MADISON - The Wisconsin Badgers have stormed out of the gates to start their 2011 season. With a 3-0 record, an offense that scores better than 45 points per game and a defense only allowing eight, it would be fair to say UW has some momentum as it inches closer to Big Ten play.
Before that can happen, though, the Badgers need to take care of business against FCS South Dakota. Here are five things to watch during that game.
5.) Taking off the redshirt?
During his Thursday meeting with reporters Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said there is an outside chance Devin Gaulden, who has been practicing with the team for just longer than a week, could play against South Dakota.
According to the sixth-year head coach, Gaulden has been pretty outspoken about getting his chance to play as a freshman so he might get that opportunity against the Coyotes. If not him, look for freshman Darius Hillary to take off the redshirt for a chance to play.
Unless injury comes about at the cornerback position, don't expect to see both players, though. If he has any control over it, Bielema would probably only want to see one of those players play as a true freshman.
4.) Can he continue?
Russell Wilson has been awesome. That's it. In one word, Wilson has been awesome. One would assume he could continue his torrid pace without any sort of issue against a South Dakota squad that isn't even in the same division, but crazier things have happened.
It takes a little more focus to not overlook a completely overmatched opponent and still play well simply because the expectations aren't quite there and one can get away with more against inferior competition. I doubt there will be any of that with Wilson. He seems to be too invested to let an opportunity against a squad like South Dakota slip away.
Plus, it seems as though Wilson and Nick Toon have a good thing going. Look for that to continue.
3.) Breakout performance?
Both Montee Ball and James White have been good so far this season. Both have a respectable amount of yards through three games and both have found their way into the end zone. But both of them would be the first to tell you they aren't satisfied with any of their three performances.
Against a South Dakota squad, one that is completely outsized on the opposite side of the ball, look for one or both of the Badger backs to have great success on the ground. With conference play right around the corner a big game from each of UW's stud tailbacks would do nothing but boost confidence both individually and collectively as an offense.
If one thing is concerning about this Badgers team through three games it's the fact that they've had an inordinate amount of penalties go against them. For a team that prides itself on staying clean and not beating itself, the three straight games with six penalties needs to stop. Should UW limit the penalties against South Dakota it would mean it focused in on the task at hand. That, in turn, would probably mean things are going well for the Badgers.
It's just a little harrowing that the Badgers have only forced two turnovers against legitimately inferior opponents throughout the first three games. With just two fumble recoveries against Oregon State to boast about, UW only has a +1 turnover margin.
Though the players and coaches aren't necessarily concerned about the lack of turnovers, simply because it clearly hasn't been an issue, it would still be nice to see the defense generate some more possessions for an offense that can't be stopped. Maybe South Dakota will wind up being the whipping boy.
I think South Dakota is a good team in the FCS division and I think they'll probably make some noise there. But there's a total difference between playing a top ranked FCS program and a top ranked FBS team. Wisconsin is just too talented, too well coached and too big for the Coyotes to keep up with. Badgers roll with a final score of 52-14.
Lea's record: 3-0.
Against the spread: 3-0.