Joe Pasquali, our resident college football analyst, is back again this year to cover NCAA college football. Where will the Wisconsin Badgers finish without Russell Wilson?
Wisconsin won the first ever Big 10 championship game in 2011 before losing 45-38 to #5 Oregon in an amazing Rose Bowl game. The 2012 campaign should be more of the same for a Badger team that returns a lot of key players. The loss of Russell Wilson will be felt, but the schedule is kind with both Michigan State and Ohio State at home, the latter should decide the Leaders division. My only concern is the mental toughness of this Wisconsin team. Almost all of their wins last year were blow outs, outscoring opponents 520-151 in victories. Three of the four games Wisconsin played in which were decided by one score, they lost.
Wisconsin ranked 11th in the nation last season rushing (235.6 yd per game) which came as no surprise to the world of college football, but what was a surprise was the passing attack. Russell Wilson added another dimension that allowed Wisconsin to terrorize defenses all year, scoring 44 points a game (6th in nation). Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien has a great arm and should make defenses respect the aerial threat. Once again Big Ten defenses will have the task of trying to stop Montee Ball and the Badger front five. I say “try” because Ball rushed for over 1,900 yards and 39 touchdowns last year (32 rushing, 7 receiving). Yes, that is not a typo, THIRTY NINE touchdowns.
Wisconsin returns six starters to a defense that wasn’t really talked about last season, mainly because the offense was putting up gaudy numbers. They were 13th in that nation in points against (19.0 per game) and 15th in yards against (316 per game). Linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor were the two top tacklers in the Big Ten last year and should help out a less than stellar front four. If Wisconsin wants to return to the Big Ten title game the defense will have to buckle down in big games. In their 3 losses the Badgers gave up 31, 29, and 38 points.
Special Teams (C)
Kyle French takes over the kicking duties for Wisconsin, though he did get some experience last year when kicker Philip Welch was injured. He was 3-5 last year and 26-27 on PATs, though his long field goal made was a chip shot of 29 yards. Badger fans did say he impressed in the spring game, making 8 of 10 field goals and solidifying his starter spot for 2012. Redshirt Freshmen Drew Meyer will be the starting punter and has yet to play a game for the Badgers.
Head Coach Brett Bielema is the model of consistency in the world of college football. Wisconsin teams are always competitive, big, and hardnosed and this all stems from their leader. Elsewhere Wisconsin is replacing 6 coaches total, not an easy task for any program.
2012 Win/Loss Prediction: 9-3 (1st in Leaders)