USC football finishes the 2015 season off with a match up against a Wisconsin offense still searching for answers.
The Badgers only average 27.1 points per game, more than a touchdown less than last year’s average. That’s surprisingly low considering head coach Paul Chryst’s success at Wisconsin as the offensive coordinator from 2005 through 2011 before he left to become the head coach at Pitt.
Here’s a closer look at what USC can expect from the Wisconsin offense in the Holiday Bowl:
Record-Setting Walk On
Former walk-on quarterback Joel Stave may be best known nationally for his battle with the “yips” which caused him to miss a game last season. However, in Wisconsin he’s better known for his place in the Badger record books.
Stave is on the cusp of setting a new Wisconsin career win record. His 30 victories as a starter are tied with Brooks Bollinger, but a win over USC in his final game would give him sole ownership of the record.
Unlike many past Wisconsin quarterbacks, Stave and the passing game have featured quite heavily for the Badgers. His average of 32.5 passing attempts per game is the highest average in Wisconsin history and his 343 attempts total are a school record.
Nov 21, 2015; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Dare Ogunbowale (23) during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at Camp Randall Stadium. Northwestern won 13-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Of course that might not be a good thing for the Wisconsin offense. After throwing eight touchdowns in the Badgers first six games, Stave has thrown just two in the last six. In that time he has thrown seven interceptions.
Backs and Receivers
This season will mark just the third time since 1990 that Wisconsin’s leading receiver will outgain their leading rusher.
On the one hand, Alex Erickson has had the eighth best receiving season in Badger history with 924 yards on 72 receptions and is looking to become just the fourth player in school history to log a 1,000-yard receiving season. On the other hand, the Wisconsin rushing attack which led the Big Ten and was fourth in the nation last year with Melvin Gordon leading the way has tumbled to tenth in the conference and 96th nationally.
Instead of Corey Clement taking over as the next dominant Wisconsin running back, he dealt with a sports hernia for much of the fall and was suspended for the final game of the regular season for his role in a fight at his apartment.
In place of Clement, former cornerback Dare Ogunbowale has led the running attack with 769 yards and seven touchdowns while redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal pitched in 495 yards and six touchdowns.
This will be just the third time in 23 years that Wisconsin won’t have a 1,000 yard rusher.
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- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
Some of the struggles in the rushing game can be traced back to turbulence on the offensive line. Whereas in 2014 the Badgers were able to start a consistent starting five, they have used seven different starting combinations through 12 games this year.
Against Minnesota to end the regular season, Wisconsin fielded an offensive line which consisted of four redshirt freshmen. That is the line up the Trojans should expect to face in San Diego.
The lone constant there is left tackle Tyler Marz, who has started all 12 games this season and 39 straight going back to 2013.
Though the Badgers have only given up 24 sacks this season, 11 of that total came in their three losses.
What the stats say
[table id=80 /]
Projected starting lineups: USC football vs. Wisconsin
Wisconsin Offense[table id=83 /]
USC Defense[table id=82 /]