The No. 14 University of Wisconsin football team (2-0) followed up their impressive season opener with an arguably more impressive performance at home Saturday, a 61–0 victory against Central Michigan (1-1).
It’s hard to come back with a better performance after opening the season with a 49–0 victory, but head coach Paul Chryst’s team did just that, checking all the boxes in the process.
Chryst’s team now sits at No. 14 in the latest Associated Press Poll, good for fourth in the Big Ten and only one spot behind No. 13 Penn State.
How impressive have their first two performances been? The Badgers’ scoring differential of +110 is their best differential through two weeks since 1915. That’s right. 1915.
Here are four big takeaways from Saturday as Chryst enters the bye week with a showdown with No. 10 Michigan only two weeks away.
First, quarterback Jack Coan’s deep ball is there, and he looks like a complete QB.
Coan raised questions after missing wide receiver Quintez Cephus on two wide-open deep balls in week one. Saturday, those questions were answered.
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Coan looked great again Saturday on short and intermediate throws. This time, however, Coan aired it out deep with success and found Cephus on two big-time touchdowns.
The first was a 37-yard strike where Cephus broke free from a Central Michigan defender and Coan put the ball on the money. The second was a 46-yard bomb down the right sideline where Cephus beat his man off the ball and Coan put it beautifully over his right shoulder for another touchdown.
Coan’s final stat line, one that only extended halfway into the third quarter, reads 26/33 with 363 yards and three touchdowns. His QB rating of 89 was good enough for seventh nationally among QBs, ahead of an extremely notable name: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
His consistency on throws down the field Saturday is shown by wide receivers Cephus, Jake Ferguson, Kendric Pryor and Aron Cruickshank all averaging over 16 yards per catch.
The second takeaway this week stands hand-in-hand with the first. Coan’s wide receiver unit core is the most talented UW has had in a long time.
UW hasn’t had legitimate NFL talent on the outside since 2011, with Jared Abbrederis, Nick Toon and James White. This year — unlike in 2011 when Russell Wilson was running the show — Chryst has the NFL talent with A.J. Taylor and Cephus, but he also has more-than-capable receivers Pryor and Danny Davis to round out the group.
All in all, Coan has the offensive weapons to continue to dominate this season, especially against the gauntlet of Michigan, Michigan State and The Ohio State University.
The third takeaway from Saturday is that the defense continues to triumph over opposing offenses.
Everyone can see the zeroes on the board for opposing teams thus far. But how dominant has this defense really been?
An important statistic in evaluating defensive efficiency is yards-per-play of the opposing offenses. After two games this season, Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard’s unit is allowing just 2.13 YPP, the best average in the nation. Diving deeper, their rush defense ranks third in the nation with only 0.93 YPP allowed thus far, and their pass defense is the best in the nation with 3.1 YPP allowed.
In total, Leonhard’s defense is dominating the teams it should dominate, a welcome sight after the 24–21 loss to Brigham Young University early last season. Their first true test will come Sept. 21 when Michigan comes to Madison.
The final takeaway from Saturday’s contest is that the team in total looks as dominant as can be, and much of their Big Ten competition has looked beatable thus far.
In addition to having their best scoring differential through two weeks since 1915, Chryst’s team boasts the best overall efficiency in the nation — a statistic that combines offensive, defensive and special teams performance into one number from one to 100 — with a score of 98.7. Specifically, his defense ranks No. 1 nationally in efficiency and his offense stands at No. 9.
Still not convinced? ESPN’s Football Power Index is yet another piece of evidence to display UW’s dominance. They have Wisconsin ranked No. 10 in the nation, ahead of Michigan and Michigan State. They also give the Badgers a 2.4% chance to win out and have their projected end-of-season win total at 9.9.
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The final positive notes from Saturday are that it took two overtimes for Michigan to sneak by Army, Northwestern sits at 0-1, Nebraska lost in overtime to Colorado and it took Minnesota two overtimes to get by Fresno State.
This means UW is probably the best team in the Big Ten West to this point, and maybe even the best in the Big Ten overall with the exception of The Ohio State University.
The only area of the game the Badgers need to improve after their first two weeks is Collin Larsh’s performance in the kicking game.
Larsh is 15/15 on extra-point attempts but he has only connected on one field goal in three attempts, a number that will be crucial as the season progresses and games get tougher.
The Badgers are off this week and will continue their season Sept. 21 at home against rival Michigan in a battle of two powerhouses.