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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Minnesota Gophers: 5 Things to know

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The week we all look forward to is here. It’s Axe Week, otherwise known as that week where Wisconsin puts a X in the win column in permanent marker every year. 

Wisconsin has owned the Golden Rodents through some of the best, worst and definitely mediocre seasons that Eastern Dakota has ever seen for nearly two decades now. The win streak in the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has been a fixture in Madison for 14 straight years and there’s no sign of that stopping heading in to 2018’s matchup either. 

So, what should you know about the annual butt-kicking of that safety school to the West? Let’s look at the 5 things to know about this game.  

5: The Eastern Dakota Golden Rodents Suck

Nothing more needs to be said about a 14-year streak of dominance. The Golden Rodents of Eastern Dakota University sssssuuuuuuuuucccccckkkkk.

4: What Colors are the Gophers anyway? 

I’m confused, are their colors black and white? Perhaps Maroon and Gold plated? Maybe Maroon and Yellow? What about Gray, White and Gold or Gray, Maroon and Gold? What’s next….pink, purple and teal? Ohhh, I know, they’ll maybe pay homage to rowing a boat with uniforms that are wood-grained and tan in nature…that’ll do the trick.

Who do they think they are? Oregon of the Midwest? I mean, please get an identity, make it work and stop with all the gimmicks. If gimmicks are the only thing you’re selling it’ll be fleeting and its no wonder why you lose to us every year. You’re too worried about how you’ll look instead of actually game planning for the damn game. It has to be exhausting deciding between about 100 color combinations and all those helmet decals that have to be applied. 

I’ll take vanilla uniforms and beating our rivals on an annual basis any day of the week. 

3: Most Rodent Players Don’t Even Know What the Axe Actually Looks Like

No, it’s true…the streak is so long that the players who are playing in this game have literally no memory of the Rodents winning the Axe. Just take Blake Cashman for example. 

“It’s everything,” Cashman told the Minneapolis Star Tribune this week. “It’s what everybody talks about all year. 

“I can’t even remember the Gophers ever having it, I’m so young.”

The only time they’ve seen it, if at all, is when the Badgers annually chop down the goalposts following their rightful victory. Let that sink in before you realize you won’t see it again this year except for in the hands of a victorious Badger. 

2: No Bowling for You

The Rodents have to win this game to finally get to a bowl game under P.J. Fleck, the snake-oil salesman-in-chief. For a guy who talked a big game, his results haven’t followed. 

Eastern Dakota didn’t go bowling last season, this after inserting Fleck in to a team that made five straight bowl game appearances without the “Row the Boat” master. 

What does two seasons of not winning do to this program? Well, the empty stands at that thing they call a stadium in Minneapolis suggests the natives of Eastern Dakota aren’t buying what Fleck is selling and won’t return until they put a winner on the field…fair weather fans as they are. 

Perhaps Fleck’s writing a check with his mouth that his team can’t cash? Perhaps it’s better to stop making public spectacles and just go about your business of building a program & talking when you finally have something to be proud of on the field…just a thought. 

1: The Axe Will Stay Home

Come on now, let’s be real here…The Rodents aren’t good, Wisconsin has the best running back in the country and at least a competent enough defense to keep the Rodents in check. 

Wisconsin wins this game and completes a 15-year streak in winning the Axe. Besides, do you think this group of seniors is going to be the one that will let victory fade? After all that’s happened this season, you can bet your bottom dollar the Badgers seniors will do anything to keep this trophy home in Madison. 

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Badgers football

Badgers add Michigan LB to 2020 class

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Summer is proving to be a pivotal month for the Wisconsin Badgers football program. Between finding gems at camp and getting official visitors on campus, the Badgers are on a roll.

That roll continued on Monday as 3-star inside linebacker Jordan Turner verbally committed to the Badgers according to Badger247. He did so following a set of official visits this month.

Turner, the No. 34 ranked outside linebacker in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings. He is also the No. 18 ranked player out of the state of Michigan.

The Farmington, Mich. native becomes the latest in a growing trend of the Badgers getting players out of a state they previously found difficult to recruit from. Just this past recruiting cycle the Badgers added 5-star offensive tackle Logan Brown and Stephen Bracey to go with another six players from that state in the past few classes.

However, Turner is the first player to commit to the Badgers from the state of Michigan in the 2020 class.

