#28 Wisconsin Football 2016 Preview

Wisconsin Badgers
Overall Rank: #28
#5 Big Ten
Wisconsin quietly won ten games last season. They lost their opener to Alabama and lost their Big Ten opener to Iowa. Those were two of the biggest games of the season and the Badgers were not able to pick up that big, headline earning victory. Still, Wisconsin beat most of the teams they should have beaten and ended the year with a Holiday Bowl victory over USC. Year two under Coach Paul Chryst will have more big wins, but perhaps not as many overall victories.
2015 Record: 10-3, 6-2
2015 Bowl: Holiday Bowl vs. USC (W 23-21)
Coach: Paul Chryst (10-3 at Wisconsin, 29-22 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph
Defensive Coordinator: Justin Wilcox
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Dare Ogunbowale, RB, 819 yards
Passing: Bart Houston, QB, 281 yards
Receiving: Robert Wheelwright, WR, 416 yards
Tackles: TJ Edwards, LB, 84
Sacks: Vince Biegel, LB, 8.0
Interceptions: Leo Musso, S, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Taiwan Deal, RB Corey Clement, TE Troy Fumagalli, OL Dan Voltz, LB Jack Cichy, LB Chris Orr
Key Losses: QB Joel Stave, WR Alex Erickson, OL Tyler Marz, LB Joe Schobert, S Michael Caputo, CB Darius Hillary, S Tanner McEvoy
The defense was amazing last season. They ranked fourth in the country in rush defense, seventh in pass defense, second in total defense and first in scoring defense with 13.7 points per game. That is impressive. The Badgers may take a step back, especially without touted defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who took the same position at LSU. The front line did not get into the backfield too often, but ends Conor Sheehy and Chikwe Obasih are back. The outside linebackers are the players who get to the quarterback more often and Vince Biegel is ready for a big year after tallying 8.0 sacks and 14.0 tackles-for-loss. Joe Schobert needs to be replaced, but Biegel is ready to turn into the team’s defensive leader. Sophomore TJ Edwards was the team’s top tackler as a freshman last season from his inside linebacker spot. He will likely start beside either Jack Cichy or Chris Orr at the other inside linebacker position. The secondary will be led by cornerback Sojour Shelton and Derrick Tindal is a very talented cornerback who has been waiting his turn for a full-time starting position. The biggest issue on the defensive side of the ball is at safety where Michael Caputo and former quarterback Tanner McEvoy must be replaced. Those two combined for eight of the team’s 12 interceptions last season. Leo Musso and D’Cota Dixon are the experienced options to step into a starting role, but there are a handful of underclassmen who can work their way into the regular rotation or even the starting job.
As weird as it sounds, Wisconsin ranked 10th in the Big Ten and 94th in the country in rushing offense. It is unlikely that will happen again with the return of Corey Clement. He was limited by injuries last season and rushed for just 231 yards on 48 carries. In his absence, Dare Ogunbowale rushed for 819 yards and seven touchdowns and Taiwan Deal added 503 yards and six scores. Clement was the heir apparent to Melvin Gordon last season and this is his job. But if any injuries happen, the Badgers have a couple experienced backs that are capable of handling the load. With an offensive line that returns four starters and a few more with some starting experience, expect the rushing game to get back closer to what we have come to expect from the Badgers. The passing game will likely take a step back though with Joel Stave gone. Stave was never going to be a quarterback that put up big numbers, but he was steady last year. This year perennial backup Bart Houston figures to take over but he will have some competition from redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. Houston has seen quite a bit of action over the years and should be ready to take advantage of the opportunity. The problem is there are not many pass catching options on this team. Alex Erickson is gone and Dare Ogunbowale was actually the team’s second leading receiver in terms of catches. Robert Wheelwright, who caught 32 passes for 416 yards and four touchdowns last season, will have the first crack at being the big receiver for Wisconsin. Jazz Peavy has some talent too and the Badgers hope to utilize tight end Troy Fumagalli more this year too.
The Bottom Line:
The Big Ten schedule makers were not kind to Wisconsin and reaching ten wins again with this schedule would be quite the accomplishment. Following the three non-conference games, highlighted by a contest against LSU in Green Bay, the Badgers travel to Michigan State and Michigan. They get a week off before hosting Ohio State. That is a tough start to the Big Ten season and three teams from the Big Ten East that Wisconsin could have avoided. And the following week it is off to face West favorite Iowa and then host a very good Nebraska team. This team could start 0-5 in Big Ten play and nobody would say they had bad losses. They could also start off 0-5 in Big Ten play and be sitting at 2-6 overall and nobody would be surprised if they still made a bowl. But the expectations are higher than that and the Badgers could make a lot of noise by winning a majority of those very tough games.
Projected Bowl: Holiday Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 150.3 (94th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 228.3 (59, 7)
Total Offense: 378.6 (79, 7)
Scoring Offense: 26.8 (81, 8)
Rushing Defense: 95.4 (4, 1)
Pass Defense: 173.2 (7, 2)
Total Defense: 268.5 (2, 1)
Scoring Defense: 13.7 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.23 (48, 6)
Sacks: 2.15 (60, 8)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (56, 8)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#59 Dan Voltz
#61 Corey Clement
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#85 Cole Van Lanen
#199 Garrett Rand
#235 A.J. Taylor