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Playin' Nice: Bucky's Fifth Quarter

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Mike Fiammetta of B5Q was so kind as to update us on what to expect out of the Badgers on Saturday.

1. We've seen the reports on Tanner McEvoy taking over as the starting quarterback. Do you think he's really supplanted Joel Stave for the season, or is this just a bit of gamesmanship by Gary Andersen to try and play the better matchup?

The quarterback situation remains up in the air, no matter what anyone will tell you. This all ratcheted up last Friday, when the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cited three unnamed sources saying Tanner McEvoy would be the starter. Wisconsin released its depth chart on Monday, listing the starting quarterback as "Joel Stave OR Tanner McEvoy." Head coach Gary Andersen confirmed in his press conference that afternoon that no announcement has been made or will be made, and reiterated that the Badgers could very well use two quarterbacks.

I think this is part gamesmanship by Gary Andersen and part the smart play. Why not keep things difficult for LSU by forcing the Tigers' defense to plan for two quarterbacks, especially two very different ones? McEvoy's a threat with his legs who was athletic enough to move from quarterback to wide receiver to safety, and become a solid starter at the latter, last season. Stave's a prototypical pocket passer who's better on intermediate-to-long throws than he is on the short ones. By keeping this quarterback situation muddled, Andersen's doing what fans always want from their coaches: just be smart, dammit.

2. Obviously Melvin Gordon has been incredibly productive, but with McEvoy in will the Badgers move away from the power looks that have been the program's trademark in recent years?

That's another thing about the quarterback situation: regardless of how it shakes out, the offense won't really change much. That was Andersen's central theme Monday, and while he probably took it to that coachspeak level, it's mostly true: Melvin Gordon, Corey Clement and the offensive line collectively form the focal point of this offense. McEvoy potentially being the "starter" won't take carries away from Gordon or Clement. If anything, McEvoy would start, but just pass on fewer downs while keeping the ball or pitching it on option plays.

3. Any other offensive threats you're looking forward to seeing?

The wide receivers, but in a scary sort of "man, they better be good" sort of way. As you may know, the best receiver Wisconsin's had in some time, Jared Abbrederis, graduated after last season. The Badgers really don't have a single proven wide receiver on the roster now; senior Kenzel Doe is the "leader" of the bunch, and he's caught just 25 passes in 34 games over three seasons. Aside from Doe, junior Jordan Fredrick (who was injured for much of fall camp) and sophomore Alex Erickson are the main "veterans" to watch. What is exciting is that three freshman -- George Rushing, Krenwick Sanders and Natrell Jamerson -- all could contribute this season. Both Rushing and Jamerson are listed on the two-deep released Monday.    

4. On the other side of the ball, the Badgers are replacing a lot up front. Concerned with the defense holding up versus LSU's running game?

I am concerned, though I'm also confident. Wisconsin's defensive front is pretty much entirely new, though there are some potential stars in the making (redshirt freshman defensive ends Chikwe Obasih and Alec James) surrounding seniors Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski. The Badgers are a bit more experienced at linebacker, though Derek Landisch, Joe Schobert, Vince Biegel and Marcus Trotter are tasked with replicating the brilliance of Chris Borland, who's now vying for a starting spot on the San Francisco 49ers' defense.

5. What do you think the Wisconsin crowd will be like in Houston? Has there been a lot of talk about making the trip?

I expect there to be a fair amount of red. LSU, of course, is much closer, and I imagine there'll be more Tigers fans there. But Wisconsin fans travel well, and I put out a feeler on Twitter for fans that were traveling, and way more than I expected responded. LSU might still have the advantage in the stands due to proximity, but if so, I wouldn't bet that it's more than 60/40 in their favor.

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