2013 Wisconsin football's 10 things to know: A healthy transition

Jeff Gross

Wisconsin is experiencing a football golden age because of two great coaching hires. Did they make a third in Gary Andersen? And can Andersen make the most of quite a few interesting weapons this fall? For more Badgers, visit Bucky's 5th Quarter.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. The golden age

It's amazing what a couple of nice hires can do. In 1963, Wisconsin began the season seventh in the AP poll after losing the Rose Bowl and finishing second in the country. The Badgers reached as high as second that season but collapsed, losing four of five and finishing 5-4. From 1964-92, nearly three full decades, Wisconsin finished with a winning record just six times and never won more than seven games in a season. (It won seven games for four straight years between 1981-84 but did it just one other time in that span.)

When Barry Alvarez took over in 1990, he wasn't facing a Bill Snyder-esque building job, but it was close enough; the Badgers had gone just 9-36 in the previous four years, and they would go just 11-22 in his first three seasons.

In the last 20 seasons, Wisconsin has finished with a winning record 18 times. The Badgers have been to six Rose Bowls (including each of the last three), have finished in the AP top 10 six times, and have won at least 10 games in a season eight times. Bret Bielema, Alvarez's replacement, stumbled briefly (from 12-1 in 2006 to 7-6 in 2008) but surged to 32-8 from 2009-11 and rebounded from a slow start in 2012 to win his second straight Big Ten title game.

This is the golden age of Wisconsin football. Aside from a solid run between 1951-62 and some dominance at the turn of the 20th century, there is nothing that compares to what the Badgers are doing right now. And they're doing it because of a combination of solid commitment and the right hires.

It's hard to make two of them in a row, but with Alvarez and Bielema, Wisconsin did. Now, with Bielema off to Arkansas, it aims for a third.

2. Gary Andersen's Utah State salvage job in one word: Awesome

In 2012, not only did Utah State finish 16th in the polls and win 11 games (more than former head coach Brent Guy won in four seasons from 2005-08), but the program looked like it belonged, like it had always belonged. With a steady quarterback, an explosive running game, and the best mid-major defense in the country -- at ninth overall in Def. F/+, the Aggies ranked ahead of BYU, Rutgers, TCU, and Notre Dame -- the Aggies had the look and feel of a great team and came within six points of finishing undefeated.

-- 2013 Utah State football's 10 things to know

Utah State was so good last year that you forgot that the Aggies had been pretty awful until rather recently.

As I've written an infinite number of times through three years of season previews, coaching changes are a complete and total crapshoot. You are most likely hiring a guy who succeeded in his last job, be it as a head coach, star assistant, et cetera. (And if he didn't succeed in his last job, he probably succeeded in his second-to-last job.) But despite previous success, a high percentage of hires don't work out. Culture is different from one school to another. Recruiting territory is different. Maybe he just doesn't get the breaks. Regardless, even the hires that seem just about perfect can fail in this zero-sum game. And just because Gary Andersen absolutely aced the Utah State job doesn't mean he'll do the same at Wisconsin.

But wow, did he ace the Utah State job. With a star defensive coordinator in Dave Aranda (who has followed him to Madison) and a heck of a defensive pedigree of his own (he was Utah's defensive line coach during the Utes' undefeated 2004 run and the defensive coordinator for their undefeated 2008 run), Andersen needed just two years to improve USU's defense from 102nd in Def. F/+ to ninth. His offense was run-friendly and pretty explosive -- which should play perfectly well in Madison -- and did the defense as many field position favors as it could. After six straight years of ranking 99th or worse in the overall F/+ rankings, USU improved to 66th in 2011 and 17th in 2012.

He earned the promotion. Now he just has to keep earning it.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 8-6 | Adj. Record: 9-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 16
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
1-Sep Northern Iowa 26-21 W 26.7 - 34.3 L
8-Sep at Oregon State 7-10 L 15.4 - 16.5 L
15-Sep Utah State 16-14 W 23.3 - 14.4 W
22-Sep UTEP 37-26 W 36.1 - 23.6 W
29-Sep at Nebraska 27-30 L 22.3 - 25.1 L
6-Oct Illinois 31-14 W 34.6 - 26.6 W
13-Oct at Purdue 38-14 W 45.2 - 15.6 W
20-Oct Minnesota 38-13 W 39.1 - 24.0 W
27-Oct Michigan State 13-16 L 19.4 - 24.6 L
10-Nov at Indiana 62-14 W 43.8 - 16.5 W
17-Nov Ohio State 14-21 L 22.5 - 14.4 W
24-Nov at Penn State 21-24 L 29.4 - 20.7 W
1-Dec vs. Nebraska 70-31 W 72.3 - 23.9 W
1-Jan vs. Stanford 14-20 L 32.2 - 34.4 L
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 29.6 59 19.1 17
Adj. Points Per Game 33.0 35 22.5 19

