Wisconsin looks to trip up No. 5 LSU and Leonard Fournette
MADISON, WIS. >> The Heisman Trophy campaign for LSU's Leonard Fournette begins Saturday at Lambeau Field.
It could also be the start of yet another make-or-break year for coach Les Miles, with the fifth-ranked Tigers holding national title hopes.
Wisconsin is poised to play spoiler in the marquee season opener at the home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers.
"One of the things you always find in your first game is an accurate indicator of who you are at that point, and where you have to go," Badgers coach Paul Chryst said.
A victory over LSU could give Wisconsin a huge confidence boost to start a season with a brutal schedule. The Tigers are just an appetizer with Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State still awaiting the Badgers — and that's just within the first six games of the year.
To have a shot at beating LSU, Wisconsin must slow down Fournette , the 6-foot-1, 235-pound bruiser who ran for 22 touchdowns and a single-season school record 1,953 yards last season.
"We've got to swarm. We've got to be relentless," Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy said. "Just play fast and play relentless."
It sounds like what LSU faces nearly every week in the SEC.
But with so much at stake this fall, Miles likes the intensity in his players.
"I think this team wants more," said Miles, entering his 12th season as head coach. "I think this team is a little bit more focused than other clubs that I've had."
Some other things to watch and notes for Saturday's game:
The flooding this summer in Baton Rouge provided perspective for the Tigers. Many players are from Louisiana and some have relatives or friends who were displaced by flood waters. Miles also has experience coaching in the wake of natural disasters. His first season at LSU was 2005, when the double blow of hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated communities along the Gulf Coast.
"With everything that's going on right now in Louisiana, and what we went through, LSU football, I think, and what the team thinks, will help the community out, no matter what they're going through, just to bring their hopes up high," Fournette said.
The Wisconsin football equipment truck was also bringing donations of backpacks, school supplies and bottled sports drinks to Green Bay to give to to LSU equipment staffers at Lambeau. LSU would then take the donations back to Louisiana.
The Tigers have unique insight on Wisconsin . LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda held the same position the previous three seasons in Madison, where the Badgers had one of the top units in the nation. Aranda's linebacker-led defenses were known for flexibility and unique blitz packages.
"We have a good scouting report on these guys. We know who the strong points in the defense are," LSU guard Will Clapp said.
BIEGEL AND THE 'BACKERS
Senior Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel is known for his wild hairstyles as much as his pass-rushing prowess. Once again, linebacker is the strength of the Wisconsin defense, including Jack Cichy, who had sacks on three straight plays in the Holiday Bowl against Southern California. He'll start inside with Chris Orr in the 3-4 defense, with T.J. Watt — NFL star J.J. Watt's brother — bookending Biegel on the outside.
Brandon Harris is looking to back up his comments about being a more mature and developed quarterback as he goes into his junior season and second season as full-time starter. Harris has said that he's expanded his arsenal of throws, and has worked to get better at making short, quick passes to play-making running backs or receivers who have the potential to make short throws into long gains, rather than trying to force intermediate and longer throws.
Senior Bart Houston is making his first career start at the home of his namesake, former Packers QB and Hall of Famer Bart Starr. Houston won a training camp competition with redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. He has the benefit of having worked already for a full season with the offensive-minded Chryst, entering his second year as head coach. But as debuts go, it doesn't get much tougher than facing an LSU defense led by Aranda.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana contributed to this story.