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Badgers Opposition Research: Kent State preseason edition

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As the weeks slowly turn to days before the Wisconsin Badgers take to the field for the first time in the 2019 college football season, we’re here to bring you a look inside all opponents for the year.

Yes, our famed weekly Opposition Research feature gets a preseason edition this year. Today, we’ll look at the final non-conference opponent of the year, the Kent State Golden Flashes.

Previous Research: USF | Central Michigan | Michigan |Northwestern |

It’ll be a rare break from Big Ten play to take on a non-conference opponent, but will it be a welcome break? Let’s take a look at the Golden Flashes heading in to 2019.

Biggest Offseason Question: Is a Winning Culture Being Built?

How does one make a perennial loser in to a winner? That’s the challenge that now second-year head coach Sean Lewis faces with the Golden Flashes.

Year one saw Lewis match the 2-10 mark of his predecessor, but were there indications of a program that could become at least competitive? It’s not like competitive football has been a thing for this program.

In fact, they have only been ranked in part of two of the 57 seasons they have been a D1 program. That’s a losing culture if I’ve ever seen one and turning that historical malaise around won’t be easy.

Lewis spent most of last season trying to install an offense that will play with some tempo. There were a lot of screens (that mainly went nowhere) and there was a quarterback that was a bigger running than throwing threat at times.

Despite the 2-10 record and the anemic looking offense at times, this team did show a few signs of life offensively. The offense improved by 11 points a game and scored 23 points or more in seven games. Not too bad from a group that couldn’t do that in two seasons combined prior to Lewis’ arrival on campus.

But, the biggest reason for optimism has been the coaching staff’s ability to recruit. This incoming class features 15 three-star recruits and was the fourth-highest rated class in the MAC according to 247Sports.

That’s a good way to build a better program, but how quickly can those players and the class he was able to scratch together in his first go-round become contributors to this team will be very interesting to see come the time UW and Kent State get together in early October.

Biggest Strength: Defense

Don’t let last season’s numbers fool you, Kent State’s strength lies in their defense. Yes, the Golden Flashes ranked 121st in Defensive S&P+ — the first time in the 100’s in over a decade.

But, that had a lot more to do with an offense that was high tempo and no first downs than anything else. This group bent a lot, but didn’t break often and only gave up 4.5 points per red zone possession by the opposition. That was good enough to rank 57th in the FBS.

There is depth at linebacker (4 of 5 contributors back), cornerback (2 of the top 3) and safety (3 of the top 4) for a group that should be able to rebound on the numbers front if it can get some help from the offense this year.

Safety Keith Sherald Jr. and linebacker Matt Bahr are the names to watch out of this group. Sherald was all over the place, making 5.5 tackles for loss, breaking up 6 passes and forcing two fumbles last season. Bahr had 7.5 tfl’s and 3 passes defensed in 2018.

Biggest Weakness: Passing Game

Tempo, tempo, tempo is what Kent State’s offense is all about. One way to create that tempo is through a nice passing attack that catches opponents off balance.

In 2018, that’s not exactly what happened though. Instead, screen passes were the norm and most of them didn’t do anything. Kent State averaged just 9.8 yards per completion and new quarterback Woody Barrett

It also didn’t help that seven different players started at least five games and only two made it the whole season. That didn’t help an offense that ranked 112th in the country in sack rate.

Barrett did complete 59 percent of his passes last season, so that is a nice building block if you look at a first-year coach and quarterback combination. The negative is that there doesn’t seem to be anything pointing to an ability to stretch the field in the pass game and that is going to be needed to avoid the problem the Badgers are all too familiar with — 8-man boxes.

If Barrett and the offense can find a vertical game, this could be an interesting offense…but that is a big if for a team in need of more than just promise and hope in year two of the Lewis era.

Reason to be Scared:

Honestly, I can’t come up with a reason to be scared other than the Badgers becoming their own worst enemy against one of the worst teams in college football.

Yes, the Golden Flashes are likely to be better than the 2-10 season they put together last season, especially given their offensive prowess last year, but they simply don’t have enough overall talent to get the job done.

Wisconsin has to avoid looking ahead to big matchups in the Big Ten or maybe Kent State finds a way to make this one close. I just don’t see a path to victory for the visitors if I’m being honest.

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Cephus says he wants to return to Badgers football

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Earlier on Monday we got word from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the status of Quintez Cephus, the student. He was to have his expulsion reversed after the evidence from his acquittal was brought forth to the university.

The only question left was if he would want to return to the university and the Wisconsin Badgers football team.

During a press conference on Monday afternoon, the speculation was put to an end. Quintez Cephus wants to return to the university and the football team.

During his press conference, Cephus mentioned how he wanted to stay at Wisconsin largely because of the support he got from his teammates and the entire staff of the UW football program.

He also mentioned that he had yet to speak with head coach Paul Chryst face-to-face after this decision was announced, but he would be doing so later in the day on Monday.

Many will also wonder if he’s ready physically and mentally to get back on the football field this season. Well, Cephus has been working out in Arizona for three months straight in anticipation of coming back on the field.

Judging by the video he’s put out, he’s certainly in some good physical condition.

Of course, only time will tell how quickly any and all of this will happen for Cephus and the Badgers. But, Cephus is very clearly focused on not wasting this opportunity and doing things at a very high level.

There are likely a few NCAA hurdles to officially jump through, but I’m also guessing the paperwork was just waiting to be put in motion once the university reinstated him and he gave the go-ahead.

