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Where: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin
Non-conference success, a powerful rushing attack and dominant offensive line play have all been synonymous with Wisconsin football for over a decade. As the No. 22 Badgers return to the friendly confines of Camp Randall Saturday to host Utah State, they will try to rebound from their first regular-season non-conference loss in 26 games and a start to the season that made them question all three aspects of their identity. After struggling against Northern Iowa at home and losing 10-7 at Oregon State last week, new offensive line coach Mike Markuson took the fall after his unit failed to open holes for star RB Montee Ball or effectively protect QB Danny O’Brien in his two games on the job. While Wisconsin has struggled in 2012, the Aggies are ecstatic following a dramatic 27-20 overtime victory over Utah, ending a 12-game slide against the Utes.
ABOUT UTAH STATE (2-0): For the first time since 1997, the Aggies have won their first two games. They can improve to 3-0 for the first time since 1978, when they opened with five straight victories. In order to add to their three-game road win streak, Utah State will need to maintain the same tough-nosed defensive approach that has yielded 76 rushing yards per game against a Wisconsin team with something to prove after last Saturday’s upset.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (1-1): In the loss at Corvallis last weekend, Ball saw his 21-game touchdown streak come to an end, which undoubtedly played no small part in the dismissal of Markuson and the promotion of offensive quality control coach Bart Miller to fill the vacancy. Although coach Bret Bielema left the door open for him to return, he said earlier this week the Badgers could be without top WR Jared Abbrederis, who was “slightly concussed” in last week’s loss.
1. During its 17-game home win streak, Wisconsin’s average margin of victory is 33.5 points.
2. Although Utah State is 1-3 in its last four games against BCS schools, all four contests have been decided by eight points or less.
3. Wisconsin, which has won 15 of its last 16 contests against teams from the Western Athletic Conference, is 40-3 at home since Bielema became the coach in 2006.