At 6-3 and 230 pounds, Turner has the size to play outside and inside, but the Badgers have told him the project him at inside linebacker. On tape, you can see him packing a heavy punch when he hits players and you can see some big time instincts that really can’t be taught.

Wisconsin wasn’t the favorite for Turner’s commitment until the very end. He does have a family connection to the Badgers, with his mother being a UW alumnus.

As for the Badgers, this commitment is the 10th in the class. Wisconsin ranks No. 33 overall in the 247Sports team composite rankings and No. 8 in the Big Ten.

While those numbers may not be impressive compared to other classes, remember that the Badgers already have three 4-star players in the fold and are waiting on some big names that have visited to make their decisions in the coming months.

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Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers D-Line in 2019

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Yes, summer is officially here and that means just a few months time until the Wisconsin Badgers take the field against the USF Bulls in Tampa to open the season.

So, as we slowly approach the season, we’re going to look in-depth at each position and cover this team in a very different way than you may be used to.

It will start with a look at the best and worst case scenarios that could play out at every position at Wisconsin.

Previous Positions: Running Back |

After starting on the offensive side of the ball, let’s flip things around and talk some defense. Last season we saw just how important defensive line play could be, but what does 2019 have in store for us?

Best Case Scenario:

The Badgers get a full season with Garrett Rand and Isaiahh Loudermilk at defensive end and Bryson Williams uses his experience from his true freshman season to blossom in to a dominant nose guard.

We saw just how big the Badgers missed on the defensive end front when it came to recruiting last season. When both Loudermilk and Rand went down with injury before the season started, the staff was left scrambling to find replacements.

Yes, it was nice that Kayden Lyles and Aaron Vopal stepped in and did an adequate job, but adequate isn’t good enough when you are breaking in some new pieces behind you in the secondary. Additionally, the Badgers were only able to produce 19 total sacks as a team in 2018 after averaging over 35 sacks a game in the previous four seasons.

Loudermilk did return during the season, but injuries kept bothering him and the sophomore finished with just 8 total tackles, 1 sack and 1 QB hurry in nine games played.

Lyles has moved back to the offensive line and both Loudermilk and Rand appear ready to be a dominant force on the edges of the line. Their return can only pay dividends for the outside linebackers as well.

Additionally, given the lack of depth last season, the best case scenario would also involve players like C.J. Goetz, Isaiah Mullens and Boyd Dietzen stepping up as freshmen.

Worst Case Scenario:

This one is easy — either Loudermilk or Rand aren’t ready to shake the injury bug and there is no one stepping up to make plays at defensive end.

I have trust in Williams game at nose guard thanks to his experience behind Olive Sagapolu, and in relief of him later in the season due to injury. But, I don’t have trust in anything behind the first three guys out there just yet.

If that injury scenario does play out, there aren’t a bunch of veterans behind this group at linebacker ready to step up and figure out how to maneuver around the inconsistency that would be up front.

It all starts with those three starters, and injury could mean a back part of the defense that is overexposed as well as a decrease in the ability to play the attacking style of defense we saw in years past.

Most-Likely to Happen:

I personally believe we’ll see Rand get back to old form and become the player everyone thought he would be as a 4-star recruit out of high school in Arizona. But, I can see a case in which Loudermilk or Rand miss a game or two during the season due to nagging injuries.

That means we’ll likely get to see a lot of youth stepping up. The good news there is that players like Dietzen and Goetz were stepping up and playing well in spring ball. Look for a rotation to be trusted at defensive end after no such trust existed last year.

I can also see a situation in which the Badgers will kick Rand inside a time or two to help spell Williams thanks to the lack of experience behind him.

All of this adds up to another season living on the edge (pun intended) for the Badgers defensive line, but that edge being less razor-thin than last season. It will equal an uptick in to the 30’s for sacks from this Badgers team at the bare minimum and it will be a welcome return to a more attacking style.

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Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers RB’s in 2019

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Believe it or not, we’re just over 2 months away from the start of the Wisconsin Badgers 2020 season. It may not feel like it outside or in your mind, but it’s time to hunker down and look at the team as it stands prior to fall camp.

Of course we’ll have the full position break downs and all the information you’ve come to expect from a preview in general.

