Coaches will constantly tell you that players are the ones that win and lose games for you, after all they are the ones making the plays on the field. No coach gives more deference to his players than Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst.
After all, he is the guy who answered “it was easy, I didn’t have to make a single play or play a single down” when asked what it felt like to win the Big Ten Coach of the Year award.
Given that attitude, Chryst has to unleash his players on Saturday in a way they may not have played all season. With a Big Ten championship to win and a potential College Football Playoff spot on the line, which players will be the difference makers?
Let’s take a look at UW’s biggest names to watch.
Bart Houston, QB
As the week has gone on, it seems more and more unlikely that freshman starter Alex Hornibrook is going to be cleared to play in the Big Ten championship game. He suffered a brutal concussion in the finale last week against Minnesota and hasn’t gotten out of concussion protocol as of this writing.
That means the reigns of this offense are completely in the hands of Bart Houston. Normally that is a massive disadvantage for a team going in to any title game, but this isn’t the case for Houston and the Badgers. He’s been the starter before, earning the nod in the first three games of the season. He’s also been a player put in to help spark the offense throughout most of the season as well.
Houston has his flaws, and Penn State has a defense that could exploit those flaws. However, the senior has seemingly learned from his mistakes this season and if his performance against Minnesota (9 of 14, 123 yards) can be replicated it should be plenty for the Badgers to be successful.
Don’t be surprised to see the passing game open up a bit at times and for Houston to top 200 yards on the night.
D’Cota Dixon, S
Chances are D’Cota Dixon isn’t the first, second or even third name on the list of UW defensive players that come to mind. However, he may be the biggest key to Wisconsin’s surprise secondary this year.
Arguably there was no bigger question mark than the Badgers secondary coming in to the season. All they’ve done is gone out and nabbed some 21 interceptions and become one of the better groups in the country. Dixon has grabbed four of those 21 interceptions for himself and that was good enough for fifth in the conference as a first-year starter.
It’s no coincidence that when big plays are being made in the Badgers secondary, Dixon is usually holding on to the football or around said football. With Penn State’s propensity for big plays in the passing game, Dixon needs to be on his game for UW to win.
Jazz Peavy, WR
Corey Clement and Troy Fumagalli are the biggest weapons in Wisconsin’s offense…or so the stats tell us. One thing we do know about the Big Ten title game is that an unknown player is likely to make a splash. My bet is to watch speedy wide receiver Jazz Peavy in this one.
Wisconsin likes to use his speed off the edge on the jet sweep, and it is a testament to his talent and speed that he’s able to turn those plays in to nice gains or huge plays despite everyone likely seeing the play coming ahead of time.
However, Peavy is more than just a gimmick player. He actually leads all Badgers players with 39 receptions for 582 yards and five touchdowns. Add in a cool 263 yards and a touchdown rushing and you have one of the more versatile and dangerous weapons for Wisconsin’s offense.
Can Penn State bottle him up and force Wisconsin to look elsewhere for big plays? That is going to be key to watch in Indy.