Either way, he will be a welcome sight for an already strong group of wide receivers.

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UW reinstates Quintez Cephus

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A week after Quintez Cephus, his teammates and his attorneys went in front of the cameras to implore the University of Wisconsin-Madison to allow Cephus back in to school, we now have word on his status.

On Monday morning, it was revealed that Cephus was reinstated to the university. UW sent out the following tweet regarding the matter:

In the statement announcing their decision, the university noted that they had received information that wasn’t available during their initial Title IX investigation.

“UW–Madison obtained information following the criminal proceeding that was not provided to the university during the student conduct process, ” said the statement. “Chancellor Rebecca Blank conducted a review of this information and the petition for Quintez Cephus’ reinstatement as quickly as possible and in a complete and impartial manner.

“As a result of this review, sanctions for Quintez Cephus have been reduced and his expulsion lifted. There were findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code that were upheld.”

Chancellor Rebecca Blank had the following to say about the situation.

“All three of the primary participants in this case are our students, and I know the past year has been painful for everyone involved,” said Blank. “My decision is based on the availability of substantial new information that wasn’t made available to us during the earlier process. I recognize that some will disagree with this decision.”

“To those in our community who have experienced sexual assault, I sincerely hope that there is nothing in this case that will deter you from coming forward for support,” she added. “Our university continues to be prepared to listen and respond.”

Cephus had his expulsion lifted, but did not have all sanctions removed from his record. According to the statement, the findings of responsibility of the student non-academic misconduct code that were upheld.

With this reinstatement, Cephus has a decision in front of him. He is free to return to the university and the football team has made it clear they will welcome him back with open arms.

But, does he want to return to UW at all? All indications are that he does want to come back to school, but getting his expulsion lifted would allow him to move on from the university if he so chose.

We will have to wait for more information from the program once everyone has had a chance to make their decisions known.

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Joe Thomas makes CBS Sports All-time All-American list

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College football celebrates is 150th season in 2019 and that necessitates a look back at the history of the sport. That’s exactly what CBS Sports decided to do and they came up with a long list of the best players in college football history.

Given the fact that the Wisconsin Badgers went through long stretches of horrific play and few years of good work prior to 1990, seeing a Badgers name on the list was a long shot.

But, one Badger did make the list and that was famed left tackle Joe Thomas.

He was named to the honorable mention All-Time All-American offensive line category. Center was broken out in to a different group all together as well.

While at Wisconsin, Thomas became the first Badger to win the Outland Trophy, which is given to the nation’s best interior lineman. He also was named to the 2006 first team All-American list and started 39 games in his four years in Madison.

He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame after an 11-year career in which he made the Pro Bowl in 10 straight seasons.

Joining him on CBS Sports honorable mention offensive lineman list were Maurkice Pouncey (Florida), Lincoln Kennedy (Washington), John Hicks (Ohio State), Aaron Taylor (Nebraska) and Jake Long (Michigan).

Making the first team list were Orlando Pace (Ohio State), Jonathan Ogden (UCLA), John Hannah (Alabama) and Ron Yary (USC).

On the second team were Anthony Munoz (USC), Bryant McKinnie (Miami), Will Shields (Nebraska) and Tony Boselli (USC).

Those are all some amazing names and gives us all a great reminder of just how great college football has been over the years to be sure.

Thomas is the only Badgers player to make the list, yes including all-time greats like Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche, let alone perhaps the most famous player of the formative years of college football — Pat O’Dea.

Yes, he doesn’t fit neatly in to the mold of a modern college football player, but this was supposed to be a list of the best players to ever grace the field in the history of the game.

It’s very hard to argue that O’Dea wasn’t exactly that in his era. He was a two time All-American in 1898 and 1899 as a punter and a fullback.

If CBS Sports was serious about honoring the entirety of college football, having O’Dea on the list would be a good place to start.

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Badgers unveil throwback unis for Northwestern game

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College football is celebrating its 150th year in 2019 and the Wisconsin Badgers have been playing the game since the 1889 season.

In order to honor some of the history of the game and the program, the Badgers will put on throwback (and I use that term loosely) uniforms according to a video released by the football program on Tuesday afternoon.

It appears that UW is looking back to the days where a simple UW adorned the front of the sweaters, as they were called at the time, in that 1889 season.

Today, regulations say that all teams must include numbers on the front and back of the jersey and thus the conundrum the Badgers find themselves in here.

Interestingly, the helmets will feature a first-time logo with the ‘UW’ having never appeared together in any helmet in Badgers history. Given the fact that back in 1889 there was no such thing as a helmet in the game of football it was an interesting call.

The helmets will also feature just a thin Cardinal stripe down the center and gray face masks.

Personally, I have to say I’m not a fan of cramming the ‘UW’ on to the front of the jersey and it would’ve been interesting to see them go back to the Bucky Badger helmet or something else.

It just looks too congested on the front of the jersey, but I do like the idea of the black shoes, khaki colored pants and the red jersey overall. It does harken back to that era in as much as is possible in today’s modern game.

However, the players were certainly excited for a different-than-normal look to the Badgers uniforms.

The logo on the side of the khaki colored pants is also the one that the athletic department used from 1962 to 1965 according to research.

Wisconsin will take on Northwestern in the Sept. 28 game that will feature these jerseys inside Camp Randall. Northwestern will also have a similar look as part of what Under Armour is calling its Second Heritage line.

What do you think of this ‘throwback’ look? Hit up the comments below or follow on Twitter @talkingBadgers.

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