But, we’re starting things off a bit different this season. Yes, we’re going to look in to the best and worst case scenarios that could happen to each position in 2020.

We start with the marquee position at UW — running back.

Best Case Scenario

Jonathan Taylor to the left, Taylor to the right…Taylor up the middle too.

Is there any other better thought in the minds of Badgers fans or the coaching staff for that matter? The dude has smashed nearly every Badgers and national record you can think of for just two years of college.

The best case scenario for UW success this season is more of the same from Taylor, especially in terms of his explosiveness. If Wisconsin doesn’t have to rely on him as much as they did last season, that would be great. But, they’ll still need him to hit those big runs and touchdowns.

He ran for 10 or more yards on 61 carries last season and ripped off 16 runs of 20-plus yards as well. More of that, even with fewer carries would be the best case scenario.

Worst Case Scenario

An injury that ends Jonathan Taylor’s season.

It’s a frightening thought for the Badgers season, let alone the running back position. Simply put, there’s no scenario in which Taylor has an extended amount of time away from the team and the Badgers have a winning season.

Unlike season’s past, the Badgers don’t have proven depth at this position. Is Nakia Watson ready to take on 300 carries? His production at the collegiate level isn’t a given.

Counting on Garrett Groshek as the featured back? That’s all sorts of a bad idea. Maybe incoming freshman Julius Davis surprises in the fall or converted wide receiver Isaac Guerendo could also surprise?

That’s a whole lot of maybes and what-ifs for anything resembling success happens in the face of an injury to Taylor. Hell, do you think this offense is ready to become reliant on the pass game? I certainly don’t.

So, let’s all hope nothing crazy happens to Taylor this season.

Most Likely to Happen

Taylor rushes for 1,700 yards or more and 20 touchdowns on the season. It would likely end up with him as a major candidate for the Heisman Trophy come December. If that’s the case, it’s likely that the Badgers are also playing for a Big Ten championship once again as the West division champions.

I also believe it’s likely that we see Nakia Watson develop as the heir apparent to Taylor, thus the lower yardage numbers projected. It would be nice not to put 300 carries on Taylor’s body in what is likely his final season in Madison and Watson’s emergence as the second back would be a huge help there.

Overall, expect the Badgers run game to be more of the same, but perhaps more balanced than it was last season. That’s not a bad thing in my book.

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A look at Badgers 2021 football recruiting: Defense

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Earlier this week we began our in-depth look at the 2021 Wisconsin Badgers football recruiting class. After all, UW just got its second commitment in the class on Sunday.

We started looking at the offensive side of the ball, where both commitments have come from.

Today we are taking a look at the Badgers defensive efforts on the 2021 recruiting trail.

Where do things stand and what names do you and I need to pay attention to? Let’s take a look at the defensive side of the Badgers on the recruiting trail.

State of the 2021 Class

Commits: 2 (both on offense)
Likely Scholarships Left: 14-16

A look at the scholarship chart heading in to 2021 suggests that the Badgers aren’t going to have a massive class, like we talked about earlier this week.

But, on the defensive side of things it appears this class is likely to be spread out pretty evenly. Wisconsin loses a pair of defensive ends, four total linebackers and four defensive backs at the very least heading in to the 2021 season.

So, don’t be surprised to see the bulk of the effort on the recruiting trail focused on the back end of the defense.

Defensive End

Will the names Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand live up to lofty recruiting expectations? We have two years to find out, but if they do they will leave a big hole in the Badgers defense upon their departure following the 2020 season.

That makes recruiting at defensive end pretty important for the 2021 class, because we haven’t seen much depth develop over the past few years either.

So, it shouldn’t surprise that UW has been hot on the 2021 defensive line recruiting circuit. To date they have offered six different prospects at defensive end and three defensive tackles as well.

Most of those offers have gone to highly rated players at both positions, but just how likely are the Badgers to hook one of the big fish? Let’s get in to that.

Name to Watch: JC Latham

Wisconsin was home to one of the best players in the country in the 2021 class in Latham. However, after this past season he moved to IMG Academy in Florida and that means his recruitment is going even more national than before.

He’s got offers from almost every blue blood program, with Clemson and Ohio State holding out so far but likely to offer at some point in his junior year.

Can the Badgers keep up with the Jonses in this recruitment? If they could land the current No. 8 strong-side defensive end it would be a game changer in the class, but he’s also the lynchpin of where this defensive line class will head.

