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Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Prediction

Alex Erickson

Alex Erickson

Paul Chryst and the 22nd-ranked Wisconsin Badgers host the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Saturday for what will be their final non-conference matchup before beginning their Big Ten season schedule in what hopes to end in an appearance in their fourth conference title game in five years.

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Quarterback Joel Stave has been remarkably impressive this season, throwing six touchdowns and zero interceptions when the Badgers are in enemy territory. Tailback Corey Clement has been far from the player many hyped him to be during the preseason, as he continues to battle injuries early this year. On Thursday it was announced that Clement would be having sports hernia surgery, which will sideline him for another month or so. 

Max Wittek, former USC quarterback, threw for a career-high 272 yards at home against UC-Davis before throwing up a goose egg against Ohio State last week, but recently said that he feels 'extremely comfortable' in head coach Norm Chow's offense. Wittek will certainly have his work cut out for him on Saturday, facing a Badgers defense that has allowed just 20 points in 12 total quarters this season. 

Hawaii at Wisconsin

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Big Ten Network 

Odds: Wisconsin -24.5, o/u 50.5

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Three Things To Watch For

1. Quarterback Joel Stave

As mentioned prior, Stave has been extremely efficient in the first three games of the season this year, and has exceeded early expectations as to how he would be able to lead this Badgers team down the stretch. Stave has been accurate and poised in his decision-making and it's shown, going 19-for-27 with 227 yards and six touchdowns in enemy territory this year, a mark no other quarterback in the conference can attest to. 

2. Badgers' offensive line

Having offensive line concerns with a new tailback was a big issue for Chryst to resolve as he embarked on his first season as the new head coach of the Badgers, and he's done a fantastic job of turning a makeshift offensive line into a strong point for Wisconsin. The Badgers offensive line has only given up four sacks so far this season, a credit to Chryst's ability to maintain consistency with an inexperienced group. Stave's heavy load as a passer should be lightened in the weeks moving forward as a potent running game is nearly a prerequisite for success in the Big Ten. 

3. Hawaii passing game 

Wittek's career-high 272 passing yards in their last home win against UC-Davis was impressive. Wittek connected with wide receiver Marcus Kemp five times for 119 yards and also with receiver Devan Stubblefield six times for 108 yards, both of whom scored touchdowns. While Hawaii's passing attack isn't a daunting one, it's their bread and butter, and one they hope to see put into early use with effectiveness against the Badgers.

Final Analysis

Wisconsin looks like the same team that's been to three of the last four Big Ten title games, and it doesn't look as though Hawaii is in any position to knock them off that path. While Wittek does have the ability to open games up with big-time throws, Wisconsin's defense has allowed just three points in their last two games, both at home. 

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Prediction: Wisconsin 44, Hawaii 13

— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for 247Sports.com and has written for other sites, including FanSided.com and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.