The New Mexico Lobos face their toughest test against the Wisconsin Badgers. Here’s how to watch, and how the Lobos can pull an upset. TEAMS: New Mexico Lobos (1-0) at Wisconsin Badgers (1-0).
WHERE: Camp Randall Stadium.
TIME: 11 a.m. Saturday.
TV: BTN with Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play), Glen Mason (analysis) and Elise Menaker (sideline).
RADIO: AM-920 in Milwaukee and a state network with Matt Lepay (play-by-play) and Mike Lucas (analysis).
LINE: Wisconsin by 35.
SERIES: First meeting.
COACHES: Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst (35-7, third season; 54-26 overall); vs. New Mexico’s Bob Davie (31-45, seventh season; 66-70, 12th season overall).
LIVE GAME BLOG: Follow JR Radcliffe and Jeff Potrykus’ live coverage for updates, analysis and Q&A throughout the game
SCOUTING REPORT: New Mexico at a glance
STATS, ROSTERS: Wisconsin | New Mexico
LIVE SCOREBOARD: NCAA football schedule, box scores
FOUR THINGS TO WATCH
WELCOME BACK TO THE HUDDLE: Senior tight end Zander Neuville and redshirt sophomore defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk are expected to make their 2018 debuts on Saturday.
Neuville has been out since suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in the 2017 regular-season finale at Minnesota. Loudermilk closed spring ball on the No. 1 line but underwent May surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Although both players report they feel fit, expect the staff to avoid pushing them too hard in their first game back. UW has one more nonconference game before opening Big Ten play Sept. 22 at Iowa and it is critical both players are ready for full-time duty in that game.
SAFETY STILL THIN: UW’s top three safeties are set – senior D’Cota Dixon, redshirt freshman Scott Nelson and redshirt sophomore Eric Burrell. Yet with redshirt sophomore Patrick Johnson leaving the team and freshman Reggie Pearson out again because of a leg injury the rest of the picture is blurry.
Johnson closed camp as the third safety but missed the opener after suffering a concussion. He opted to leave for personal reasons after being cleared to play. The staff hoped Pearson, who enrolled at UW in January, would be able to play this week.
SMOOTH OVER THE ROUGH EDGES: As is the case in most openers, the play of the offensive line wasn’t as clean as the starters wanted. That wasn’t surprising because UW had Jon Dietzen and Cole Van Lanen split time at left tackle and because Dietzen, right guard Beau Benzshcawel and right tackle David Edwards missed time late in camp while nursing minor injuries. Expect fewer pre-snap penalties and better overall blocking this week.
ONE-MAN SHOW? No one would be bold enough to label New Mexico, looking to rebound from a 3-9 record last season, a formidable foe for a top-10 team. Yet redshirt sophomore quarterback Tevaka Tuioti appears good enough to test UW’s young defense.
The 6-foot-1, 199-pounder can pass from the pocket or on the move and is a threat to run. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 54 yards and a touchdown in the Lobos’ 62-30 victory over Incarnate Word last week.
“They’ve put a lot on him, run and pass game,” UW defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said. “Obviously, he threw the ball well this last game and they had a lot of big plays. When you watch how they use him in the run game, he is a big-time factor there. We’ve got to do a great job keying on that position.”
UW has played 14 home nonconference games since the 2013 season. During that run, half of UW’s foes have failed to score an offensive touchdown. UW has allowed an average of 7.4 points per game, with four shutouts, during that run.
DID YOU KNOW?
Western Kentucky managed just one field goal on a total of four trips into the red zone against UW in the teams’ opener. Dating to the start of the 2017 season, UW’s defense has allowed only 11 touchdowns on opponents’ 39 trips into the red zone, of 28.2%.
JEFF POTRYKUS’ PREDICTION
UW’s offense sputtered early in the opener, which was to be expected with tight end Zander Neuville out because of injury and wide receivers Quintez Cephus and Danny Davis suspended. Neuville should be back this week; the line should be more cohesive; and the Badgers are facing a defense that allowed big plays in the opener. UW will roll, 45-7.