The Badgers check in as the highest ranked Big Ten school on the countdown. Al Dannity makes his call on the season ahead for Bret Bielema’s team.
The schedule The Badgers have three cupcakes in their first four games of the year, hosting Northern Iowa, Utah State, and UTEP. Their only sojourn outside of Camp Randall in non-conference play will likely prove their toughest test, heading west to take on the Oregon State Beavers. Big Ten play begins with a tough road game at Nebraska, a team eager to avenge last year’s loss in Madison. The Illini pay a visit next before the Badgers face another road test at Purdue. A pair of home games follow, with Minnesota and Michigan State coming to Madison. The Badgers close the season out with a pair of road games at Indiana and Penn State sandwiching their home date with Ohio State.
The players Russell Wilson was a one-season wonder as transfer to Wisconsin. The new man under center also arrives from the ACC as Danny O’Brien takes over. The former Maryland starter has two years of eligibility left and will look to make an immediate impact at Camp Randall. The Badgers only return 5 starters on offense but one of those is Monteé Ball, he of the 39 touchdowns in 2011. Three of the holes will be on the offensive line but Bielema rarely has issues reloading here, building his offense around the meat up front. The defense is relatively thin, with only 6 returning starters, and this will likely have an impact on the Badgers’ offense early in the season. Effective as O’Brien is, Wisconsin will try to control the clock on the ground to take the pressure off their defense. This has the added bonus of reducing the requirements of a receiving corps getting used to the loss of Nick Toon.
The outlook The BCS rankings won’t take kindly to the Badgers unless they run the table. A weak non-conference schedule will do little to push them up the polls. Wisconsin also miss out on the strongest possible conference schedule, as they can only face Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game. That leaves no room for error and with a developing defense that could spell trouble. Most of the Badgers’ tougher assignments will come at home and winning at Camp Randall is never easy for any road team. That trip to Lincoln to face Nebraska stands out as a big concern as does the recovering defense of the Badgers. They should have what it takes to win the Big Ten overall but doing so unblemished may be a step too far.
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