#15 Wisconsin Football 2017 Preview


Wisconsin Badgers


Overall Rank: #15

#4 Big Ten

After yet another trip to the Big Ten Conference Championship game, Wisconsin showed once again that they are the top program in the Big Ten West Division. The Badgers showed they can battle elite teams like Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State and take those games down to the wire. However, Wisconsin lost those three games by a combined total of 21 points as they just weren’t dynamic enough offensively, especially in the losses to the Wolverines and Buckeyes, to get the win. It will be interesting to see how the Badgers respond in 2017 with a less strenuous schedule.
2016 Record: 11-3, 7-2
2016 Bowl: Goodyear Cotton Bowl vs. Western Michigan 24-16 W
Coach: Paul Chryst (21-6 at Wisconsin, 40-25 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Leonhard
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Bradrick Shaw, RB, 457 yards
Passing: Alex Hornibrook, QB, 2,262 yards
Receiving: Troy Fumagalli, TE, 580 yards
Tackles: T.J. Edwards, ILB, 89
Sacks: Garrett Dooley, OLB, 3.5, Alec James, DE, 3.5
Interceptions: D’Cota Dixon, 4
Other Key Returnees:  WR Jazz Peavy, LT David Edwards, LG Joe Dietzen, C Michael Deiter, RG Beau Benzschawel, RT Jacob Maxwell, FB Austin Ramesh, DE Conor Sheehy, DE Chikwe Obasih, ILB Ryan Connelly, CB Derrick Tindal, K Rafael Gaglianone, P Anthony Lotti
Key Losses:  RB Corey Clement, QB Bart Houston, WR Reggie Love, RB Dare Ogunbowale, OL Ryan Ramczyk, TE Eric Steffes, WR Robert Wheelwright, OLB Vince Biegel, S Keelon Brookins, S Leo Musso, CB Sojourn Shelton, CB Serge Treazy, OLB T.J Watt, LS Connor Udelhoven
Alex Hornibrook was a solid performer last season as a freshman, but for Wisconsin to move forward in 2017 it will be up to Hornibrook to take a step forward in the passing game. The Badgers threw for just under 180 yards per game last season, which is not good enough as teams with strong defenses like Michigan will be able to load up the box with 8-9 guys to shut down the running game. Troy Fumagalli and Jazz Peavy will be looking to increase their production catching the ball in 2017. Bradrick Shaw should be the next man up as the feature running back as Shaw did average over five yards a carry last season. If Shaw can come close to the numbers that were put up by Cory Clement after he rushed for 1,375 yards, then Wisconsin will be just fine offensively. The offensive line should be the strength of this unit as four of five starters return and, if they can protect Hornibrook in the passing game, it would be a huge bonus for the Badgers.
Jack Cichy’s season ending ACL injury suffered in early August is a big-time loss for Wisconsin on the defensive side of the football. Cichy was a team captain and the heart and soul of the defense at linebacker and his leadership is going to be sorely missed. T.J. Edwards is the leading returning tackler from the 2016 season at inside linebacker and will need to rev up his production even more with the loss of Cichy. D’Cota Dixon is going to have be a leader in the secondary as a senior and for rest of the defense. Dixon is a bit of a ballhawk as he intercepted four passes in 2016 and will need to do more of the same this season.
The Bottom Line:
Kicker Rafael Gaglianone, if healthy, is going to be difference maker at kicker as the Badgers are going to be in plenty of tight games this season. The schedule will buy Wisconsin some time to get things rolling with home games against Utah State and Florida Atlantic. A trip to Provo to play BYU is on the docket for week three and that will be the first true test of the season for the Badgers. After a bye week, the conference schedule begins with a visit from Northwestern and then a trip to Nebraska. If Wisconsin is 2-0 after those two games they will be in great shape until they play Iowa and Michigan in late November. Look for another nine-win type of season for the Badgers as the Cichy injury is going to be too much to overcome for a College Football Playoff run.
Projected Bowl: Citrus Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 203.1 (39th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 179.1 (104, 9)
Total Offense: 382.1 (89, 8)
Scoring Offense: 28.4 (67, 5)
Rushing Defense: 98.8 (3, 1)
Pass Defense: 202.6 (30, 6)
Total Defense: 301.4 (7, 3)
Scoring Defense: 15.6 (4, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.86 (9, 2)
Sacks: 2.43 (35, 6)
Sacks Allowed: 1.71 (41, 5)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#47 T.J. Edwards
#90 Troy Fumagalli
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#138 Danny Davis
#203 Kayden Lyles
#220 Tyler Beach