When: Sat., Nov. 7; 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: College Park, MD; Byrd Stadium
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Wisconsin 52-7 (2014)
Line: Wisconsin -12.5
On a weekend full of cross-division Big Ten games, this is one that may not resonate with many fans. Wisconsin and Maryland are heading in completely opposite directions, as the Badgers have won four in a row after opening conference play with a loss to Iowa, and the Terrapins are on a five-game losing streak. Plus Wisconsin blew away Maryland in 2014 as shown above.
However, just when it seems like teams are figured out, they usually go and surprise us. It’s college football, after all. Let’s count to five and preview this battle that spans across the width of the new conference footprint.
1 Burning Question: Can Maryland get anything done against this Wisconsin defense?
Wisconsin has struggled to blow out games this season because the offense has been dealing with a significant number of injuries to important players like Rob Wheelwright and Corey Clement, among others. However, scoring 25 to 30 points a week has been more than enough thanks to one of the best defenses in the country. Wisconsin leads the NCAA in scoring defense at 11.0 points per game, and this team ranks third nationally in total defense with 267.1 yards per game.
This past weekend, Wisconsin broke past 30 points for only the second time all season thanks to the healthy returns of Joel Stave and Corey Clement against Rutgers. Maryland has a comparable defense, which means the Terrapins will likely need to score some big points to keep up in this game. But that will be easier said than done.
Unlike Rutgers, which struggled without WR Leonte Caroo in the rain of Madison, Maryland has struggled to find much rhythm and consistency on offense. Part of that has been the lack of solid quarterback play, but Perry Hills has been better for this team since taking over against Ohio State a few weeks ago. Hills does make mistakes, however, and Wisconsin will look to take advantage to add to his already 10 interceptions on the season.
There’s no question Wisconsin will score some points in this game. But it is highly unclear if Maryland will do the same.
2 Key Stats
— +2 and -16. That is the turnover margin on the season for Wisconsin and Maryland, respectively. When previewing Maryland’s game against Iowa last weekend, the turnover margin was one of the key stats. It turned out to be critical in that game as Iowa pushed Maryland even farther into the basement of the conference rankings in this. The Terrapins have thrown an incredible 23 interceptions in eight games, and that has helped many games snowball against the overmatched Terrapins. If that trend continues, Wisconsin will not be challenged.
— 25.1 and 19.1 yards. That’s the kickoff return average and the punt return average for Maryland. If there is anything that can keep Maryland in the game, it is special teams and specifically, Will Likely. Likely has generated three touchdowns in the return game, and this is the type of game where such a play could make a difference in keeping it close. As long is Likely is not worn out from playing some offensive snaps and all defensive snaps, and he was not last week on a 4th quarter touchdown return, this is someone Wisconsin should never kick towards, just for the sake of playing conservative.
3 Key Players
Corey Clement, Wisconsin RB — Heading into last weekend, the best running back on Wisconsin’s roster had 16 rushing yards on the season thanks to an injury aggravated during the opener against Alabama. In his first action back, he averaged 10.5 yards per rush in the blowout of Rutgers, earning an easy 115 yards to work back in the groove. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin’s newly discovered balance on offense led to about twice as many points.
Vince Biegel, Wisconsin LB — Biegel’s hair (mullets and otherwise) is a thing of absolute beauty, even if you cannot see it normally underneath his helmet. While Joe Schobert has received many accolades for leading this defense in sacks and tackles for loss, his linebacker mate Biegel has also put up great numbers on the season with 5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. With offenses paying special attention to Schobert, look for Biegel to take advantage and make some big plays against the Maryland offense this week.
Will Likely, Maryland KR/PR/CB — Anytime Maryland is on the television, you always have to look for Likely, even on offense where he is taking some snaps now at receiver. Regardless of who the coach has been, this staff has understood that the best thing that can happen on this team is getting the ball to Likely in open space and letting him make some magic. There are other players who could cause some issues for Wisconsin, but none come close to the threat Likely presents.
4 Bold Prognostications
Corey Clement goes for 100 yards again but doesn’t play more than 2.5 quarters: Wisconsin is still working Clement up to speed, and there’s no reason to risk his health in games that should not challenge the Badgers. Accordingly, I predict the Badgers will race out to a quick start and a big lead in the first half, including a couple big runs by Clement to get him over 100 yards for a second-straight game. That will allow Wisconsin to stop playing Clement at halftime or sometime in the third quarter, which is a good move heading into the closing stretch.
