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Tenn. Tech faces daunting task at No. 21 Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (AP)

Watson Brown is a realist. The Tennessee Tech coach figures his team's trip this weekend to No. 21 Wisconsin may not go so well.

It doesn't mean the Golden Eagles aren't going to try to pull off another small-school stunner Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.

''They'll play their hearts out, give it their best shots,'' Brown said. ''This isn't a hard week for me because they look forward to these kinds of games.''

If anything, Tennessee Tech can gain confidence from the Week 1 scoreboard, when the FCS won eight games against FBS opponents, twice as many as the same weekend last season. The Golden Eagles have experience challenging the big boys, too, having played a major college opponent for 17 straight seasons.

But they've never won - 0-28 overall, including a 63-14 loss to Oregon last season.

Doesn't matter to the Badgers, who are saying all the right things.

''It doesn't matter if they're a smaller school or whatever. They've still got good players. They're going to come out here and play hard,'' senior receiver Jared Abbrederis said this week. ''You can get a lot of things from the film from these games.''

The schedule gets much tougher next week for Wisconsin with a trip to Arizona State. For now, here are five things to know ahead of this weekend's game:

STAYING SPECIAL: It's hard to nitpick with Wisconsin after a 45-0 win last week in the opener over Massachusetts. But coaches will always find things. This week, coach Gary Andersen seemed to put extra emphasis on special teams following a missed field goal and just adequate kickoff coverage. The little things will make a bigger difference against stiffer competition.

''Those things concern me. They concern me highly, and I'll never just look the other way and say, `Oh, well, we'll be OK next time,''' Andersen said.

GO-GO LADARIUS: The threat posed by Tennessee Tech returner Ladarius Vanlier may have been one reason why Andersen chose to concentrate on special teams. The tough, 5-foot-7 Vanlier might be one of the Golden Eagles' best options to break through after building on his impressive 2012 campaign with a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 44-yard kickoff return last week against Cumberland, an NAIA school.

SPREAD `EM OUT: Vanlier is also among the backs that Brown uses in the spread offense orchestrated by dual threat quarterback Darian Stone. Beating up on Cumberland 63-7 is one thing. Trying to score on the Badgers defense on the road will be much tougher, even against a unit that's getting used to Andersen's new 3-4 defensive scheme.

''It might be a little slower Saturday. I think that on our level, we want to try to wear people down, and we're not going to wear Wisconsin down,'' Brown said. ''We might play a different style than what we normally play but at the same time when the ball is snapped, we just want to execute.''

ON THE RUN: The Badgers figure to continue to work on the passing game and play action with quarterback Joel Stave and first-year offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. But that play action doesn't work without a running game, and Wisconsin excels in that area. Senior RB James White led the way in FBS last week with a 13.0 yards per carry average. He's the nation's leading active rusher among FBS running backs with 2,714 career yards.

BIG TEN BULLIES: Brown has never been to Madison, but he's familiar with Wisconsin's reputation even with its new coach.

''Just the physicality of the style they play and the players they do it with. This is Wisconsin football. New staff, but the same style of play,'' Brown said. ''They're going to knock you down. They're going to pound you and pound you with good players.''

The Badgers defense stifled UMass last week in the season-opening shutout. One injury note for Wisconsin: starting linebacker Derek Landisch hasn't practiced this week.

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Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

Tagged: Wisconsin, Tennessee

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