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Playin’ Nice: Bucky’s Fifth Quarter

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We talk the Wisconsin matchup with Jake Kocorowski of B5Q!

B5Q
1. Where do the major competitions sit for Wisconsin at the moment namely quarterback?

Funny you should ask about quarterback, as Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst named Bart Houston the starter against LSU at Lambeau Field on Thursday. Redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook impressed in the team's first scrimmage last Monday, but the redshirt senior rebounded the final week-plus to win the job. He's got a strong arm and has game experience (15 games), including a solid performance against Illinois last October in relief of Joel Stave.

With the sudden retirement of Dan Voltz on Tuesday, left guard has becoming a late, intriguing battle. Redshirt sophomore Micah Kapoi had to step up at both guard positions last year with an offensive line that started seven combinations in 13 games. Jon Dietzen, a redshirt freshman, is a former four-star recruit that could be something special (and has possibly the sweetest mullet of all time. Expect those two to compete for that spot, especially since Dietzen sat out a few practices due to a head injury.

On defense, the only true battle's been at safety, but even the favorites heading into camp appear to have solidified those spots. Wisconsin's working to replace Michael Caputo and Tanner McEvoy at strong and free safety, respectively, and it appears D'Cota Dixon and Leo Musso will be the starters. Sophomore Arrington Farrar could see substantial playing time and has worked with the first-team defense as well.

Oh yeah, there was a punting competition. Very #B1G, but a true freshman, Anthony Lotti, has reportedly locked that up.

2. Do you expect a healthy crowd in Green Bay, or could there be more of a split with LSU fans?

From what local media's said here, it sounds like quite a few LSU fans will be up in Green Bay (at least for tailgating). To be honest, I'm excited to see the split. I think there will be many Wisconsin fans in attendance, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a large contingency of purple and yellow swarming Lambeau Field.

3. Will T.J. Edwards be clear to play and if not, will that be a major setback for the Badger front seven?

He's still a question mark after a broken foot forced him out, but he was out of his boot earlier this week. He does need time to knock off the rust. Now with practices closed to the media, the only way we'll know if he starts practicing is when we'll ask him during his Monday afternoon press conference.

If he can't go, it will hurt to an extent. Anytime a team loses a talented player and leading tackler from 2015 for some period of time, it depletes the depth and potential of your defense. Luckily for Wisconsin, they have a plethora of riches at inside linebacker. Sophomore Chris Orr and redshirt junior Jack Cichy both started last year due to injuries (Cichy, in fact, actually transitioned inside after Orr's leg injury last season). Orr's an NFL legacy whose brother and dad made it professionally, and Cichy was named the Holiday Bowl's defensive player of the game after registering three consecutive sacks against USC last December.

4. With Dave Aranda and Paul Chryst knowing each other fairly well, do you foresee either side having something of an advantage on the other?

I think LSU's defense would have an advantage just based on the pure talent the Tigers have on that side of the ball. In terms of the gridiron chess match between arguably the greatest coordinators Wisconsin's seen in its history, it could be fairly even. Aranda's that "mad scientist" who will find ways to attack offenses and put them on the defensive, but Chryst won't lie down either.

What makes the battle interesting is that it's the season opener. There's no film on either team with their current projected starters heading into this game except last year's, but Aranda does know Wisconsin's current personnel. It will be intriguing to see what Chryst does to offset that knowledge.

5. What's the general feel on the Badger side for this game? This kicks off what sets up as a brutal schedule for Wisconsin this season.

The players are confident, as all players should be, but there's a healthy respect from both players and fans for LSU. They know they're facing the No. 5 team in the nation, but they also know it's a game to make a statement. There's a feeling the Tigers will win, but there's some quiet optimism the game could be close based off of a solid returning front seven for the Badgers' defense, along with a healthy Corey Clement.

If the Badgers could force some turnovers, something new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox has been known for at other programs, it could swing the momentum in UW's favor. Depending on what happens with Wisconsin's offense, turnovers could be their undoing as well.