Maize n' Brew mercilessly drifts through yet another preview; this one long overdue. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Wisconsin Badgers.
Previously: Illinois, Northwestern, Penn State, Iowa, Michigan State
Explanation and indemnifications found: here
For as much press as the "Rodriguez is on the hot seat" concept has gotten this off season, in my e-pinion, it's Bret Bielema who might be running short on rope. Entering the Michigan game last season, Wisconsin was 3-0, and the number 9 team in the country. The admittedly fluky and...well...weird loss at Michigan set Wisconsin into a downright Sparty-esque tailspin, and they lost the next 4 consecutive games. By the time they regrouped to win the last three (one against Cal Poly in OT), the team had already massively underachieved. A loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports bowl capped a 7-6 season in which only 3 Big Ten games were won.
This isn't meant to be a "slam Wisconsin" type preview, but last season, with PJ Hill and Allan Evridge returning, the expectations were pretty high in Madison; expectations that were not met. Looking to atone for that, Dustin Sherer returns after going 4-3 as Evridge's replacement last season. John Clay, a sophomore, will take over the tailback duties. However, the offense returns only 6 starters, while the defense returns just 5. They are young, and might be due for a rebuilding-type year that I'm not sure Bielema has room for.
More Previewin' Dead Ahead. Click Below
|September 5||Northern Illinois||7:00 PM ET|
|September 12||Fresno State||12:00 PM ET|
|September 19||Wofford||12:00 PM ET|
|September 26||Michigan State||TBA|
|October 3||at Minnesota||TBA|
|October 10||at No. 6 Ohio State||TBA|
|October 17||No. 22 Iowa||12:00 PM ET|
|November 7||at Indiana||TBA|
|November 21||at Northwestern||TBA|
One thing the media will harp on that is off base
The defense is young and suspect, but to me that's not the biggest concern for this team. Despite the fact that Dustin Sherer is a returning starter (of sorts) his number don't point to being anything other than pedestrian.
That's not the most consistent stat line from what figures to be your starting quarterback. Add on to this the fact that Bielema isn't 100% sold on Sherer, and you've got a quarterback situation that could see a marginal but experienced starter being replaced by a young but maybe more athletic backup. Meanwhile, the offense is going to have to put some points on the board because, as mentioned previously, the defense is young and will take some time to get things together. O'Brien Schofield returns as a senior at Defensive End, but the other 3 members of the defensive line are getting their first starts this year. At linebacker, the team returns leading tackler Jaevery McFadden, and Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen are seem to be serviceable. Both juniors were 3-star types with St. Jean being perhaps a little more athletic. The quarterback situation is never going to be solved this year; but it could implode given the right situation. In that case, this Wisconsin team is probably not going to be able to lean on their defense against the top-level teams in the Big Ten.
One thing the media will completely ignore that is integral to this team's success:
There are two things here that I feel will be extremely beneficial for this Wisconsin team. First, the schedule sets up nicely with 4 games at home to start, including the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. Fresno State may be a test for this young team, but they could easily start the season at 3-0 and roll into conference play with some confidence. They travel to Ohio State, but miss Penn State this season. If you're going to have a rebuilding year, it's nice to have the majority of your tough games at home and miss a team projected to battle for the conference championship.
Second, the secondary is actually pretty experienced, returning both safeties and one corner. Also, cornerback Aaron Henry returns after missing the entirety of last season with an ACL injury. If Wisconsin can go on one of those crazy turn-over fueled runs ala Minnesota a few years back, they could sneak into contention for the Big Ten.
Most important contributors on each side of the ball:
Offensively, Wisconsin features, once again, a huge white-guy-farm-bred type offensive line anchored by left tackle Gave Carimi. John Moffitt, a junior, also returns at center. John Clay might be the scariest running back in the league, and the combination of blocking and running might allow Wisconsin to lead the conference in rushing like they did last year.
Defensively, it's going to be that secondary, particularly Niles Brinkley who led the team in INT's last year.
Area that scares you as Michigan Wolverines:
Wisconsin's ground attack will again be the team's strength. The good news is that they're definitely just going to throw rock. The bad news is that they throw it harder, stronger, and with more dairy than any other team in the Big Ten. If they start rolling on the ground, any QB concerns will be a moot point.
Area that makes you salivate as the Michigan Wolverines:
A young-ish front seven against a complicated spread n' shred attack will be fun to watch. The game this year is at camp Randall, which is always tough, but will be played November 14th. By this time, hopefully, the offense will be at as full of capacity as it's going to get. Provided there are no injuries, Wisconsin will catch the Michigan offense, hopefully (again! say it with me! hopefully!), at its peak.
Final Big Ten Standing:
I can't seem to keep this stuff straight...where does the 5th place Big Ten team go? Citrus Jr. Was the Citrus ever big enough to warrant a son? Who did it mate with? Will Citrus Jr. ever leave the nest of Orlando and settle in, like, San Francisco?
I smell a sit-com.