Run and Shoot: Badgers begin Big Ten title chase

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Badgers begin Big Ten title chase

MADISON, Wis. -- State Street is buzzing with red-wearing Badger backers, all with the same thought on their minds: can today be the first step in a 2007 BCS march? Of course, Washington State stands in the way, and Wisconsin has not faced many quality non-conference opponents in recent years.

The biggest storyline for this game is the new starting quarterback for the No. 7 ranked Badgers -- Tyler Donovan. Badger coach Bret Bielema announced he had won the job over Allan Evridge only a short time ago, and Donovan must manage the offense in the same fashion as his predecessors (notably 2006 starter John Stocco) have done if Wisconsin is to live up to lofty expectations.

The Badger secondary, which replaced both of its 2006bstarters at safety, will face a stiff challenge against Washington State quarterback Alex Brink. By season's end, Brink should own every significant Cougar passing record.

What to watch:

Next to Stocco, Wisconsin's biggest loss was left tackle Joe Thomas, who is now collecting millions as the backside protector for the Cleveland Browns quarterback. Gabe Carimi edged out Jake Bscherer in camp, so all eyes will be on the redshirt freshman from Cottage Grove, Wis.

Much has been written about the Badgers' outstanding backfield but longshot Heisman hopeful P.J. Hill needs to get off to a fast start today. Hill skipped spring ball due to an injury, but is 100% healthy now.

Washington State has one of the country's most underappreciated wide receiving corps, including the versatile Michael Bumpus. To counter, the Badgers will rely on their outstanding cornerbacks, Jack Ikegwuonu and Allen Langford.

The Badger front line will be without end Jamal Cooper, who was suspended from the team in August. The team needs to cement that spot opposite its other superb end Matthew Shaughnessy.

Game notes:

Wisconsin has won all but one home game at Camp Randall since the start of the 2004 season. Its last non-conference regular season loss came in 2003 at UNLV.

The Cougars are 0-5 all-time opening against top 10 ranked teams.

In the last, and only, meeting between these two programs, Wisconsin won 35-26 in Madison (1976).

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