Defensive coordinators Kirby Smart and Dave Aranda both will be focused on create turnovers and negative plays in Saturday’s meeting between No.3 Alabama and No.20 Wisconsin.
The center point of this contest lies in the trenches, but one intriguing matchup will be Alabama’s wide receivers against Wisconsin’s secondary. Who can create separation?
The Badgers return 11 upperclassmen in its secondary, while the Crimson Tide has a young but talent group of wideouts. Wisconsin gave up 2,352 passing yards and 15 touchdowns last season, Both statistics proved better than Alabama’s bunch in 2014, allowing 3,164 yards and 19 scores.
Badgers’ senior safety Michael Caputo is an impact player. He excels at run support, overall coverage and taking away angles. The senior led Wisconsin in tackles last season (106) and totaled six stops for loss with an interception. Coach Aranda will more than likely have Caputo on Alabama’s redshirt sophomore wide receiver ArDarius Stewart.
Junior cornerback Sojourn Shelton plays much bigger than his size at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds. Shelton has exceptional ball skills and is also a secure tackler in space. He recorded 33 stops in 2014, and will most likely be matchup on redshirt sophomore receiver Robert Foster.
Darius Hillary, a redshirt senior, could potentially face either Chris Black, Richard Mullaney or ArDarius Stewart. He’s a bigger corner than Shelton at 5-foot-11, 187 pounds. Hillary put in 41 tackles with three for loss last season. He loves to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Alabama no longer has Amari Cooper, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White, but the targets on this year’s roster have what it takes to defeat Wisconsin. Black and Mullaney will be in the slot for much of the game. Instincts and establishing a presence inside is critical for both guys.
Stewart and Foster are the vertical threats. Double moves, crisp route running and acceleration will be on their agendas. Other playmakers like Calvin Ridley, Daylon Charlot and Derek Kief will see some playing time, and true sophomore Cam Sims may “possibly” suit up too.
The goal for Alabama’s wide receivers is to work with the quarterback. Senior Jake Coker has the best odds of starting, though, Crimson Tide fans will see Alec Morris and Cooper Bateman.
Converting on third down will help Alabama impose its will. Junior tight end O.J. Howard can be a pivotal factor in third and manageable situations. A solid mismatch gives him a chance to find holes in the zone or take a slant pattern for a huge gain. Howard must be involved.
For Wisconsin, the plan is to frustrate Alabama’s receivers and in return, rattle its quarterback. The Badgers will look to be physical and attack the ball. Its defensive line has to provide a pass rush, or it could be a long night for the secondary. Saturday will unfold everything.