Southern Football Report Preseason Poll: #13 Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin LogoThe Wisconsin Badgers rushing attack and running back Melvin Gordon III took college football by storm last season when they went on a seven game tear before being throttled in the Big Ten Championship game by eventual National Champion Ohio State. The Badgers went from an already insane 284 rushing yards per game in 2013 to an earth-moving 320 rushing yards per game in 2014. You know you’ve got a good rushing attack when the lead returning rusher from last season went for 950 yard and 9 touchdowns yet was out-rushed by the starter by over 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Wisconsin Junior Center Dan Voltz
Wisconsin Junior Center Dan Voltz

In the off season, Head Coach Gary Anderson bolted for Oregon State which gave Wisconsin an opportunity to hire Paul Chryst away from Pittsburgh. Wisconsin fans couldn’t have chosen a better person to be the head coach of their beloved Badgers. Chryst was a quarterback for Wisconsin in the late 80’s and was the offensive coordinator in Madison from 2003 through 2011. Under Chryst, the Badgers won’t venture far from their bread and butter in 2015 and continue to run the football with junior running back Corey Clement who is set up to be the next great running back in Wisconsin’s long line of great backs. The rushing attack is only as good as the offensive line and the Badgers return two of the best in the country in senior left tackle Tyler Marz and junior center Dan Voltz, who many consider one of the top five centers in the nation. There will be three newcomers on the line but, as expected, they are three of the largest human beings I have ever seen: redshirt freshman right guard Michael Deiter (6’3″, 317 lbs), senior left guard Ray Ball (6’7″, 324 lbs) and sophomore Hayden Biegel (6’6″, 303 lbs). Lining up behind that offensive line will be senior quarterback Joel Stave who will need to improve in his senior season after throwing more interceptions than touchdowns in 2014.

Wisconsin will return six starters from a defense that allowed the most points per game since 2009 (20.8) but senior safety and team captain Michael Caputo will most definitely have a hand in getting that number back down below 20. Caputo led the team in tackles in 2014 with 106 from his strong safety position and commands a fairly strong secondary. Three of the six returning starters are in the secondary including senior corner back Darius Hillary who accounted for 40 tackles in 2014. It will be experience on the outside and new guys on the inside in the linebacking group with senior outside linebacker Joe Schobert (69 tackles in 2014) on the left and junior Vince Biegel (56 tackles in 2014) lined up on the right. Inside will be junior Leon Jacobs and redshirt freshman TJ Edwards. Up front the Badgers will have a pair of sophomores and a junior handling the point of attack on defense. Junior nose guard Arthur Goldburg is set to have a break out season in the middle of the Badgers defensive line.

Wisconsin Badgers Head Coach Paul Chryst
Wisconsin Badgers Head Coach Paul Chryst

Wisconsin opens the 2015 season in AT&T Stadium (aka Jerry World) against the reigning SEC Champion Alabama Crimson Tide but the Badgers won’t leave the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium for over a month. The four game home stand begins with Miami of Ohio on the 12th followed by Troy & Hawai’i on the 19th and 26th. The home stand ends as October begins with the Badgers’ first conference game against the Iowa Hawkeyes who Wisconsin hasn’t lost to since 2009. The following week Wisconsin will have their first true home game in Lincoln, Nebraska, against the Nebraska Cornhuskers who the Badgers rushed for 581 yards against last season. It’s back to Madison the following week for homecoming when the Badgers welcome the Purdue Boilermakers to town before heading on the road again, this time to take on Illinois. Wisconsin wraps up the month of October with a home date with still new conference opponent Rutgers who the Badgers throttled 37-0 in 2014. November is no cake walk with a road date with the Maryland Terrapins who are desperate for a good season and are poised to make a run in the Big Ten Eastern division. The Badgers finally get a bye week on November 14th before a home game against their only regular season conference loss in 2014, the Northwestern Wildcats. It was a perfect storm for Northwestern last season that I’m sure the Badger upperclassmen haven’t forgotten. The regular season ends as always with battle for Paul Bunyon’s Axe against the hated Minnesota Golden Gophers in Minneapolis where the only two losses for Wisconsin in the last twenty games have come on the road.

Wisconsin is one of those programs in college football that can go through three head coaches in four seasons and never miss a beat and that is exactly what I expect to happen in 2015. They will have a top notch running game and a solid defense as well as a head coach that the athletic director and fans alike can get behind. If the quarterback play improves, and I think it will, the Wisconsin Badgers will make it back to their third Big Ten Championship Game in four seasons.

Camp Randall Stadium - Capacity: 80,321
Camp Randall Stadium – Capacity: 80,321

2015 Wisconsin Badgers Schedule

Sept 5th            v. Alabama (Arlington)
Sept 12th          Miami (OH)
Sept 19th          Troy
Sept 26th         Hawai’i
Oct 3rd             Iowa
Oct 1oth           at Nebraska
Oct 17th           Purdue
Oct 24th          at Illinois
Oct 31st           Rutgers
Nov 7th           at Maryland
Nov 14th         BYE WEEK
Nov 21st          Northwestern
Nov 28th         at Minnesota

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