#6 Wisconsin 2018 Football Preview

Wisconsin Badgers
Overall Rank: #6
#2 Big Ten
 Wisconsin Logo
Wisconsin narrowly missed out on a trip to the College Football Playoff in 2017. The Badgers ran the table during the regular season but lost to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game 27-21. Wisconsin responded nicely in the Orange Bowl knocking off Miami 34-24 in impressive fashion. Head Coach Paul Chryst has kept the Barry Alvarez blueprint going ever since taking over as head coach as Chryst is 34-7 in three seasons in Madison.
2017 Record: 13-1, 9-0
2017 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. Miami (34-24 W)
Coach: Paul Chryst (34-7 at Wisconsin, 53-26 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Joe Rudolph
Defensive Coordinator: Jim Leonhard
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jonathan Taylor, RB, 1,977 yards
Passing: Alex Hornibrook, QB, 2,644 yards
Receiving: A.J. Taylor, WR, 475 yards
Tackles: Ryan Connelly, S, 88
Sacks: Andrew Van Ginkel, OLB, 6.5
Interceptions: T.J. Edwards, ILB, 4
Other Key Returnees: LG Michael Deiter, C Tyler Biadasz, RG Beau Nenzschawel, RT David Edwards, TE Zander Neuville, TE Kyle Penniston, NT Olive Sagapolu, ILB Ryan Connelly, SS D’Cota Dixon, K Rafael Gaglianone, P Anthony Lott
Key Losses: TE Troy Fumagalli, CB Nick Nelson, S Natrell Jamerson, LB Jack Cichy, LB Leon Jacobs, DE Alec James, LB Garret Dooley, FB Austin Ramesh, CB Derrick Tindal
Jonathan Taylor is a leading candidate to win the Heisman Trophy in 2018 after finishing sixth in the Heisman voting as a freshman. Taylor rushed for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns and should only get better with a year of college football under his belt. Alex Hornibrook had a nice finish to the 2017 season by throwing for 258 yards and four touchdowns against a strong Miami defense. Hornibrook will be looking to take the next step in his development in his junior season by making timely big plays in the passing game this season. Wide receiver will be an interesting position group to watch as A.J. Taylor should be the lead receiver until Qunitez Cepheus’s legal issues get addressed. The offensive line returns all five starters including Michael Dieter who should end up back at left guard. But overall this unit should be dominant if everyone stays healthy all season long.
Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard has some reloading to do with this group as the Badgers will need to replace eight starters. Olive Sagapolu will set the tone for the defensive line at nose tackle after tallying 17 tackles with 3.5 of those tackles for loss last season. Andrew Van Ginkel is a senior outside linebacker that will have a shot to rack up double-digit sack totals in 2018 with increased playing time. T.J. Edwards returns at inside linebacker and he’ll be the quarterback of the defense and make big plays in pass coverage. D’Cota Dixon will lead an inexperienced secondary that will have to hit the ground running right away. Dixon had 55 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups in 2017 and should see those numbers go up this season. Cornerback needs to be addressed as Nick Nelson has moved on to the NFL. Dontye Carriere-Williams and Madison Cone will have the first opportunity to lock down both starting cornerback spots. Rafael Gaglianone and Anthony Lotti return at kicker and punter, respectively, in 2018. Gaglianone was lights out kicking the ball as he made 16 of 18 field goals, but an injury could see him start the season on the sidelines.
The Bottom Line:
The nonconference schedule is very manageable for Wisconsin as they host Western Kentucky, New Mexico, and BYU at home in the first three games. On September 22nd, the Badgers will head to Iowa City to play the Iowa Hawkeyes in what should be a tightly contested battle. Three more tough road tests during conference play include trips to Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn State. Last year, Wisconsin grinded out a 24-10 win at home against the Wolverines and will need to grind out a low scoring type of game in Ann Arbor on October 13th. The matchup with Penn State will be the first one since an epic 2016 Big Ten Championship game where the Badgers lost 38-31 to the Nittany Lions. After traveling to State College there will be a trap game at Purdue that could catch Wisconsin if they don’t come ready to play. The Boilermakers did a very nice job of slowing down the Badgers last year by limiting them to 17 points. Bottom line, Wisconsin should win the Big Ten West even with two conference losses and find their way to New Year’s Six game like the Rose Bowl.
Projected Bowl: Rose Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 222.9 (23rd in nation, 2nd in Conference)
Passing Offense: 192.1 (92, 8)
Total Offense: 415.0 (51, 3)
Scoring Offense: 33.8 (28, 3)
Rushing Defense: 98.4 (3, 2)
Pass Defense: 163.6 (5, 2)
Total Defense: 262.1 (2, 1)
Scoring Defense: 13.9 (3, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (35, 4)
Sacks: 3.00 (11, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.50 (29, 1)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#15 T.J. Edwards
#22 Beau Benzschawel
#27 David Edwards
#31 Michael Deiter