Questions from the Other Side: Wisconsin football beat writer Andrew Tucker

Jack White

For this weekly column, the Minnesota Daily will interview someone knowledgeable about Minnesota’s next opponent. Andrew Tucker, the football features writer for one of Wisconsin’s student newspapers the Daily Cardinal, was interviewed this week.

Tucker is currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been covering the football team for two years.

What has gone well for the team during its five-game winning streak?

It’s gotta be their defense. If you look at those five games, they’ve [allowed] single-digit points to [scoring] three [against] those teams. Against Nebraska they only allow 17 and they were, at the time, in the top 10. Purdue they slipped up a little bit, and allowed 20. They scored 50 or 49 so it didn’t really matter, so I’d say the defense.

Alex Hornibrook looks like he has most of the passing yards for the Badgers, but what are some benefits of the two-quarterback system?

I think the biggest advantage of it is that teams don’t really know what to expect. They know that both are gonna play, they don’t know exactly when. There’s not a ton of tape on either of them because they’re splitting time so much. That unpredictability factor is hard to switch because one’s a left hander, the other is a right hander. Hornibrook is a left-handed, Houston is right-handed so the ball spins a little bit differently, making it harder for receivers to try and get used to the spin of the ball when the quarterback changes like that, so there’s positives and negatives to it.

What does Hornibrook bring to the table in terms of a skill set?

He’s a very cerebral quarterback. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, Houston’s got a bit better arm, but Hornibrook can really read the defense, which is kind of surprising cause he’s only a redshirt freshman when Houston is a senior [in school]. He can really read the field, manage the game a bit better than Houston and that’s definitely his strength.

What can people expect from Wisconsin’s run game on Saturday?

They’ve got two seniors that get a lot of the carries. [Corey Clement] and Dare Ogunbowale. Clement gets most of the national attention, well-deserved, he’s a good back, but Ogunbowale is really a big team leader. A lot of the guys really rally behind him. When he has a good run, it can really energize this offense. I would watch out for Bradford Shaw, who is a redshirt freshman. He’s been getting a lot of carries the last few games. He’s had a pretty good week the last few weeks, so he’s certainly trending upwards. Last year with Minnesota and Wisconsin, that was probably their best running game of the season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that sort of thing happens again this year with that kind of three-headed monster [they’ve] got.

What do you think Wisconsin’s chances are of making the College Football Playoff?

It’s really tough right now to gauge, because we don’t who they are gonna be playing and everything. I told some of our writers when we were doing a podcast earlier this week, I said “They probably have a 45 percent chance, because you know if they get to face Penn State in the Big Ten Championship game, I think that they have a much better chance of winning and making it, but if they have to play Ohio State again, I don’t think they have a great chance.’ So it’s kind of a coin flip about who they face and there’s still a chance that they do lose to Penn State, but it’s just under a coin flip at 45 percent.

If they hypothetically made the playoff, what are the odds that they win the National Championship?

It’s tough. I think that if they end up with a four seed and face Alabama, they’ll get blown out of the water. Alabama is just the most talented team in the country right now, playing the best football so [if] Wisconsin is playing Alabama, I don’t like their chances at all of winning, but if they play any of the other teams in the playoff, you know they get that two or three, I think that they have a shot, it’s not a very good chance, I give them, you know, a 30 percent chance in the game and they can compete with their defense, so if their offense has a good day to pair with that defense, they’ll probably win. Wisconsin is a good team, but their offense is a little too inconsistent.

What is the identity of Wisconsin’s defense?

It’s definitely centered around the linebackers. I mean it’s the linebacker they’ve got. Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt, who are certainly the centers of attention. Middle linebackers like T.J. Edwards are certainly very strong players as well, but he doesn’t get quite the recognition that the other two guys on the outside do, and then you’ve got guys that rotate in like [Garrett Dooley] and a few other guys that are not as good, not as flashy but they’re pretty solid.

What is Wisconsin’s strongest position group?

It’s probably got to be the running backs, I’d say. Just because they have so much depth through there, they’ve got the top-three guys we already talked about but they also got guys like Taiwan Deal, who comes in every now and then. They run some fullback runs with [Alec Ingold] and [Austin Ramesh], it’s just kind of the backfield for Wisconsin. It’s just the tailbacks in general.

How do you think Wisconsin can improve?

The offensive line definitely leaves a bit to be desired. They’re pretty good at blocking for the run but I know that [its] quarterbacks have been some of the most pressured quarterbacks in the Big Ten. If you look at the sacks of the sacks and the QB hurries, it’s much higher than a lot of the other teams in the Big Ten and in the country. The offensive line admits it, that’s something that they need to work on if this team wants to go places, so the inconsistent quarterback play, the offensive line can kind of struggle.

How do you think Wisconsin and Minnesota stack up against each other?

I personally think that this game is going to be a bit closer than other people I’ve talked to on our staff or on campus. I think that Minnesota knows what’s at stake and they know that they really should try to spoil the season. [The Gophers] had a chance, up until last week, of still making the Big Ten championship game so they’re certainly not that bad of a team despite what their record may make it seem. I actually respect this team quite a bit, I still would favor Wisconsin, but I don’t think it’s gonna be a blowout like what some people do.

Speed Round Questions

Wisconsin’s standout offensive player?

Jazz Peavy.

Wisconsin’s standout defensive player?

Leo Musso.

Hornibrook as a QB on a scale from 1-10? 

Six.

Do the Badgers run for more than 150 yards Saturday against Minnesota? 

Yes.

Big Ten Player of the Year?

Jabrill Peppers.

Big Ten Champion? 

Michigan.

Heisman winner? 

Baker Mayfield.

National Champion? 

Alabama.

What bowl game does Wisconsin goes to? 

Rose Bowl.

Score prediction for Minnesota-Wisconsin? 

31-24 Wisconsin