Wisconsin Football is in for an exciting season. They return their best team since Bret Bielema screwed up the 2011 team in dramatic fashion. Wisconsin also has a much more manageable schedule than last season. There is no big name SEC opponent. The Badgers also avoid Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State. However, the Badgers do have to navigate their way through a flurry of tricky road games, tough Big Ten West teams, and a matchup with Michigan.
From easiest to hardest, this is a full ranking of each game on Wisconsin’s 2017 schedule.
I’m kidding. Kind of. George Washington was president and the wheel was just invented the last time Minnesota beat Wisconsin. But Wisconsin’s schedule is so weak that the Gophers are actually a bit further down the list.
12. Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic is not your traditional cupcake. They are coached by Lane Kiffin, who thanks to PJ Fleck and Jim Harbaugh, is just the third most annoying coach the Badgers will face this season. He is also the former offensive coordinator of the same Alabama team that beat Wisconsin just two seasons ago. However, FAU is umm… not exactly Alabama. He’s brought in some good talent, including former Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson. But it will take a few more years until they’re able to compete with the big boys.
11. Utah State
Once upon a time, the Aggies were among the top tier mid-majors in college football. In fact, it was just five years ago that Utah State took Wisconsin down to the wire in Camp Randall Stadium. But this is not that same Utah State team. Gary Andersen is no longer an Aggie (and luckily, nor is he a Badger). There is no way Utah State can compete with Wisconsin, especially during their home opener at Camp Randall at night.
Death, Taxes, Bo Ryan, Purdue being a cake walk. Although Purdue isn’t the worst Big Ten team the Badgers play this season (take a bow Illinois), this is at Camp Randall. New Head Coach Jeff Brohm should improve the direction of the Boilermaker program, but it may take him a few seasons to get the results he’s looking for. Wisconsin should win this one by 20+.
9. At Illinois
The only reason Illinois isn’t behind Purdue is because this game is on the road. In college football, crazy things sometimes happen on road. But an Illini upset in this one would be beyond crazy. Illinois’ offense, which averaged just 16.8 points per game last season, will remain a disaster. Their defense won’t be far behind. Wisconsin won 48-3 last season, and a repeat performance wouldn’t be the most shocking thing in the world.
Maryland is a sleeping giant in the Big Ten. They should have their best season since joining the Big Ten, with a strong rushing attack to go with an improved defense. Head Coach DJ Durkin has the Terrapins on a road to success, and maybe even a Bowl Game. However, it’s hard to envision them upsetting the Badgers in Madison.
7. At Indiana
Unfortunately, Tom Crean does not coach the Indiana Football team, so this game is no gimme. The Hoosiers always seem to give the top-tier teams in the Big Ten East a scare, so I expect them to put up a fight in this one. Their defense is solid, and their offense has some potential. Road games in college football are weird. This could be a trap game.
After Nebraska and Wisconsin, Iowa is the third best team in the Big Ten West. Although they failed to meet expectations in 2016, they will likely be better this season. Running back Akrum Wadley, combined with one of the best offensive lines in the division, will give the Hawkeyes a formidable rushing attack. However, the Hawkeyes lose starting quarterback CJ Beathard, along with defensive back Desmond King. The Badgers should be able to win in the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium.
5. At Minnesota
A rivalry game on the road is never good for the heart. So despite the fact that Minnesota isn’t expected to be very good this season, and Wisconsin hasn’t lost to the Gophers in roughly a trillion years, I’m not going to count this one as an easy win. The Gophers have a good offensive line and a duo of experienced backs. They also are officially rowing the boat with PJ Fleck, who is basically the human equivalent of the person that tweets in all caps on twitter. But I think Wisconsin wins a tight one.
I don’t care how good Wisconsin is. I don’t care how good Northwestern is. I don’t care where the game is. None of that matters. Whenever Wisconsin plays Northwestern, I am terrified. Stupid, insane, drunk things almost always seem to happen. I think I speak for all Wisconsin fans when I say that I will never, ever head into a game against Northwestern confident.
3. At BYU
True road games, especially ones out of conference, are never easy. The atmosphere will be electric as possible with a crowd that isn’t allowed to drink. Quarterback Tanner Magnum is going to be one of the best passers Wisconsin’s secondary faces all season. The Cougars went 9-4 last season, and return enough pieces that they could pose a real threat to Wisconsin.
Although ESPN probably won’t admit, Michigan is in for a relatively down year. They’ll be decent, but nowhere near as good as they were last season when they beat the Badgers by seven. So despite the unbearable amount of media coverage the Fighting Harbaughs will garner, the Badgers will likely be favored in this game. At Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers should be able to win a close one.
