2010 Record: 11-2
2010 Bowl Result: lost Rose Bowl to TCU 21-19
2010 Against the Spread: 8-5
2010 over/under: 8-4-1
Returning Starters: 12 (6 offense, 6 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Wisconsin finished the regular season last year at 11-1, and in a three way tie for the Big Ten title with Ohio St and Michigan St. Wisconsin got the Big Ten’s bid to the Rose Bowl because they had the highest ranking in the final. Wisconsin dropped a narrow decision 21-19 to TCU in that game. This season Wisconsin returns 12 starters and is ranked #10 in the country in the pre-season coaches’ poll.
Here is a look at Wisconsin’s offense, defense, special teams, and schedule.
The offense returns 6 starters but the big story is quarterback Russell Wilson has transferred from North Carolina St. Because Wilson already graduated, he is eligible to play right away. He takes over an offense that was ranked #5 in scoring offense with 41.5 points a game. Overall the offense averaged 446.5 yards per game (#21 in the country), including the 11th ranked rushing attack with 247.1 yards a game. The Badgers only passed when necessary and to keep defenses honest, so they only averaged 199.5 yards a game.
Wilson replaces Scott Tolzien at quarterback but Wilson is more mobile and could be even better than Tolzien. Tolzien completed 72.9% of his passes for 2,459 yards, 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions last season. Last year at NC State, Wilson completed 58.4% of his passes for 3,563 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He was also the team’s second leading rusher with 143 carries, 435 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Although with Wisconsin’s great running backs, Wilson won’t have to have 143 carries this season. Wilson could have gone to any school, but he narrowed it down to Wisconsin and Auburn. Wilson chose Wisconsin because he liked the campus on a visit during the summer. Sophomore Jon Budmayr was supposed to take over the offense this season before Wilson arrived but he will be the back-up for another year.
Though the Badgers do lose John Clay, they still have James White and Montee Ball at running back. Last season the trio accounted for over 500 carries, over 3,000 rushing yards, and 46 touchdowns. Last season sophomore James White was the leading rusher with 156 carries, 1052 yards, and 14 touchdowns. Junior Ball had 163 carries for 996 yards and 18 scores, despite having only 229 total yards through 9 games. Senior fullback Bradie Ewing is more valuable at blocking and in the passing game. He had 8 catches and 2 scores last season. Redshirt Freshman Jeffrey Lewis and freshman Melvin Gordon will also get significant carries along with the quarterback Wilson.
The Badgers lose 3 of their top 4 receivers including tight end Lance Kendricks. Senior Nick Toon does return though. He was the 2nd leading receiver with 36 catches for 459 yards, and 3 touchdowns despite missing the first half of the season due to injury. If he is healthy he will be a dangerous target, but he has battled turf toe and thigh injuries in his career. Sophomore Jared Abbrederis had 20 catches for 289 yards and 3 scores last year. Redshirt Freshman Isaiah Williams and sophomore Jeff Duckworth will also get some targets. Jake Byrne, Brian Wozniak, Jacob Pederson, and Mannesseh Garner will all see some time at tight end.
Three starters return from a line that arguably the best in the country last year, ranking 18th in sacks allowed and opened up holes for the nation’s 11th best rushing game. They do lose Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi and All Big ten guard John Moffitt. The line will still be great but it might take some time to mature.
The Badgers had a top 25 ranked defense last season. Wisconsin allowed only 322.1 yards a game including 193.9 passing yards, and 128.2 rushing yards. Wisconsin allowed 20.5 points a game.
Wisconsin returns 6 starters this season on defense. The star of the defense will be linebacker Chris Borland who battled a shoulder injury last season. The defensive line returns 3 starters and needs to develop more of a pass rush. The secondary will be led by free safety Aaron Henry and corner Antonio Fenelus.
Senior Phillip Welch is one of the best kickers in the country. He made 17 of 22 field goals and all 67 extra points.
Senior punter Brad Nortman had a 42.7 yard average last season but the offense scored so many points he only had 38 punts. He did put 14 punts inside the 20 though.
Abbrederis and White will handle punt and kick returns this season.
Wisconsin opens with 5 of their first 6 at home, and has a neutral site game in Chicago against Northern Illinois September 17. Wisconsin opens the season with home games against UNLV, a rebuilding Oregon St, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Indiana. They should be 4-0 by the time the showdown with Nebraska rolls around October 1. Wisconsin then goes on the road to Michigan St and Ohio St, before a home game against Purdue. Then Wisconsin goes back on the road to Minnesota and Illinois before the season finale at home against Penn St. The real test will be when the Badgers face Nebraska, Michigan St and Ohio St in a span of 3 games sandwiched around the Indiana game. If the Badgers can win 2 of those three games, then they have a great chance to win the Big Ten title. However, losses to two of the big 3 makes it dicier for the Badgers. I predict 10 or 11 wins for the Badgers.
Wisconsin was 8-5 ATS last season including 5-3 at home and 3-2 on the road. The over/under was 8-4-1 last season including 4-3-1 at home and 4-1 on teh road.
Game to play Wisconsin
Last season Wisconsin beat Indiana in Madison 83-20. Though Indiana is improving, Wisconsin is still much better and should cover easily. Even if Wisconsin overlooks the Hoosiers in favor of Michigan St the next week, the Badgers should still dominate.
Game to bet against Wisconsin
Last season, Wisconsin’s only loss during the regular season came in East Lansing to Michigan St 34-24. Expect Wisconsin to lose at least one of the three games against Nebraska, Michigan St, and/or Ohio St. Nebraska comes to Madison where the Badgers are almost unbeatable, and Ohio St is battling suspensions and off-field issues. That leaves the Michigan St game as the loss almost by default.
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