for a total of 752 yards and rushed for 497.

Stone completed 8-of-11 passes for 143 yards against Cumberland last week, and threw two touchdown passes as well. They didn't give him a lot of carries last week, but he still rushed for 36 yards on eight attempts. Nonetheless, Tennessee Tech seems committed to running the ball out of their spread offense. Eight players, not including Stone, carried the ball against Cumberland, and the Golden Eagles racked up a total of 335 rushing yards in the game. Zach Zeigler and Stephen Bush got the start in week one at A and B-running back, and the pair combined for 63 yards on eight carries with one touchdown. Sophomore Radir Anoor also carried the ball eight times for 51 yards. The Golden Eagles have a lot of options to choose from in their ground game, so the Badgers will have to pay close attention and check which players are on the field at any given time.

The Golden Eagles don't seem to have a predominant pass-catcher, though. Wide receivers Cody Matthews and Krys Cates combined to catch five passes for 110 yards against Cumberland, but based on their first game it looks like they'll try to spread the ball around between their receivers. Four other receivers caught passes against Cumberland.

On defense, the Golden Eagles use a 3-3-5 defensive scheme, subbing out a defensive lineman for an extra safety they call the Rover. As a whole this year's defense is pretty raw- four players made the first start of their career last week against Cumberland, and linebacker Tra'Darius Goff was the only returning starter on defense who started in every game last season. Anchor DT Jordan Johnson returns to his starting job after missing 4 games last season, and free safety Marty Jones is back after missing all but two games last year.

Matchup to watch: Tennessee Tech's spread offense vs. Wisconsin's 3-4 defense

Considering how inexperienced Tennessee Tech's defense is, I think it's safe to assume that the Badgers will be able to score on the Golden Eagles. But I want to see how Wisconsin's new 3-4 defense responds to playing a team like Tennessee Tech, who forces them to be flexible in how they attack the other team and try to slow down their offense. Tennessee Tech wants to run a lot of plays and keep the ball over by their sideline to make subbing hard for the other team, but if the Badgers can put some pressure on Stone they might be able to take him out of the game, just like they did against UMass and Mike Wegzyn.

The pick: Wisconsin 45 Tennessee Tech 10

The Badgers are favored by 45 points in this game as well, but I still have a hard time picking them to cover that spread. It's important to note that while the Golden Eagles had an impressive offensive performance against Cumberland last week, they were still playing an NAIA team, which is the next level of football below the FCS. The Golden Eagles have also never beaten an FBS opponent, and have lost their last eight games against FBS teams by an average score of 47-7. I don't see that streak changing this week, but I do think it will be interesting to see how the Badgers adapt to their style of offense.

The point after:

Tennessee Tech's head coach, Watson Brown, Texas head coach Mack Brown's older brother. The pair have combined for 354 wins during their career, which is just nine short of the all-time record, currently held by Vince and Bill Dooley.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.



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