2011 Record: 11-3; 6-2 Big Ten
2011 Bowl Game: 38-45 L to Oregon @ Rose Bowl
Head Coach: Bret Bielema
Odds to win Big Ten: 9/5 (tied for favorite in Conference with Michigan)
Betting Futures taken from Bovada
The Wisconsin offense was the toast of the Big Ten last year. They led in both rushing and passing yards, and were an unstoppable machine, ranking 6th in the nation in scoring with 44.1 points per game.
It really all started with one reason, and that reason was QB Danny O’Brien, who transferred from Maryland to suit up with the Badgers, and also stated he “(didn’t) regret one day on the campus of Maryland,” but said he felt “rejuvenated” to be playing for a new program under the tutelage of Bret Bielema. He’s expected to start and the loss of offensive coordinator Paul Chryst (who moved on to coach Pittsburgh) will sting a lot less with O’Brien in the saddle.
The line will feature three players who have started in the past in TB Montee Ball, WR Jared Abbredis, and TE Jacob Pedersen.
The best of these is Ball, who could be a Heisman threat. Ball, however, was involved in an altercation at Badgers’ media day which is still under investigation. It occurred on August 1st, and the senior tailback sustained a concussion but said there was “not much (he) could say” only that “(he) had nothing to do with that fight, honestly.” So, while we find that refreshing to hear, judgement on the matter must still be reserved and it could end up being a huge black mark on the team and organization if anything negative were to surface from it.
With Ball and O’Brien BOTH aboard, the Badgers are a very dangerous team, so Badgers fans are hoping for the best, as the team is expected to have a good year if things fall into place for them.
The Wisconsin defense wasn’t horrible, but it was exposed in their Rose Bowl loss. They weren’t the best at applying QB pressure and were a bit slow on rotations and coverage. In that loss to Oregon, they gave up 621 yards, 345 of which were due to rushing, so they are going to need to find a way to improve their pressure on the interior.
DL coach Charlie Partridge is likely to use an eight man rotation, utilizing four tackles and four ends. This will work well, but only if he can get David Gilbert and Brendan Kelly to begin to actually pressure opposing quarterbacks and make them pay for lingering too long in the pocket. Gilbert was on his way to an All Conference selection it seemed but then he broke his foot and missed the final ten contests of the season. Kelly, meanwhile, recorded three sacks and five hurries, but he too missed the previous two seasons due to injuries. Kelly should be able to make a big impact if he can remain healthy and keep working hard, though, so he is a key to the Badgers’ defense.
The Badgers’ secondary will need to be addressed. Junior Dezmen Southward must be a replacement for Aaron Henry at FS and CB Devin Smith also missed 12 games with a broken foot, so his health is an issue much like Kelly’s. Without both of these players performing to the best of their abilities, the Badgers are not going to improve on last year’s defensive performance.
Abbrederis averaged 15.8 on punt returns and 24.6 on kickoffs.
Punter Brad Nortman and kicker Philip Welch are both experienced enough that Badgers fans know what they’re getting there too. Punter Drew Meyer, who walked on last year but was redshirted, will need to be more reliable, though, as will Kyle French.
Wisconsin is the repeating champs of the Big Ten, after winning their second straight over MSU last year. The fact that OSU is ineligible this year gives them a chance at a three-peat.