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December 27, 2012

Wisconsin on Stanford D

Wisconsin picked the perfect time to play its best offensive game of the season. The Badgers put up 70 points in a blowout of favored Nebraska in the Big-12 title game to send the team to its third straight Rose Bowl. But nobody expects Wisconsin to equal, or even approach, that total against Stanford.

"(Stanford is) good. They're different," Badger offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. "Three down scheme versus four. Different day. People on the outside don't understand. Certain teams give you the ability to do this. Why didn't he run this play more, it worked last game. Because it wouldn't work this game. Teams have different players, different strengths.

"They're a very good team. Nebraska, if you looked at them, they had an unbelievable blitz package by staying out of third down and long. Also some things we did formationally, we helped ourselves. These guys have had a month to get right on that. They're certainly an aggressive team. They're up there in tackles for loss, up there in sacks. A very, very potent defense."

While Wisconsin will have plenty of time to prepare for Stanford's defense, the 3-4 scheme won't be very familiar. Most Big-10 defenses play more conventional 4-3 alignments.

"The three down scheme is not as prevalent for us," Canada said. "We've seen a couple teams who have done it. It's a different scheme for us to prepare for up front. I think Montee (Ball) will stick his nose in there, go around the ball, see what happens."

While Stanford's 3-4 defensive scheme might be a bit foreign to Wisconsin, the teams do share many schematic similarities.

"We go against each other, through bowl prep like this, and a lot of times it doesn't mirror," Canada said. "You're playing a spread team or whatever version of offense you're running. It doesn't always marry up. But in this game, it does in a lot of ways. They shift and move similar to what we do. They need to run the football. On defense they're a little different from us schematically.

"But they're very sound. I think our defense has done a great job as well. You look at the games. We've won some, and we've lost by six points five games in regulation. So we've played very, very close games. So it's a credit to that. We're very similar. Up front, the game will be decided up front on both sides of the football. So I think it's a good, old fashioned, let's go get them football game. It will be fun."

That Stanford can often get pressure with only their three down linemen complicates matters for opposing offenses.

"They get pressure with three," Canada said. They'll bring a guy at times. Their front is good. I know the one kid is not going to go now, but they're good. They're aggressive. Very, very good football team. Very good up front.

"They do a good job. They're well coached. They are. It's not clinic talk. They're gap sound. Each week, I think we can do this. Some weeks it works, some weeks it doesn't. There's always a chink.

"I'm sure they've watched us for a month; this is how they're going to attack us. I'm sure they're right. But they're well coached, smart football players. They do a lot and their kids don't make mistakes."

The general consensus, though, is that regardless of scheme, the game will mainly be decided up front on both sides of the ball. Wisconsin's dynamic running back duo -- Montee Ball and James White -- agree with that assessment.

"Well, our kind of philosophy and our thing is that our offensive linemen know that everything starts up front with them," Ball said. "They kind of understand that. So they bring the energy and level of focus to practice because they know without them that this team would really struggle.

"Based on film, you can see that Stanford takes a lot of pride and has a lot of pride in their D line, creating a lot of great plays. Like I said, we're hoping that we come out on top."

Added White: "It's going to be a physical football game, and like Montee said, it starts off with the offensive linemen," White said. "They have a great defensive line. We have a great offensive line. So it will be a physical game and a great battle between us too."


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