1. At Nebraska
If I had to pick one loss on Wisconsin’s schedule, I would pick this one. Nebraska is a preseason top-25 team in the country, and Lincoln is historically one of the toughest places to play in the country. Tulane transfer Tanner Lee will be a good replacement for Tommy Armstrong Jr., and the defense will be improved. I actually think this is a game Wisconsin could lose… which probably means Wisconsin will win by 45 and Bradrick Shaw will rush for 300 yards.
What the Badgers need to work on in the bye week
Two games, two victories, two shutouts and two record-setting performance. It would be easy to think the 2-0 Wisconsin Badgers football team is riding high in to its early bye week.
But, with the challenge of the Michigan Wolverines just around the corner things are not exactly going to go as planned.
So, with a week off to prepare what are some of the areas of concentration and concern heading in to the matchup with the Wolverines?
I feel like this is a mantra of any team on a bye week, but after only two games it shouldn’t be that bad. But, guess what, Wisconsin is two games in to the season and the injury gods have not been kind to this team.
On Sunday, we learned that starting safety Scott Nelson will miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.
Late last week we knew that five other players were going to miss the Central Michigan game, with two of those being starters on defense in Bryson Williams and Izayah Green-May.
Now luckily, the depth of this team showed up as true freshman Keeanu Benton (1 TFL) played well in place of Williams and Noah Burks (2 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 pass break up) made it seem like there was nothing missing at outside linebacker.
But, there’s no question that playing with a full group of players against Michigan will be advantageous. Let’s see if the Badgers can get Williams and Green-May healthy and my guess is that they will be able to do just that with nearly three weeks of treatment and testing.
One of the things that has been clear so far about this team is that they have been playing with a lot of emotion and edge to them. It’s almost as if they spent an entire offseason stewing over a less-than-stellar performance in 2018 and are bound and determined to not let that happen again.
Whatever was bottled up in the offseason was certainly unleashed in the first two weeks of the season. Can UW find a way to continue to play with that edge and fire now that they have no game this week?
Sometimes the bye week can mess with a team, especially one that is rolling like the Badgers are. But, I have a distinct feeling that motivation and focus are not going to waver at all with this coaching staff in place.
Wisconsin also has the advantage of being the underdog in the matchup with Michigan (at least on paper it will) and has a ton of hungry young players looking to make a name for themselves.
What better way to do that than against Michigan with the whole college football world watching you?
This idea of staying hungry doesn’t worry me in the least, but it would be something to watch coming out of the gate against Michigan. If the Badgers look flat or out of sorts, I’d be worried. If not, then look for Michigan to be in some serious trouble on Sept. 21.
Early on this season, we’ve already seen a lot of Jonathan Taylor the running back, but we’ve also seen a lot of JT23 the receiving back and it has produced glorious results.
Even better is the fact that the Badgers coaching staff hasn’t had to get exotic with the play calling early on this season either. There’s been few sightings of Aron Cruickshank end arounds or double running back sets or anything crazy.
Wisconsin has lined up, punched the opposing defense in the mouth up front and done the basics needed to put points on the board.
It will be interesting to see what wrinkles will be added with the extra time and the opponent at hand. Will the Badgers break out a few things that Michigan won’t be ready for or will they stick to the tried and true and just see what happens?
If there’s one thing we know about Michigan’s defense is that it is nearly the Badgers equal in aggressiveness. Through two games the Badgers have allowed four sacks on the quarterback.
It may not seem alarming, but last season, UW allowed a total of 24 through 13 games for an average of 1.85 per game and that was a bit of a problem in bigger games. Furthermore, 12 of the 24 sacks came in Wisconsin’s five losses last year.
The good news seems to be that UW is going to get some help for the quarterback spot in avoiding some of those sacks this year. Jack Coan may not be a world-record sprinter, but he has shown to be more comfortable stepping up in the pocket and taking off if needed.
But, the Badgers were not really tested so far in terms of overall talent and did give up three sacks against USF in the opener. On the flip side, the offensive line looked much better against CMU and only one sack happened on the day.
Does that indicate improvement or just how bad the Chippewas were? With an extra week to work on things, lets see how the Badgers offensive line works through any potential issues and any adjustments that may be needed.
Sunday Morning Hangover: What to make of Coan’s confident start
By now, Jack Coan isn’t a total newcomer to the starting quarterback role for the Wisconsin Badgers. But, on Saturday he was making his first career start inside Camp Randall Stadium.
All five of his previous starts would come on the road or in a bowl game.
So, how did Coan handle the home crowd and it being a season opener at Camp Randall nonetheless? Judging by his record-setting numbers it was safe to say it was home, sweet home for the junior quarterback.
After passing for over 200 yards for the first time in his career last week against USF, Coan set personal records for passing attempts, completions, yards and touchdown passes in a single game.
It’s hard to get much better than that.
On the day, Coan would go 26 of 33 for 363 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were the catalyst to the Badgers 61-0 blanking of the visiting Central Michigan Chippewas.
His 363 yards were the fifth best in a single game by any Badgers quarterback. Coan also became just the 11th Badgers QB to throw for 300 or more yards in a game.
Additionally, his 276 yards in the first half were the most ever by any Badgers quarterback in a single half.
That’s some historic territory for anyone to reach.
However, after sleeping on it, I am still left wondering if this is a sign of things to come or a blip on the radar and we’ll never see this again.
Maybe it’s because I can still remember being there in person to witness Coan fumble and bumble his way to a loss at Northwestern last year.
Maybe that’s the Hornibrook affect in me too? After all, we got totally burned by thinking Hornibrook had turned a corner with his great performance in the bowl win over Miami two years ago.
Instead, Hornibrook reverted right back to the inconsistent and at times terrible version that his more extensive body of work told us was likely who he was.
But, here’s why I think we aren’t seeing a blip on the radar with Coan. It’s his confidence and the fact that we’ve seen him go out and do better each and every week he’s been a starter.
We are seeing progress, which we never really did with Hornibrook under center. If you can’t see that Coan is improving, then you aren’t paying attention.
Last week, despite the first ever 200-yard day for Coan, a lot of attention was paid to the missed wide open receivers on vertical routes. What did Coan do about it? He went out this week and showed he could confidently and accurately hit those deep balls.
“I think it’s important, and certainly we’ve got to be able to — we thought coming into the year we’ve got to do a better job of attacking the whole field, and so when you can do that, it’s good, but I think guys have had confidence in it,” said head coach Paul Chryst after the CMU win.
“I know last week we were 0-2 for those “chunk” plays, but he wouldn’t have cut ’em loose today if he didn’t have confidence in it. So I don’t know that doing it in a game makes you more confident, but it was good to see. It’s nice to be able to hit a couple of those, obviously.”
Additionally, Coan’s relationship early on this season with Quintez Cephus has been something special to watch. With virtually no playing time and no extensive practice time together, the duo has seemed totally in sync to start the season.
Cephus has nine receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns through two games. He also is averaging 84.5 yards per game, good for fifth in the Big Ten in this early season.
Just to put the difference between Coan and Honribrook in to some perspective for you. Through two games last year, the Badgers had just 26 receptions as a team. This year, UW already has 50.
Wisconsin also has a total of 16 passes for 15 or more yards on the season. That is a quarter of what the Badgers had (64) all of last year and we’re only two games in to the season.
A.J. Taylor (8), Danny Davis (6), Kendric Pryor (6) and Jake Ferguson (6) have all had major impacts in the pass game too.
It means a diverse and talented group is producing quickly this season.
Of course, the challenge of Michigan’s defense awaits the Badgers offense and it certainly will be a step up in competition from the likes of USF and Central Michigan.
However, the Wolverines also won’t be seeing the same old Wisconsin offense they did for the past few years either.
What Coan has brought to the table through two weeks of play should make Michigan think twice about stacking the box against the run all game long.
Wisconsin finally has an outwardly confident quarterback and it feels so very good.
WATCH: Recap of Badgers 61-0 victory over Central Michigan
If you were to draw up a perfect game, well, it would be hard to top what the Wisconsin Badgers put on film on Saturday against the Central Michigan Chippewas.
UW ran, passed and dominated on defense en route to a 61-0 win. What should we take away from this game? What were the highlight moments?
Well of course, Jonathan Taylor scoring four touchdowns in back-to-back games was impressive. But, let our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, get in to the detail in this week’s talkinBadgers recap.
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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Central Michigan Chippewas: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications
We’re back with more in our video work for the Badgers 2019 season. As per usual, our Publisher, Andrew Coppens, is here to give you the lowdown on the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Central Michigan Chippewas.
That means, key players to watch, key stats to keep an eye on and the weekly prediction.
He is 1-0 after nearly nailing the full score last week, so what does this matchup look like?
Let’s get in to the video.
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