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2018

Wisconsin Badgers

College Football

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Wisconsin continues to fly under the radar as a team that never has enough to compete on a national level, but was only one game away from the College Football Playoff last season and ended up with a 13-1 record. With the majority of starters back on offense and a defense that’s always elite, the Badgers should again be a threat to win the Big Ten. Coming out of the spring, they had +2500 odds to win the National Championship (at 5Dimes Sportsbook), which placed them eighth in the country and fourth in the Big Ten. 

Most relevant to the offense is running back Jonathan Taylor, who had the best odds to win the Heisman in the spring (+850), slightly above Bryce Love. After rushing for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, he gets to run behind the same offensive line that returns its top six guys. While Taylor was dominant last season, he could be even better in 2018, especially if he’s used a little more in the passing game. That passing game is the biggest question surrounding Wisconsin’s offense with Alex Hornibrook still around, although he was listed with Heisman odds at +15000. He looked terrible at times, but finished the season with his best game in the Orange Bowl against Miami, completing 67.6% of his passes for four touchdowns and no picks against a defense that preyed on quarterbacks. Outside of the top tight end gone, the top receivers are back with Quintez Cephus, Danny Davis and A.J. Taylor, all of whom had at least five touchdowns, 26 receptions and 418 yards. The Badgers managed 33.8 points per game last year and should reach those numbers again even against a slightly more difficult schedule.

The defense may have a bigger task of allowing less than 100 rushing yards per game again, as well as 13.2 points per contest. A lot of big names are gone at every level, but per usual, the Badgers have enough talent coming in that it may not be a huge deal. Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel and tackle Olive Sagapolu are the experience Wisconsin needs to carry over last season’s success. There are talented guys throughout the front seven, but those two have the most experience, although players like T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly may be more talented at middle linebacker. The secondary is the bigger question with three starters gone. Safety D’Cota Dixon is the returning player and has to run the unit even after missing spring due to shoulder surgery.

The Badgers get a workable non-conference slate before heading into one of its more difficult Big Ten schedules in a while. None of their road games are easy with trips to Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue. Those could all be too close for comfort, but every game at Camp Randall could be a blowout, even the one against Nebraska. There won’t be many on Wisconsin’s schedule that can deal with its offensive line outside of some of the bigger teams it plays on the road. Otherwise, Taylor could be headed for multiple 200-yard performances. To win games at Michigan and Penn State, the Badgers need to be just as good defensively, especially against the Nittany Lions. Nine wins are on the table at a minimum with 10 most likely. The Big Ten West should be theirs, but if they lose games at Michigan and Penn State, it may not be as easy as previous seasons.

 

2018 Wisconsin Badgers Football Schedule

Aug. 31 vs. Western Kentucky

Sept. 8 vs. New Mexico

Sept. 15 vs. BYU 

Sept. 22 at Iowa

Oct. 6 vs. Nebraska

Oct. 13 at Michigan

Oct. 20 vs. Illinois

Oct. 27 at Northwestern

Nov. 3 vs. Rutgers

Nov. 10 at Penn State

Nov. 17 at Purdue

Nov. 24 vs. Minnesota

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