Vince Biegel generates a couple of sacks against Perry Hills: With the prediction for a fast start for Wisconsin, that will force Maryland to try and throw the ball to get back into the game. Not only will that likely lead to a couple of interceptions, this will also provide a great opportunity for the linebackers of Wisconsin to rush the quarterback and make some big plays. Schobert has been the dominant force, but this week feels like a good time for Biegel to break out and have the best game against the Terrapins.
Wisconsin rushes for more yards than it passes: Joel Stave has led a dynamic passing attack thanks to the struggles keeping running backs healthy in 2015. That has led to a unique situation for this football program where the offense has passed for an average of 100 yards more per game than the rushing yards accumulated. But with the running backs becoming more healthy now and one starting receiver Rob Wheelwright out due to injury, this is the week Wisconsin returns to normal Wisconsin run-first football.
Will Likely is shut out of the end zone: Wisconsin has watched plenty of tape on Likely, including the 4th quarter touchdown return last week against Iowa. The Badgers have one of the better kick coverage units, but I expect the strategy to change to avoid defending any returns in this game. Meanwhile, Wisconsin also should not make any big mistakes like a pick-six, which means Likely will not reach the end zone for any game-changing plays.
5 Staff Predictions: (overall season record; record against the spread)
Andy: Wisconsin 45-10 (68-17 overall; 37-47 ATS)
Dave: Wisconsin 31-7 (69-16 overall; 44-39 ATS)
Greg: Wisconsin 37-13 (62-23 overall; 47-36 ATS)
Matt: Wisconsin 38-17 (68-17 overall; 50-33 ATS)
Phil: Wisconsin 31-10 (23-9 overall; 11-18 ATS) *joined in Week 5
Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers quarterbacks in 2019
Believe it or not, the start of the Wisconsin Badgers fall camp is right around the corner and we’re hitting the home stretch of our preview season as well.
No position has had more of the spotlight and taken up more of our conversation than what is happening at quarterback. After watching the QB play go from ok to disaster in 2018, it is back to the drawing board in many ways.
With Alex Hornibrook off to Florida State for his final season and the highest rated quarterback recruit in Badgers history on campus, this offseason has been full of intrigue.
But, what will the 2019 season look like for the most critical position on this offense? Let’s take a look at exactly that.
Best Case Scenario
The Badgers find out they hit the jackpot with Graham Mertz and he’s spent the time between spring and fall ball getting up to speed on the offense. Mertz immediately shows this is his job and the coaching staff sees it quickly as well.
Either that or Jack Coan comes in and commands the position and the offense with accuracy and an ability to hit the deep ball. The offense gels around him and heading in to the opener at South Florida, Coan is the man behind center by a wide margin.
Yes, there are two best-case scenarios at play. But, that’s because Wisconsin’s coaching staff would really love for someone to flat-out win the starting job early on in fall camp. Will that happen? That’s the million dollar question and don’t count out Chase Wolf from this competition either. He came on strong as spring went along and his abilities give the Badgers offense some different wrinkles that could be intriguing.
No matter whom wins the battle in fall camp, the best case scenario is that that person wins the battle early, the offense can focus on installing around that quarterback and said quarterback shows why he won the job with quality play during the season.
Worst Case Scenario
If we go in to week three of fall camp and there is no winner to the quarterback job, I’m not so confident in this group. Yes, it’s the job of everyone to compete at a high level, but the coaching staff not being able to separate between the bunch isn’t good news.
My worst-case scenario would be no winner coming out of fall camp, we see quarterbacks splitting time in the fall and this offense stalling out in the pass game once again.
Musical chairs at quarterback never seems to work at Wisconsin and that especially played out last season with Coan clearly thrown to the wolves before he was ready to make a full impact after Hornibrook’s injury.
As long as the Badgers can avoid having to play multiple quarterbacks because none of them have wrestled the position for themselves, UW’s offense should be in a better position in 2019 than it was in 2018.
Most Likely to Happen
As much as the fans want to see Graham Mertz come in and be this game-changing quarterback out of the gate, the most likely scenario is that Mertz gets some game action in the non-conference games and Jack Coan is your regular starter.
