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BYU embraces role as big underdog against No. 6 Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. — For the third consecutive week, BYU is facing a Power 5 opponent.

The Cougars were an 11.5-point underdog at Arizona in the opener but earned a 28-23 victory. BYU was a three-point favorite against Cal at home last week but fell, 21-18.

This time, the Cougars are taking on No. 6 Wisconsin, a team that just might end up in the College Football Playoff.

BYU is a 22-point underdog Saturday (1:30 p.m., MDT, ABC) at Camp Randall Stadium. But the Cougars are embracing the underdog role.

“We’re always underdogs and that’s something we love. Coach (Kalani) Sitake really emphasizes that BYU’s hard, our schedule’s hard,” said linebacker Zayne Anderson. “We’re going against the No. 6 team this week. But we’re really excited about it. We’re ready to bounce back from this loss (against Cal) and show everyone what we’re about.”

“It’s fun. We don’t back down from anybody,” said safety Austin Lee. “We’re excited to play the No. 6 team in the country. It makes you happy because you get to compete against the best and see where you’re at. We know we have a physical team. We’re confident with our scheme and our coaches. We’re going to go out and execute.”

Some may say that a team that is a big underdog has nothing to lose. Quarterbacks coach Aaron Roderick doesn’t see it that way.

“For me, I think the margin is so slim between teams at this level. The margin between a ranked team and us isn’t that much. Just like teams you may think we’re better than, they’re not that far behind us, either,” he said. “Every week at this level, you have to be ready and you always have a chance.

"If we go in there and take care of our issues, we’ll be in that game and have a chance to win. We’ve got to take care of the ball and we’ve got to execute. We’ve got to worry about our stuff and improve from last week.”

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst doesn’t believe his heavily favored team is taking BYU lightly, even though the Badgers thumped the Cougars 40-6 in Provo, last September.

“No, I don’t think so at all. Shame on us if our players think that,” he said. “When you watch the film of (BYU’s) first two games, that grabs not only coaches’ but our players’ attention. We know we have to have a good week of preparation. We know it’s going to be a heckuva ballgame.”

BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum isn’t concerned about being a huge underdog.

“We don’t care. You just go play football,” he said. “We’ve all been underdogs before and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. We don’t worry about what the predictions are or what the experts are saying. That doesn’t faze us. We just have to control what we can control — that’s our effort, that’s our attitude, that’s the way we play.”

Wisconsin limited the Cougars to a pair of field goals last season. That’s not unusual for the Badgers. In four seasons under Chryst, Wisconsin has held opponents without an offensive touchdown in 13 of 43 games (30.2 percent). It happened in the Badgers’ 34-3 season-opening victory over Western Kentucky.

BYU managed only one offensive touchdown in its 21-18 loss to Cal last Saturday.

Just scoring an offensive touchdown against Wisconsin might be a victory of sorts.

The Cougars struggled finishing drives against the Golden Bears and had two interceptions.

“The issue is, now we have to correct those things against an opponent that’s very, very good,” Roderick said. “It’s possible that we could play better this week than we did the first two weeks and maybe still not win. But we could also go there and win. We don’t have to play perfect to win this game. We’ve got to play smart and disciplined and take care of the ball and we’ll be in the game and have a shot to win.”

BYU looks at Saturday’s game against Wisconsin as a chance to play in an iconic venue. As an independent, the Cougars get to visit stadiums like Camp Randall.

It’s also an opportunity to pull an upset and surprise the college football world.

“They’ve got a really big fan base, a big stadium. It’s a pretty historic place. It will be fun to play there. I’m excited,” Anderson said. “I love traveling to these places. I feel like BYU loves traveling. All of our fans go. I feel like every away game is a home game for us. I don’t think it makes too big of a difference playing somewhere else. We’re going out there to play and hopefully shock these guys.”

Cougars on the air

  • BYU (1-1) at No. 6 Wisconsin (2-0)
  • Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT Camp Randall Stadium
  • TV: ABC
  • Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM