Thursday, June 22, 2017
Bilo's 2017 College Football Previews: Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin has become the program that basically can run itself no matter who is running things. Paul Chryst is the current coach, but he inherited a program that is amazingly self sufficient, and has the benefit of playing in the incredibly weak Big 10 West. The good thing is that Wisconsin is basically dominating the West, and that looks to continue into 2017.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The Badgers are built around old school Big 10 football philosophies, meaning that they believe in run first on offense. The Badgers may have lost their top two rushers from last season, but that open s the door for talented sophomore Bradrick Shaw, who averaged 5.19 yards per carry on 88 carries as a freshman. He is one of theplayers in this conference looking to explode onto the scene as a full time starter in the fall. He scored five times last fall while rushing for 457 yards, making the most of every opportunity. Austin Ramesh will be back at FB providing a first rate road pave in front of Shaw.
Jazz Peavy, the leading receiver from last season, returns. He caught 43 passes for 635 yards and a team leading five scores. TE Troy Fumagalli also returns after catching 47 balls for 580 yards last fall.
Four starters on the line are slated to return in LG John Dietzen, C Michael Dieter, RG Beau Benschwazel, and RT David Edwards. All five key reserves on the line (all sophomores last season) will return, including Brett Connors, who could be taking over for the departed Ryan Ramczyk at LT.
Rafael Gaglianone will be back at PK after hitting 7/8 FG attempts in limited opportunities last fall. He should be a rock solid addition as a full time starter.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The passing game, in short, falls short. Alex Hornibrook was a decent game manager as a freshman last fall, but he lacks the big time passing skills of former QB Russell Wilson, and will need a good push to get the best out of him, and Bart Houston will not be here to push him. A pair of freshmen, Jack Coan and Kare Lyles are the only guys on the roster to provide that push, so Hornibrook could be safe, for now.
Other than Peavy, there are not very many experienced targets to throw to at WR. George Rushing is the next best receiver returning, and he caught all of 12 passes last fall.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
One thing you can always bank on is that Wisconsin will run out a first rate defense, and that should be the case once again. The Badgers allowed just 15.7 points per game last fall.
All three starters return from the bowl game win over Western Michigan on the line. Alec James and Chkwe Obasih are back at DE, while Connor Sheehy was the starter at NT, and returns. Sheehy was listed at DE this spring, and could be in the process of moving outside. If that is the case, Olive Sogapolu returns and will start at NT. Sheey and James combined for 7.5 TFLs last fall, while Obasih played in all 14 games on a rotation basis. Sogapalu played in nine game last fall.
Billy Hirschfield backed up both DE spots, and will return up front as well.
The ILB spots are already spoken for as we head to fall camp. Ryan Connelly and TJ Edwards, both juniors, return. Edwards led the team with 89 tackles last fall, while Connelly finished with 59 stops. They combined for 15.5 TFLs as well. Leon Jacobs and Griffin Grady both return, but Grady could be moving outside in fall camp, as he did during spring ball. He could replace either TJ Watt or Vince Biegel as a starter this fall. Garrett Dooley and Zack Baun are also contenders at the outside spots.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The OLB spots are sure to be filled with solid prospects this fall, but losing both Beigel and Watt is a huge hit to take off the edge. They combined for 21.5 TFLs last fall, and were a major intimidation factor coming off of the edge.
The secondary is in a bit of a rebuild as well, with only two starters returning in CB Derrick Tindal and SS D'Cota Dixon return. Tindal finished with 11 PBUs and three picks, while Dixon finished with four INTs and four PBUs to go with four QB hurries. Dixon also added 60 tackles,while Tindal added 34. Sophomore Patrick Johnson is in line to take over for team leader Lee Musso at FS, while Luborn Figaro could be taking over for another huge loss in Sojourn Shelton at CB.
The Punting game was a mess last season and neither Anthony Lotti nor PJ Rosowski made a difference there. Lotti averaged just 37.71 yards per punt, while Rosowski averaged just 36.67 yards per try.
2017 Schedule: 9/1 Utah State, 9/9 Florida Atlantic, 9/16 at BYU, 9/30 Northwestern, 10/7 at Nebraska, 10/14 Purdue, 10/21 Maryland, 10/28 at Illinois, 11/4 at Indiana, 11/11 Iowa, 11/18 Michigan, 11/25 at Minnesota
The Badgers certainly got a break in the scheduling department early, as the toughest non con gme is a road trip to BYU, which is no LSU battle. They get every major West division foe beside Minnesota at home, and they don't play Penn State or Ohio State at all. That is all a huge bonus. The roster is solid, but they have to get batter at QB if they are to avoid the close losses that plagued them a year ago. If Wisconsin gets a first rate QB in Madison, they are competing for national titles. Right now, they are probably the third best team, maybe the fourth, in the Big 10 without one. They still win the West, but they don't have the guns on offense to run with Ohio State or Penn State in the East should they get one or the other in the Big 10 title game this December. Still, I like the Badgers to breeze through the West and lock it down once again.