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Prelude to a Season… #13

#13.) Wisconsin

What You Need to Know: The Badgers have been the model of consistency in the last four years, piling up 40 wins and a Top 18 final ranking each season. Bret Bielema, entering his third season since replacing Barry Alvarez, begins the quest to get to more than just a New Year’s Day Bowl Game, though the Badgers have been to 4 straight, the only team in the Big Ten that can say that.

The Badgers return 17 starters from a team plagued by the injury bug last season. Their recruiting class was stellar, though not exceptional, and their backups all have game experience. Key losses to the Badgers are QB Tyler Donovan and K Taylor Mehlhaff. Returning is a strong offensive line that is the signature of the Wisconsin O, and a deep stable of running backs. So deep in fact, that Bielema wasn’t sure P.J. Hill, set to finish #2 on the all-time Wisconsin rushing total list, wasn’t going to split time with sophomore Zach Brown. It’s smash-mouth, in your face, bruise up your defensive line by running over top of everyone, Wisconsin football. And they should be better at it this year than they were last.

The defense is deep, game-tested, and experienced. The defensive line has been plagued by injuries (mostly minor) in the spring, and the LB crew is among the best in the conference. They are weakest in the secondary, but not crippilingly so. Expect a staunch defense, especially so in front of the home crowd in Madison, one of the toughest places to play in the country.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
RB P.J. Hill: 1212 yds, 14 TD
S Shane Carter: 7 INT
DE Matt Shaughnessy: 18 TFL, 5 sacks
TE Travis Beckum: 75 rec, 982 yds, 6 TD

Game To Watch: There are three teams which figure to be in the hunt for a Big Ten crown along with Wisconsin. Fortunately for the Badgers, all three games will be played in front of their home crowd in Madison. Penn State, Illinois, and Ohio State will all look for a road win in the very tough confines of Camp Randall. How the Badgers do in those games will ultimately decide the conference and whether the Badgers can finally grab the brass ring of the BCS.

They’ll Do Well If…: Wisconsin has to stick to what Wisconsin does best: Offensively, a grind-it-out attack. Defensively: a no-mistakes approach that brings intensity. They must not fall victim to any “trap games”.

Season Outlook: The future is bright for the Badgers, but a Big Ten title will be tough to grasp this year. While the game is played in Camp Randall, WI, the road to the Big Ten title clearly goes through Columbus, OH and Ohio State. Realistically, the Badgers finish a 1-loss season (to the aforementioned Buckeyes) and wait to see if they get an at-large BCS berth. The computers will not be kind to Wisconsin, without a title game to play in, and their schedule strength is weak with out of conference teams like Akron, Marshall, and Cal Poly.

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