I can foresee the scenario playing out much like Coan’s true freshman season. The only difference being that Mertz won’t have to give up his redshirt to play in a single game.
It seems like the most likely to happen scenario is that Coan is your starter for the year with Mertz as the man getting the early season reps behind him and then Chase Wolf being the other option to get reps during conference play.
Let’s not forget that Coan is the only quarterback on this roster that has seen more than a complete mop-up duty. Danny Vanden Boom could be an option too, but it seems like Wolf and Mertz passed him up in the spring competition.
As much as Mertz is the future, coaches are paid to win games now and that likely means playing it safe with Coan.
Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers ILB’s in 2019
We hope you enjoyed the Independence Day holiday, but it is time to get back to some business and that means continuing our series looking in to every position group for the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers.
Since we went outside the last time around, today we will focus on a position that has long been a strength of the Badgers program — inside linebacker.
What could happen with this group in 2019? Let’s find out.
Best Case Scenario
Yes, the Badgers face life without an All-American and a steady veteran thanks to the graduations of T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. But, the good news is that this group was one of the deepest and most productive overall last season.
Veteran Chris Orr will get one starting spot and former 4-star recruit Jack Sanborn will step in to the other starting role. So, the best case scenario for this group is that Orr, who started as a freshman, gets back to that kind of form, and we see quality play from a combination of younger players like Sanborn and freshman Leo Chenal.
No one had a bigger breakout this spring than Chenal did. He came in as an early enrollee, but well under the radar. By the end of spring ball, it looked very much like he won’t be redshirting and will be challenging for a lot of snaps in the fall.
It would be great to see that happen, because Orr has just one year left in the Cardinal and White.
Worst Case Scenario
What would really hurt this group is if Orr or Sanborn were to go down with an injury here. Yes, Chenal looked good in spring ball like I mentioned before and yes Mike Maskalunas has shown flashes of ability, but are they really ready to be thrust in to the majority of snaps at inside linebacker together?
Experience is an issue for this group and I could see an injury exposing that lack of experience in a big way. Even if the Badgers wanted to go with an older player, the only other option would be Seth Currens and he just converted from safety in the spring himself.
Other than that it would be Hunter Johnson or two walk-ons that were here in the spring.
The Badgers only inside linebacker recruit in the 2019 class was Chenal too, so there will be no more help coming in to fall camp.
Most Likely to Happen
The good news is that I don’t see the worst case scenario actually happening, at least not in a major way. Orr’s medical history suggests he could be prone to missing a game or two with a nagging injury, but don’t expect anything crazy to happen.
I also believe we will see the emergence of Sanborn and Chenal as the future of this position for the Badgers. In fact, Sanborn has looked so good in spring and in his limited playing time last season, that I suspect he could be a darkhorse for All-Big Ten honors at season’s end.
Look for this group to be a downhill, hard-hitting and more athletic group than we saw last season and that could make a major difference for those playing behind them.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and his staff have a lot to figure out, but they should feel safe with the talent that is available to them at inside linebacker.
Best, worst case scenarios for Badgers OLB’s in 2019
This time next month, the pads may be popping and the 2019 Wisconsin Badgers fall practices will be under way. It’s so close we all can almost taste it.
But, as we look forward to the 2019 season we’re going to try something a bit different. Gone are the usual ways of looking position groups and giving you a fall preview that last’s a week.
Well, that’s because this season is vital to the Paul Chryst era. There’s a changing of the guard going on. After a disappointing 2018 season that saw UW drop Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time in 15 years and not win the Big Ten West, the question is if that’s a sign of decline or a blip on the radar.
In order to best answer that question, we’re actually going to start with a look at what needs to happen, what the Badgers need to avoid and what is really likely at every position.
Up today is a look at the outside linebacker position.
Best Case Scenario:
Last year, the outside linebackers contributed just 8 total sacks to a team total of 19. That’s a lot of contribution to the effort, but the effort was far below expectations set by previous groups. Additionally, the graduation of Andrew Van Ginkel means just 2.5 sacks return from the outside linebacker position in 2019.
Those sacks belong to Zack Baun, who got his feet wet as a starter last season and is looking for big things to happen in 2019. The good news is that Baun was one of Wisconsin’s best run-stoppers on the edge.
