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Minnesota Football: Crossing The Border - Q&A with Bucky’s 5th Quarter

Bucky’s 5th Quarter gives us a scouting report on Wisconsin

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Nebraska at Wisconsin Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we decided to break bread with our friends acquaintances over at Bucky’s 5th Quarter. Drew Hamm was kind enough to field our thoughtful and challenging questions ahead of the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ showdown with the Wisconsin Badgers.

Please clap for Drew.

The Daily Gopher: I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll get right down to business: Do you or do you not have Graham Mertz’s logo tattooed across your belly?

Drew Hamm: Despite being a bartender for over a decade, I actually don’t have a single tattoo on my body. However, were you to drive by my house in suburban Minneapolis you would see Mertz’s logo mowed into my front yard. Please say hi if you’re ever in the neighborhood!

TDG: Twice this season you’ve admitted to being wrong about Mertz. Back in September, you said Mertz was bad. But now you’re saying Mertz is good. Well which is it, and how am I supposed to trust anything you say after all this flip-flopping?

DH: Graham Mertz is... fine. He has gotten better since being bad earlier (WHICH WASN’T ALL HIS FAULT!) and now he’s OK. I am an excellent quarterback talent evaluator, I wanted my Philadelphia Eagles to draft Akili Smith over Donovan McNabb after all, so I think you should just listen to my most recent opinion because that will always be the most correct.

TDG: Okay, enough about Graham Mertz. Freshman running back Braelon Allen is red hot, operating behind a Wisconsin offensive line that seems to have overcome early season struggles. What has made the Badgers’ ground game so effective down the stretch?

DH: So there are multiple reasons why the Wisconsin offensive line struggled to start the season. Firstly, a couple of starters were injured during fall camp and didn’t get enough time to develop cohesion as a group, which is why over the first few games of the season you would sometimes see hockey-style line changes with the o-line in the name of “we have a lot of guys who earned playing time.” You may notice that the Badgers lost a number of those early season games and, while they were against higher-rated competition, the fact that the offensive line was a bit of a jumbled mess was a key reason why those games were losses.

Since UW settled on an actual starting five for the o-line, things have been much better! There is still occasional shuffling due to injuries or OWI suspensions, you know... normal, shitty Wisconsin resident stuff, but it is mostly the same group out there. Allen himself has also gotten better as the season has gone on. You’ll no doubt hear during the game that Allen is only 17 years old, so he still has a lot of room to grow in his knowledge of the playbook and game itself. With former starter Chez Mellusi out for the season, Allen is now the bell cow back and he has taken to it like a rich d-bag to Lake Minnetonka in the summer.

A big running back behind a big offensive line has been a Wisconsin success story for decades and this is just one more iteration of Barry Alvarez’s dream.

TDG: The Badgers’ defense ranks in the Top 10 nationally in rushing defense, passing yards allowed, total defense, passing efficiency, scoring defense, red zone defense, first down defense, and third down defense. But they don’t rank in the Top 10 in fourth down defense. Is it safe to assume this failure will lead to the ouster of defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard? Do us all a favor, Paul Chryst.

DH: The message boards have been ablaze with fans calling for Leonhard’s head due to his unit’s repeated failures on fourth down. Even on threads that don’t directly relate to it, someone brings it up and then the whole thing devolves into hooting and hollering. It’s an embarrassment on an otherwise excellent defense and I, for one, am ready for the offseason defensive coordinator search that is sure to come after Chryst finally cuts ties with Low Energy Jim Leonhard.

TDG: So if I was looking for vulnerabilities in this Wisconsin defense, where would I need to look? Please tell me there are vulnerabilities.

DH: Yeah... there aren’t really any. The only one that is readily apparent is that this defense struggles sometimes with mobile quarterbacks like Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez. Look it up, Martinez regularly has put up NUMBERS against the Badgers’ defense. Nebraska has never won any of those games, of course, but Martinez’s personal stats are usually gaudy against UW. Tanner Morgan does not bring the same skill set to the table as Martinez and Minnesota’s proclivity for running the dang ball actually plays to Wisconsin’s strength of stopping the dang run.

Early in the season, Wisconsin gave up some bigger pass plays over the top and the Gophers would be wise to try a deep ball or two to Chris Autman-Bell early and see if the Badgers’ secondary is paying attention, but UW’s secondary has mostly plugged that hole. This will most likely be a low scoring affair as both teams’ defenses are better than the opposing offenses.

TDG: Give me your game prediction, and don’t feel obligated to pick Wisconsin. This is a safe space.

DH: I think Wisconsin will win. I think it’ll be pretty close, with maybe a late touchdown by UW to make the final look worse than it was. I’m never good with actual score predictions, but let’s say something like 31-17?