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Wisconsin Badgers will be the hunters and the hunted in 2018

Wisconsin will be hunted by the rest of the West division, but has national goals of its own in mind. Can the hunted turn in to the hunter for CFB Playoff gold?

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The Wisconsin Badgers find themselves in a strange situation heading in to the 2018 season — they are equal parts hunter and the hunted.

Such is the case when you are a member of the Big Ten West division, have played in every Big Ten championship game since Paul Chyrst took over and have won back-to-back New Years Six bowl games.

On the one hand, every team in the Big Ten West division knows its route to Indianapolis takes a detour through the team in Madison, Wis.

Take in to account Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson’s thoughts on where things stand.

“They’ve been top dog in the Big Ten West for the past few years,” Thorson said of the Badgers, via the Wisconsin State Journal. “We know in order to get to the Big Ten Championship (Game), we’re going to have to beat them. That’s how we think about it and that’s the truth.”

UW’s praises were sung by just about everyone else in the West division, but many of the coaches also saw the challenge of beating Wisconsin as a stepping stone to improving the West division overall.

Some coaches believe the competitive level has inched up in the last few years, especially because of the coaching talent that has come to the division. Purdue went from doormat to a bowl game in the first year under Jeff Brohm, P.J. Fleck is over at Minnesota and the hottest offseason coaching name, Scott Frost, is now at the helm of his alma mater, Nebraska.

That’s not to mention that two of the longest-serving head coaches in the Big Ten, Kirk Ferentz and Pat Fitzgerald, happen to lead the two programs that have managed wins over the Badgers since Chryst took over. Iowa and Northwestern have been easily the most competitive teams in the division and have managed to play well against cross-division opponents.

Who can forget Iowa’s butt-kicking of then-No. 6 Ohio State last season, or its two heartbreaking losses to Penn State and Michigan State?

It should all serve as a reminder that nothing is guaranteed in the Big Ten…even in the weaker West division.

“Wisconsin’s very good,” Brohm said at Big Ten Media Days earlier this week. “They’re well-coached, they’ve got great players, they play their style of football and they are tough to beat. I’d like to find a way for other teams to inch up. I think Northwestern has. I think Iowa is in the vicinity. Obviously, the rest of us need to pick it up and try to get closer.”

On the other hand, the Badgers have built themselves a national reputation as a perennial contender and are seemingly just one big step away from competing on the field for a national championship. Winning the West division title is just the stepping stone to two bigger and realistic goals at the end of the season — a Big Ten title and a berth in the College Football Playoff.

It’s a strange situation to be in, but it is the reality for this Badgers team.

Luckily for the Badgers, Chryst is about as good as they come in getting players to focus on what is right in front of them and not all the chatter around them.

Chryst’s message since arriving in Madison has been consistent — control what you can control and let the chips fall where they may.

For the Badgers to not fall pry to being the hunted, this mentality that has paid off in the past must be repeated in 2018.

After all, It’s how they have racked up a 22-4 record in conference play since Chryst showed up and how they have managed only two losses (15-2) against the West division since he took over the UW program.

However, the bigger question might just be how the Badgers handle hunting some of the other competition for national supremacy in 2018. Unlike last season, UW faces a much tougher overall schedule and will likely see two top-15 opponents out of the East division — Michigan and Penn State — on the road no less.

Win those games and the Badgers will likely have put themselves in a position to challenge for a national championship. Of course, there is likely to be that final hurdle that has eluded Chryst and Co. so far…the Big Ten championship game. Figuring out how to navigate that final challenge and hoist that silver football on the first Saturday in December will be the ultimate hunt for the Badgers.

Given the perceived strength of the Big Ten overall in 2018, it is hard to fathom that its champion wouldn’t have a serious case for the College Football Playoff.

Just don’t expect UW’s coaches or players to do anything other than go out and handle business as they have always done so. That means less talk of big picture and plenty of talk and action about what is right in front of them.

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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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