I wouldn’t put my money on the Badgers winning out over all others, which means they have to put their eggs in other baskets. One name that I’d put in this position if it weren’t for Latham is actually someone the Badgers have yet to offer, but just hosted on campus in Chandler, Ariz. native Anthony Franklin.

Defensive Tackle

If you don’t aim to the highest of heights you’ll never achieve them, right? That seems to be Wisconsin’s strategy so far at defensive tackle, as they’ve offered three players at the position so far and all three of them are inside the top 5 of the 247Sports composite rankings.

Does it bode well for the Badgers? So far not a single one of them is listed as “warm” on UW, if that tells you anything.

Name to Watch: Rocco Spindler

Spindler is not only a highly-rated recruit, he is from a state that Wisconsin has begun to have a lot of success in — Michigan. Getting in early with one of the Midwest’s best recruits in the 2021 class doesn’t hurt and neither will UW’s current track record with players out of the state of Michigan.

Will any of it matter? That’s a question that few seem to be able to answer. I wouldn’t bet on Spindler choosing the Badgers, but I would bet that his recruitment will be a good indication of where offers could go in this class.

Outside Linebacker

Don’t expect this class to be heavy on outside pass-rushers per say. Only two offers have gone out to date and both are in the state of Georgia, where UW had the beginnings of a foot hold under Gary Andersen and haven’t been able to sustain a lot of that momentum under this coaching staff.

Name to Watch: None

UW has offered both Chaz Chambliss and Barrett Carter, but neither have really been receptive to the efforts on the recruiting trail to date. Chambliss could be a heavy Clemson lean, given he’s visited the school multiple times and recently for the Dabo Swinney Camp as well.

If the Badgers are going to land a 2021 outside linebacker, that person has not been offered to date.

Inside Linebacker

Recently, the Badgers biggest track record of success on defense has come at inside linebacker. So much so that a player who would start almost anywhere is finally becoming a starter again as a Senior (Chris Orr).

So, keeping up that tradition is important and vital to success on the field of course. To that end, UW has offered four targets and few of them are huge names in the 2021 class on a national level. The good news there is that Wisconsin actually has a chance with a few of those names.

Name to Watch: Bryan Sanborn

If that name sounds familiar, you would be right. Bryan is the younger brother of Wisconsin’s potential starting inside linebacker Jack Sanborn. Having that family connection won’t be the end-all, be-all of his recruitment given he is the No. 9 ranked inside linebacker in the class. But, the good news is that the Sanborn family really loves what the Badgers have to offer as a whole program.

This recruitment is going to be huge to prove the Badgers can stick in with some of the biggest names in the country and win. They’ve proven that with other players, but continuing to do so is going to be important. Wisconsin has more than a 60-40 chance to win his commitment and the younger Sanborn could be a player that helps elevate UW with other targets on the recruiting trail.

Cornerback

Umm…so far things have been really quiet on this front and that’s likely because the Badgers are going to be really experienced at this position on the field in 2021.

Just how quiet are things to date? There literally isn’t a single offer out to a cornerback in 2021. That’s a sign that the Badgers aren’t prioritizing this position and are going to be selective with offers.

In the end, expect one or two cornerbacks at most in this class.

Safety

Safety is the exact opposite of cornerback, as UW currently would only have three scholarship players on the roster (with the 2020 cycle yet to land a safety commitment). That means we should expect some pressure to get quality in this class.

As such, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out there have been seven offers out at Safety in the 2021 class. There are some high-end offers out there and some under the radar ones as well.

But, the Badgers could stay home and get a big named recruit as well.

Name to Watch: Hunter Wohler

It isn’t often that one of the country’s best defensive backs sits in the Badgers back yard according to the rankings. But, Wohler is the No. 7 ranked player in the nation at his position and the No. 1 recruit in Wisconsin.

Simply put, this is a must-win recruitment for the Badgers. Letting the No. 1 player slip out of the state and at a skill position nonetheless would be a massive disappointment.

The good news is that UW seems to be the early leader in his recruitment and according to his own words earlier this week, will look to commit after his junior season at the earliest.

Michigan State and Ohio State could be Wisconsin’s biggest competition here so it will be interesting to see how things shake out.

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