Ideally, Baun not only is a leader of this defensive group in 2019, but becomes much more disruptive behind the line of scrimmage too.
Wisconsin has a lot of potential that could start opposite of him. Former Alabama transfer Christian Bell, former 4-star recruit Noah Burks and former inside linebacker Griffin Grady all had their moments of shine in spring ball.
In a best case scenario, the Badgers have more than one of that group step up as contributors to an overall group of outside linebackers that don’t have a lot of in-game experience or depth.
Getting this group to contribute double-digit sacks as a whole would be a great step forward.
Worst Case Scenario:
Noah Burks or Christian Bell don’t live up to their enormous potential. It’s as plain and simple as that.
Wisconsin needs them to become pass-rushing specialists in a big way if this defense is going to be as aggressive as it is designed to be. Often times last season, the inability of the front seven to get pressure really hung an inexperienced secondary out to dry.
If UW experiences more of that, it could really be trouble in 2019. The Badgers need this defense to step up its game, and having both of the expected top contenders in replacing Van Ginkel flame out would be a disaster all the way around.
Most Likely to Happen:
Given all the unknowns surrounding the outside linebacker position, this is a difficult position to predict. However, I will say this — Zack Baun will end up as an All-Big Ten performer.
I believe he just scratched the surface of his potential last year, especially since he was just coming off an awful injury history prior to it. If he stays healthy in 2019, I predict he becomes a surprise player to many outside observers in the Big Ten.
That said, I also believe we will see Christian Bell and Noah Burks become a handful for opposing offensive coordinators to deal with. Both have been patient with the talent that was in front of them, but they are bursting with potential when they have seen the field.
So, to answer the question most want to know…I believe this all signals a position group ready to be a major force once again after that down year in 2018.
Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers Wide Receivers in 2019
The heat of summer is upon us and the recruiting trail has been even hotter for the Wisconsin Badgers. However, that heat also indicates that the long offseason nightmare is about to be over.
With that in mind, we’re taking a summer-long look at each position group heading in to the 2019 season.
Today, we flip back to the offensive side of the ball and look at a second skill position — wide receiver.
After what was supposed to be a breakout year for the group in 2018, what will this group have in store for 2019? Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios at play.
Best Case Scenario
If the Badgers want to get going in the pass game, the wide receiver group needs to step up the deep game in a big way. While A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor have proven to be reliable assets, 2018 felt much like they all barely scratched the surface of their potential.
The trio combined for 95 receptions (which was 53 percent of all receptions as a team), 1,212 yards and 11 of 19 touchdown receptions on the year.
For this season, the best case scenario actually involves the quarterback position almost more-so than anything this group can do. The receivers could benefit from a consistently good passer at quarterback and a more open playbook as well.
Whether it is Jack Coan or wonderkid recruit, Graham Mertz, the consistency and trust to open up the playbook needs to be there.
Additionally, an increased role for speedster Aaron Cruickshank would be the best case scenario.
Worst Case Scenario
Danny Davis emerged as the most targeted receiver last season, catching 40 passes to lead all wide receivers on the team. He will enter his junior season with an increase in expectations and no off-field distractions like he had to deal with last season thanks to his stupid decision-making.
That aside, Davis is the most well-rounded receiver in this group and the one that could wind up be the deep threat that has been missing for awhile now. So, any injury to Davis would be bad news.
In fact, any sustained injuries to the likes of Davis, Pryor and Taylor would not be good. UW is very inexperienced behind this trio, and inexperience at QB and WR may not be a fun combination.
Dare I say, it would lead to UW not being back on top of the West division mountain?
Most Likely to Happen
I fully believe that the coaching staff will go in to the season knowing which quarterback they’ll go with and stick with. Confidence is key to helping this wide receiver group and I expect the Badgers offense to be much more balanced in 2019 than it was over the past two seasons.
Look for Davis, Pryor and Taylor to all increase their overall numbers and likely go over the 15 touchdown mark as a group. More importantly, I expect much more play-action and much more from the deep passing game too. That should be music to a talented, but under used group’s ears.
Don’t be surprised to see one of the Badgers wide receivers make a run at All-Big Ten honors as a result of that shift back to balance.
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