Whatever your thoughts on Bret Bielema, Badger fan, he did leave your team in the unusual position (for Wisconsin) of having a stable of quarterbacks who can propel the team to some nice wins in 2013, and the enviable position of leaving the entire program in good shape. Just how well will the Badgers do this season? Let's take a look...
8/31 UMass: The Minutemen were a horrendous 1-11 last year. Although they played a tough game against Michigan a few years ago, don't look for an upset to happen in Camp Randall. Minutemen QB, Mike Wegzyn, is a redshirt sophomore who threw for only 1,825 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. The Minutemen will also need to try to find someone to take up the 710 yards that former Michigan tailback Mike Cox tallied last year. All in all, it's going to be a very tough outing for UMass.
9/7 Tennessee Tech: Never heard of 'em. Well, I have, but y'know. Again, no upset will be taking place. I know you're never supposed to look past an opponent, but my bet is that Bucky will be snoozing for much of this one.
9/14 @ Arizona State: The Sun Devils were not a bad team last year, and Todd Graham is a very good head coach who could give the Badgers a run for their money. He took a team that had been struggling prior to his arrival to eight wins--albeit against the doormats of the PAC-12, but wins is wins. Graham has had only one losing season since starting his head coaching career in 2006. The man just can't seem to stick around anywhere for very long, though. The Sun Devils are returning QB Taylor Kelly who threw for just over 3,000 yards in 2012, while TE Chris Coyle and his 12.2 YPG will also be returning. With the Badgers losing another defensive player, opposing offenses could have a little more success than they may otherwise have had. As an aside, when ASU changed their logo to just a plain trident a couple of years ago, they should have gone with this instead. Obviously.
9/21 Purdue: With Wisconsin's depleted secondary, Rob Henry and/or Danny Etling could make this game very entertaining. However, the Boilers probably won't be able to eke out the victory here.
9/28 @ Ohio State: This has become one of the more intriguing match-ups in recent years, right up there with Wisconsin's rivalry with Michigan State. Here's more on the OSU/UW rivalry. If the Badgers didn't have a new coach, and if the game were played in Madison, I'd call this in favor of Wisconsin. However, Urb has the Buckeyes rolling and they'll probably take this one, too.
10/12 Northwestern: Much to the frustration of Badgers fans, their team always seems to have trouble against Northwestern; the recent series record is 9-8 in favor of UW, so not as lopsided as the overall record (56-33-5) may suggest. This could be one of those knock-down, drag-out type of games that will be decided by an interception or fumble recovery. Just don't expect Bucky to score 70 points as he did in 2010.
10/19 @ Illinois: To reiterate what I stated in my Michigan State post when I got down to the Illinois game: I will laugh my ass off if Illinois wins this. Plus, people in Madison really really hate people from Illinois, so there is no way they're going to allow losing to a bunch of FIBs/flat landers.
11/2 @ Iowa: As with Northwestern, the Badgers have issues with Iowa. This series is tied at 42-42-2, so it can't get any closer than that, plus Iowa has gone 6-4 against the Badgers since 2001. Given Bucky's tendency to struggle with Iowa, I'll call this one in favor of the Hawkeyes, especially since it's at Kinnick.
11/9 BYU: The Cougars had the third-ranked defense in points-allowed last year (14 ppg), and they're returning stud senior LB Kyle Van Noy. This game has some serious potential, even though the Cougars were 0-3 against the top 25. As a resident of Madison, I may actually get off my butt and head down to Regent & Brooks to look for a couple of tickets. See you there.
11/16 Indiana: Indiana has a three-headed quarterback, and we all know the old adage about having more than one guy at the QB position. However, Indiana's situation isn't the typical one in which all three guys will play at any given point in a game. They just have some very good options. Tre Roberson could do some amazing things this year, but beating Wisconsin won't be one of them.
11/23 @ Minnesota: In my post on Minnesota's schedule, I predicted that Wisconsin will keep Paul Bunyan's axe for yet another season. However, I am softening that position a little bit. Although Wisconsin will probably still win, this could be more of a game than I initially thought. Ra'Shede Hageman will be in the midst of a good season for the Gophers, and Philip Nelson could be in a decent groove by this point. The line is Wisconsin at -10; it's going to be less than that.
11/30 Penn State: The last time the Nittany Lions came to Madison, the Badgers repaid their 2008 48-7 loss with a 45-7 win. Last year's contest in Happy Valley was a 3-point win for Penn State. With new/unproven QBs for each team, I don't think it would be fair to expect the beat-downs we've seen in recent years. Bill O'Brien knows how to teach and develop quarterbacks, and can do it quickly, but Penn State just isn't going to have enough to overcome the Badgers.
Overall, nine wins is probably a reasonable expectation, but ten is definitely possible. The toss-up games are going to be Arizona State and BYU. There may be some hiccups along the way, and the Rose Bowl streak could possibly be over, but the future is looking pretty solid in Madison.