Believe it or not, but in three weeks time real games will be kicking off in college football! How can one not be excited by this time of year?
Well, for us, it means hunkering down and doing our opposition research. You know, because to know your enemy is to defeat your enemy.
Up this time is a look at one of the biggest thorns in the side of the Wisconsin Badgers as of late — the Northwestern Wildcats.
In fact, those pesky Wildcats not only took down the Badgers last year, but they are defending West division champions too. So, what do we know about the kings of the West division in 2019?
How can the Badgers best the Wildcats of Evanston? Let’s dig in to our opposition research.
Biggest Offseason Question: Can Hunter lead the Hunted to Higher Levels?
Wisconsin fans likely have a few nightmare moments when thinking of Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson. But, don’t fret any more because he has finally graduated and is of to the professional ranks.
That could also be bad news though, because former 5-star recruit, Hunter Johnson, has been waiting in the wings to take over this offense and the Wildcats are hoping for a re-birth of a potent passing attack.
After all, Northwestern has averaged 6.24 yards per pass attempt since 2015, good enough for just 122nd in the country. That number clearly has to increase, because everyone knows about Isaiah Bowser as the running back after coming in for the final eight games and averaging a nice 108 yards per game in those games.
The biggest draw of Hunter Johnson has been his absolutely electric arm talent — something Northwestern hasn’t had at quarterback in nearly a decade.
Believe it or not, the coaching staff is telling us that Johnson is involved in a major competition with senior TJ Green. If Johnson isn’t leading this offense in 2019, it will a major shock.
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions to be answered here. Is this former 5-star recruit the one that gets the Wildcats back to the top of the West division and over the hump of winning NU’s first Big Ten title since 2000?
Biggest Strength: Linebacker
Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising considering head coach Pat Fitzgerald is one of the greatest linebackers to ever play at Northwestern, but it’s an obvious strength of this team. In fact, one could say this entire defense is a strength, with so many huge names back.
No name is bigger on the NU defense than outside linebacker Paddy Fisher though. All he’s done in his first two seasons in Evanston is go for over 110 tackles, have 4 interceptions and a forced fumble — in each of those seasons.
Now a junior, Fisher is a leader of this team and one of the most recognizable names at linebacker in the country, not just the Big Ten.
But, he isn’t the only good linebacker the Wildcats have in the mix. Fellow junior, Blake Gallagher, had a great sophomore season in 2018 and adds a second really good outside option to take advantage of teams likely moving away from Fisher at all possible moments.
In the middle will be another solid name in Chris Bergin. It will be harder to find a more consistent group on the field for the Wildcats heading in to the 2019 season.
Biggest Weakness: Offensive Line
If you follow the Wildcats closely, then you know they’ve really struggled for consistently good play from the offensive line. There’s little question that this group’s play has held this offense back from really exploding.
This season appears to be just as testing as seasons past, as new offensive line coach, but familiar face in Evanston — Kurt Anderson — taking over this group.
He’s got a challenge in front of him, as two starters are back for a unit that has blocked for one of the most anemic offenses in recent FBS history. Since 2015, the Wildcats rank 123rd in average yards per play (4.95) and 121st in percentage of offensive plays of 10 yards or longer (17.2).
While the offensive line isn’t completely at fault, it’s hard not to notice they have a lot to do with how those stats turn out.
The good news is that the future looks brighter thanks to Anderson bringing in some of the best ranked recruits in program history. But, that’s about the future and the here and now appears to be a very large question mark for Anderson and the Wildcats hopes to repeat as division champs could rest on their play.
Reason to Be Scared:
This one is simple, it’s freaking Northwestern. These guys seems to have it out for Wisconsin on a nearly annual basis as of late.
Wisconsin’s kryptonite against Northwestern has been turnovers. Last season, the Badgers turned the ball over three times, all in dangerous territory to do so and it resulted in 17 of NU’s 31 points en route to a 31-17 victory.
Northwestern returns a lot of talent to the defensive side of the ball and that means potential for turnovers once again in 2019. So, Wisconsin has to be on the lookout to avoid said turnovers in what is a very good series with the Wildcats.
But, the good news is that there seems to be a pattern with these two programs holding serve at home. Northwestern has won five of the last six in Evanston and the Badgers are on the same streak at Camp Randall.
This season’s matchup is at home on Sept. 28, so pencil in a Badgers victory? We’ll see, but if history repeats itself that very well could be the case.
Cephus says he wants to return to Badgers football
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.
UW reinstates Quintez Cephus
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.
Joe Thomas makes CBS Sports All-time All-American list
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.
Badgers unveil throwback unis for Northwestern game
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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