Erin Barney covers Wisconsin for our new sibling site, Landof10.com, but in her words (not ours) the Badgers have been stuck with her for her whole life. She previously covered Wisconsin for ESPN Radio 100.5 in Madison and as an intrepid student reporter for The Daily Badger before that.
All of this is to say Erin (@erin_e_barney) knows the Badgers well beyond the chanting of off-color cheers that invoke the name of Bucky Badger. As such, we asked the following five questions about Saturday’s game between LSU and Wisconsin.
Q: Bart Houston sounds like the name of a character from a Western, and this game will be played at the home of original gunslinger Brett Favre. But should we expect the Badgers to throw more than 25 passes?
EB: It should also sound like Packers Hall of Famer Bart Starr since that’s who he is named after. For Houston to get his first start as a Badger on his namesake’s home field, well, that’s about as poetic as it gets. As far as his passing performance, I think we’ll see his numbers float right around there, but I wouldn’t say significantly over. We know the Badgers have historically favored their run game when they are healthy enough to do so. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Corey Clement steal most of the spotlight on offense Saturday. He’s ready to run fast and far away from a disappointing 2015 season.
Q: How concerned is Wisconsin about Dave Aranda carrying important state secrets to LSU? And on the flip side, does the coaching staff have a belief that its familiarity with Aranda will provide the Badger offense with an edge it might not otherwise have in Week 1?
EB: The general sentiment around Aranda’s departure was “no hard feelings.” It’s just part of the game. And the Badgers know some of what to expect from him, but they also assume Aranda has made changes to his game plan based on the group of guys he’s working with—much like Justin Wilcox has done with Wisconsin’s defense. They probably wouldn’t come out and call it an edge, but having film to scout right in their own archives has certainly enhanced their game prep. The insider information goes both ways.
Q: No one really replaced Melvin Gordon as the bell cow of the Wisconsin backfield last year. (Know your audience: This is an obligatory cow reference). Will it be another back-by-committee situation this season, or will someone take the bull by the horns? (OK, I promise I’m done with cow puns).
EB: Corey Clement is ready to be the bull, the horns and the whole dang herd. He would have been last season if it weren’t for injuries and some off-the-field indiscretions. He has the respect and support of his teammates, running mates Taiwan Deal and Dare Ogunbowale included. The latter two are great compliments and could deliver if/when needed.
Q: How excited are Badger fans to see a game at Lambeau? Or is it so familiar to them in their dual roles as Packer fans that it’s no big deal?
EB: In this state, there is no such thing as enough cheese, beer or football. Fans will Lambeau leap at any opportunity to consume all three. Even the Vikings, Bears and Lions fans on the team are pumped about opening up their year on Wisconsin’s sacred ground. Coach Chryst took the team up to Green Bay in the spring to get a history lesson and a feel for the stadium. The guys said it’s a special place even when it’s empty. Imagine it full of cardinal, purple and even some green jerseys.
Q: Vince Biegel is the most hyped player on the Wisconsin defense, but I may have developed a man-crush on Jack Cichy watching his nine-tackle, three-sack effort against USC in the Holiday Bowl. Was that a one-game wonder, or should I expect my linebacker love to be requited?
EB: Keep the love alive, Cichy is here to stay. “Slippery” is how he is most often described by teammates and coaches. That quick, athletic play we saw in the Holiday Bowl carried over into fall camp, and he has proved he deserves a spot on the line. With T.J. Edwards out with a broken foot, he’ll get that chance for the opener.
Erin’s Prediction: Wisconsin 24, LSU 20. (She does have to live up there all year, you know.)