Game of the Week: No. 20 Wisconsin vs. No. 3 Alabama
As College Football springs back into action this weekend to begin the 2015 season, expectations will be tested immediately as the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the No. 20 Wisconsin Badgers this Saturday, September 5th in the Cowboys Classic. The game will be featured on ABC in the 8:00 p.m. primetime slot and will be played at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Storylines continue to pile up in anticipation for what many news outlets are labeling the College Football Game of the Week.
Wisconsin will see the field for the first time under new head coach Paul Chryst. As a former assistant to Wisconsin and three-year head coach of Pittsburgh, Chryst hopes to have success in Madison starting with an Alabama upset.
Alabama, the reigning SEC champions, have a lot of question marks coming into the season as many of their elite stars departed for the NFL following the 2014 season. That being said, their impressive recruiting status has ensured them plenty of talent on the depth chart going into this season.
The team is poised to redeem themselves after falling short to Ohio State in the College Football Playoff last season.
Nick Saban and Alabama face a difficult road as Wisconsin is one of seven opponents ranked in the preseason AP poll that are scheduled to face the Crimson Tide this season.
It is the only ranked matchup for Wisconsin going into the season.
Wisconsin is coming off an impressive win in an overtime effort against Auburn in the Outback Bowl.
Despite the departures of key players like quarterback Blake Sims, running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper, Wisconsin’s highly touted defense will have its hands full against an Alabama offense that is full of young talent.
As both teams will be without their big-time running backs from a season ago, the drop-off in production should not plummet too far.
Junior Derrick Henry is poised to make a statement in his first test since taking over for Yeldon. He will have his hands full as Wisconsin’s run defense has held six of its last 14 opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards, according to Bleacher Report.
Saban will be sure to hold Henry to a high standard as he succeeds several great running backs in the past decade including Yeldon, Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram.
On the other sideline, junior Corey Clement has even bigger shoes to fill in Wisconsin’s backfield as he takes over for Heisman runner-up and San Diego Chargers first-round draft pick Melvin Gordon.
Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave boasts an impressive career at a mark of 21-7, 8-1 in his past nine games. The one loss of those nine games however was a 59-0 effort at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship as Stave threw three interceptions.
Stave will need to start out his senior season at his best considering the Wisconsin offensive line is one of the team’s biggest question marks, coming into the season after injuries and poor play plagued the offense in training camp.
A key to success for Wisconsin last season was turnover margin. In order to have another strong campaign in 2015 and a shot against Alabama to open up the season, the Badgers will have to limit turnovers any way they can.
The quarterback position is still up for grabs in Tuscaloosa as Jake Coker, Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman continue to battle for starting reps. As of right now, it appears that Coker, the former Florida State transfer, is the favorite to lead the Crimson Tide offense, but only time will tell.
Although it is highly doubtful that a single player will step into Cooper’s shadow on the Alabama offense right away, the Crimson Tide will look to a tandem of wide receivers in ArDarius Stewart and Kenyan Drake, as well as tight end O.J. Howard, to carry the work load as receivers.
Both defenses advertise impressive front sevens, but the quarterbacks have to be aware of the potential in the secondary.
Players to key in on include Wisconsin safety and team captain Michael Caputo and Alabama All-SEC cornerback Cyrus Jones. Alabama heads into the game as 10.5-point favorites.
Mike D’Avella is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email email@example.com.