I was fortunate to play for some really good football teams during my career at Wisconsin. But the team they are putting on the field this year—that’s one that every team in the Big Ten should be looking out for. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State—yeah, those guys are going to field decent teams this year; they’ll be fun to play. But the team to beat in the Big Ten will, without a doubt, be my Wisconsin Badgers.
The formula is going to be a lot like it often is at Camp Randall—run, run, and run some more. It’s no secret. Heck, it’s what the Badgers are known for. For years, the program has prided itself on building mammoth offensive lines for some of the most talented running backs in the country to run to behind.
I had a great line in my day as did Ron Dayne, Montee Ball, Brian Calhoun—the list could go on and on.
Jonathan Taylor will have a tough time topping the season he had as a freshman. But with all five offensive linemen returning, as long as he stays healthy, I have no doubt he’ll come close. Should he get tired, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Tawain Deal, Chris James, and Garrett Groshek.
On the off chance that something happens to the offensive line or defenses figure out how to slow Taylor down—we’ll still be in good shape. Hornibrook is a much better passer than he gets credit for. While they may not get a lot of work, he has an excellent set of receivers to work with. Those guys are truly an underrated bunch.
This is where things may get a little tough. Last year’s group was fantastic. But most of them have moved on; they only have four starters on defense coming back. Three of those guys happen to be linebackers (Ryan Connelly, T.J. Edwards, and Andrew Van Ginkel) which makes it safe to say the middle of the defense isn’t going to miss a beat.
As for the front three and the secondary-- well, the coaches have some work to do. Strong safety D’Cota Dixon will get some help from Donate Carriere-Williams in the secondary. But I don’t know much about who the cornerbacks could be. Whoever they go with will have to learn on the fly and grow up fast
Olive Sagapolu will do his best to make the most of his 338 pounds and clog up the running lanes. Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand will get a chance to play a more significant role this season on the ends. But, otherwise, the front is going to be awful green.
We’ve been knocking on the door for the last couple seasons. This year, I think we finally kick it in. Yeah, we have some tough games on the road this season. But this is a veteran group. I have no doubt they’ll be up to the challenge.