#16 Wisconsin Football 2015 Preview

Wisconsin Badgers

Overall Rank: #16
#3 Big Ten

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Not long after Wisconsin’s 59-0 blowout loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, Coach Gary Andersen left to take the head coaching job at Oregon State. Whatever the reasons, the Badgers found a nice fit with new coach Paul Chryst. The former Badger quarterback and offensive coordinator will continue the Badgers running tradition and hopes to build off a successful 11-3 season which culminated in an Outback Bowl win over Auburn.

2014 Record: 11-3, 7-1
2014 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Auburn (W 34-31)
Coach: Paul Chryst (0-0 at Wisconsin, 19-20 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph
Defensive Coordinator: Dave Aranda

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Corey Clement, RB, 949 yards
Passing: Joel Stave, QB, 1,350 yards
Receiving: Alex Erickson, WR, 772 yards
Tackles: Michael Caputo, S, 106
Sacks: Vince Biegel, LB, 7.5
Interceptions: Michael Caputo, S, 1; Lubern Figaro, S, 1

Other Key Returnees: QB/S Tanner McEvoy, TE Troy Fumagalli, OL Dan Voltz, LB Joe Schobert, CB Darius Hillary, CB Sojourn Shelton, K Rafael Gaglianone

Key Losses: RB Melvin Gordon, TE Sam Arneson, WR Kenzel Doe, OL Rob Havenstein, OL Kyle Costigan, LB Marcus Trotter, LB Derek Landisch

Lost among the hype of running back Melvin Gordon was that Wisconsin had a great defense last year. They ranked fourth in the nation in pass defense and total defense and allowed a mere 20.8 points per game. Outside linebackers Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert combined for 30 tackles-for-loss and 10.5 sacks last season. Inside linebackers Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch need to be replaced, but Leon Jacobs has experience and the expectations are very high for redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards. The front three is young, but should have enough size to occupy the line while Biegel and Schobert make plays. The secondary is the most experienced unit of them all, led by safety Michael Caputo. Corners Darius Hillary and Sojourn Shelton are also returning starters. The problem the defense had last year was creating turnovers. They had just six interceptions all year. But the Badgers can certainly win games by bending and not breaking on defense.

Yet, that only works when the offense is not creating turnovers. The team ranked 110th in turnover margin and the offense must keep the ball in the hands of their talented running backs instead of giving it back to the opposition. Those talented running backs do need to replace Gordon though and his 2,587 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns. Corey Clement is the next in line after rushing for 949 yards and nine touchdowns. Gordon was a special back, but Clement will get plenty of yards in this system. The bigger concern is who will step up and replace Clement as the #2 back. Dare Ogunbowale and redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal are the two likely options, yet usually Wisconsin has a more clear and experienced back ready to step into that role. The turnover issue was mostly coming from the quarterbacks, not the running backs. Joel Stave figures to step back into the full-time starting role, while last year’s part-time starter Tanner McEvoy moves to safety and Bart Houston backs up Stave. Stave got a lot of attention last year for his “yips.” Apparently early in the season he couldn’t make a pass. Stave is a good, experienced quarterback though. His numbers last year were not impressive, but back in 2013 he completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 2,494 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The interception numbers are still a bit high, but on a team that runs and throws deep, it is not too bad. Alex Erickson is back after catching 55 passes for 772 yards and will be the team’s top receiving threat again in 2015. The Badgers could use a secondary threat underneath, most likely tight end Troy Fumagalli, but Erickson will be the deep threat.

The Bottom Line:
Once again the Badgers open the season at a neutral site again an SEC team. After a tough loss to LSU last year, they hope for better luck against Alabama. The schedule otherwise is pretty easy by Big Ten standards. The crossover games to the tougher Big Ten East are against Maryland and Rutgers. The only bad thing is that the Badgers must travel to both Nebraska and Minnesota. Still, this is the team to beat in Big Ten West. Expect another ten plus win season with a trip to the Big Ten title game, and probably another loss in the Big Ten title game.

Projected Bowl: Holiday Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 320.1 (4th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 148.7 (116, 12)
Total Offense: 468.9 (21, 3)
Scoring Offense: 34.6 (27, 4)
Rushing Defense: 126.1 (23, 4)
Pass Defense: 168.0 (4, 1)
Total Defense: 294.1 (4, 2)
Scoring Defense: 20.8 (17, 2)
Turnover Margin: -0.64 (110, 13)
Sacks: 2.64 (31, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 0.93 (7, 2)

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#199 Bradrick Shaw


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