Head Coach: Paul Chryst
2015 Record: 10-3
2015 Bowl: 23-21 Win over USC at Holiday Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 4 Offense, 4 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +15000
Odds to win 2016 Big Ten Championship: +1600
Regular Season over/under: over 7 (+105), under 7 (-135)
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The Wisconsin Badgers finished 10-3 last season and closed the season by winning seven of its final eight, including a 23-21 victory over USC at the Holiday Bowl. The Badgers will welcome back RB Corey Clement, one of the nation’s top rushers, but a guy who is trying to come back from a sports hernia and suspension that caused him to miss nine games last season. He rushed for 949 yards and nine TDs while serving as a backup for Heisman winner Melvin Gordon in 2014.
At QB the Badgers have to find a replacement for four-year starter Joel Stave. The replacement named has been Bart Houston, a fifth year senior who beat out Alex Hornibrook for the job. He is a highly ranked recruit that just never had the chance to start the past four seasons. He has a strong arm and experience, and the Badgers will turn to WRs Robert Wheelwright and Jazz Peavy as his primary passing targets.
TEs Troy Fumagalli and Eric Steffes will be targeted, too. The OL is deeper and more experienced than last season, and it returns three starters. Wisconsin averaged 26.8 points and 378.6 yards per game in 2015.
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The Badgers led the nation in scoring defense last season, holding opponents to just 13.7 points per game and holding all but one opponent (Maryland) under three touchdowns. They will have a new DC with Dave Aranda leaving for LSU. Justin Wilcox takes over, and though the defense did lose three DBs to the NFL, there is still four returning starters and plenty of experience.
Wisconsin returns four-year starter Sojourn Shelton at CB, and junior Derrick Tindal will likely start opposite of him after coming on last season. The front seven returns key players and should be a strength again this season.
At ILB, Chris Orr, TJ Edwards and Jack Cichy all will vie for two spots, and the three should all see ample time in a strong rotation. OLB Vince Biegel decided to return for his senior season, and former TE TJ Watt will start on the outside after switching there last season. Watt should be a good pass rusher, and the Badgers were No. 7 in the nation in pass defense last season. It could only be better.
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Rafael Gaglianone hit just 18 of 27 FGA last season. Anthony Lotti will be the punter, and he will look to improve Wisconsin’s No. 107 standing there in 2015.
Wisconsin opens the season against LSU on Sept. 3 at Green Bay. Weeks 2 and 3 bring Akron and Georgia State at home, and conference play begins Week 4 at Michigan State. Wisconsin will host both Ohio State and Nebraska but has a road game against Iowa sandwiched between on Oct. 22.
Houston should be ready to step in at QB, so the fact there is turnover there is not overly problematic. The biggest issues are in the secondary defensively, but that could come together. The schedule does Wisconsin few favors, but this is still a tough football team with a proven ball carrier.
Prediction: 7 wins
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