3. Greatest 8-6 team ever

Okay, fine, there haven't been many 8-6 teams in college football's history, but I feel confident in saying that Wisconsin was probably the best of the bunch. After replacing both assistants and quarterback Russell Wilson, the Badgers struggled early on. But when the calendar flipped to October, Wisconsin flipped a switch.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): WIsconsin 24.8, Opponent 22.8 (plus-2.0)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 8 games): Wisconsin 38.3, Opponent 20.8 (plus-17.5)

As you'll see below, Wisconsin was dinged by about 2.4 points per game of bad turnovers luck (fumble recoveries, batted passes that didn't become interceptions); in a season that sees you lose four games by three points or less, that can make an incredible difference, no? Wisconsin was close to something much greater than 8-6, but in the end, the Badgers still won another Big Ten title (thanks to Ohio State's postseason ineligibility) by thoroughly emasculating Nebraska in the title game, and the Badgers still damn near beat a great Stanford team in the Rose Bowl despite losing Bielema.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 65 35 27 34
RUSHING 13 39 40 34
PASSING 115 27 22 26
Standard Downs 37 34 37
Passing Downs 28 43 23
Redzone 5 8 3
Q1 Rk 10 1st Down Rk 19
Q2 Rk 25 2nd Down Rk 10
Q3 Rk 47 3rd Down Rk 32
Q4 Rk 9

4. Just add water

You like to run, Coach Andersen? And you hired Andy Ludwig, coordinator of a 2012 San Diego State offense that ran 67 percent of the time on standard downs and 48 percent on passing downs last year, to run your offense? You'll fit in just fine here.

We have to go back quite a long way to find a Wisconsin offense that either didn't run much or wasn't very good at it. Last year's offense took a while to get off the ground following the departure of an incredible quarterback, offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, three long-time starting linemen (two of whom were first-team all-conference), and a No. 1 receiver. And the full-season averages above were only good, not spectacular. But despite uncertainty at the quarterback position -- Danny O'Brien wasn't very good, and Joel Stave got hurt -- Wisconsin went from slightly below average to outstanding in October and beyond.

You'll fit in just fine here.

When Curt Phillips, a former star recruit who has been plagued by knee injuries, took over for Stave in the starting lineup, Wisconsin went from run-heavy to run-obsessed. Phillips wasn't asked to do much, averaging just 18 pass attempts per game (including sacks) in his five starts, but he brought some mobility to the table, and Wisconsin's running game did not suffer with the extra load. The Badgers rushed for 605 yards versus Indiana, 640 versus Nebraska, and even a solid 301 (4.9 per carry) versus an excellent Stanford defense.

Stave's upside in the passing game is quite a bit higher than Phillips', but word out of the spring was that Phillips was a bit better in handling the blitzes that Aranda and the defense threw at the QBs. If Ludwig is looking for a Ryan Katz/Adam Dingwell impersonator, i.e. a guy who hands the ball off really nicely and is okay with not playing hero ball, then Phillips could be just fine, especially with his mobility. Lower upside is fine if accompanied with higher downside. I guess.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Joel Stave 6'5, 227 So. ** (5.4) 70 119 1,104 58.8% 6 3 10 7.8% 7.9
Danny O'Brien


52 86 523 60.5% 3 1 9 9.5% 4.6
Curt Phillips 6'3, 215 Sr. **** (5.8) 46 81 540 56.8% 5 2 9 10.0% 5.3
Bart Houston 6'4, 219 RSFr. *** (5.7)






Tanner McEvoy 6'6, 215 So. *** (5.5)






Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Montee Ball RB 357 1,827 5.1 5.0 22 +11.4
James White RB 5'10, 197 Sr. *** (5.7) 125 806 6.4 9.9 12 +18.6
Melvin Gordon RB 6'1, 203 So. **** (5.8) 61 631 10.3 9.8 3 +26.7
Curt Phillips QB 6'3, 215 Sr. **** (5.8) 18 160 8.9 10.1 0 +6.4
Joel Stave QB 6'5, 227 So. ** (5.4) 9 32 3.6 5.1 0 -0.8
Jared Abbrederis WR 6'2, 188 Sr. NR 8 83 10.4 9.3 0 +3.6
Danny O'Brien QB 6 5 0.8 2.7 0 -2.1
Jeffrey Lewis RB 6'2, 211 Jr. *** (5.6)





Vonte Jackson RB 6'0, 199 RSFr. **** (5.8)





Corey Clement RB 5'11, 205 Fr. **** (5.8)





5. Montee Ball scored 83 touchdowns (and threw for an 84th)

Montee Ball was incredible, one of the best college running backs of the last few decades. He was decisive, sure-footed, and more explosive than he probably gets credit for being. I have to keep reminding myself of that because it's easy to look at last year's backups and assume little to no drop-off.

If any duo is capable of replacing an all-timer like Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon would certainly seem up for the challenge. Bielema didn't really trust them in close games last year -- they combined for just seven carries versus Michigan State, nine versus Ohio State, and eight versus Penn State -- and that's at least a bit of a warning sign. But against lesser defenses, when things were clicking, he unleashed this duo with spectacular results. Against Purdue, they combined for 23 carries and 211 yards. Against Minnesota, 25 and 195. Against Indiana, 22 and 157. And, of course, against Nebraska in the conference title game, a positively absurd 24 for 325.

Ball was the grinder, and White and Gordon (the master of the jet sweep) were the gashers. They also caught 10 of 16 passes for 197 yards, and they evidently might share the backfield a bit, as well. This could be fun.

James White. Jeff Hanisch, US Presswire.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Jared Abbrederis WR 6'2, 188 Sr. NR 71 49 837 69.0% 11.8 26.0% 54.9% 11.8 149.3
Jacob Pedersen TE 6'4, 241 Sr. ** (5.2) 49 27 355 55.1% 7.2 17.9% 49.0% 7.4 63.3
Jordan Fredrick WR 6'3, 210 So. *** (5.5) 27 17 196 63.0% 7.3 9.9% 48.1% 7.7 35.0
Kenzel Doe WR 5'8, 171 Jr. ** (5.4) 26 16 121 61.5% 4.7 9.5% 46.2% 4.9 21.6
Derek Watt FB 6'2, 230 So. *** (5.6) 18 12 150 66.7% 8.3 6.6% 72.2% 8.6 26.8
Montee Ball RB 17 10 72 58.8% 4.2 6.2% 52.9% 4.3 12.8
James White RB 5'10, 197 Sr. *** (5.7) 14 8 132 57.1% 9.4 5.1% 28.6% 7.1 23.5
Brian Wozniak TE 6'4, 257 Sr. *** (5.6) 14 9 94 64.3% 6.7 5.1% 78.6% 6.3 16.8
Chase Hammond WR 6'5, 209 Jr. *** (5.5) 14 5 50 35.7% 3.6 5.1% 64.3% 3.5 8.9
Jeff Duckworth WR 6'0, 206 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 9 60 75.0% 5.0 4.4% 66.7% 5.1 10.7
Sam Arneson TE 6'4, 255 Jr. *** (5.7) 5 4 19 80.0% 3.8 1.8% 100.0% 2.3 3.4
Reggie Love WR 6'3, 209 So. *** (5.6) 3 1 19 33.3% 6.3 1.1% 0.0% 2.5 3.4
Melvin Gordon RB 6'1, 203 So. **** (5.8) 2 2 65 100.0% 32.5 0.7% 50.0% 27.4 11.6
Austin Traylor TE 6'3, 243 So. **** (5.8)








Rob Wheelwright WR 6'3, 185 Fr. *** (5.7)








6. Stay healthy, Jared

Jared Abbrederis missed a couple of games early in the year with injury and was still targeted almost 50 percent more than Wisconsin's No. 2 receiver last year. After averaging 12.6 yards per target as Russell Wilson's No. 2 receiver in 2011, he stepped up to No. 1, weathered issues at the quarterback position, and still averaged 11.8 in 2012. He is an incredible receiver, one who can do damage on short passes near the line of scrimmage, then torch you deep on play-action. He is also the only returning Wisconsin receiver who averaged better than even a mediocre 7.3 yards per target last year.

Junior Kenzel Doe is a good enough punt returner to make you think he could be come a strong weapon in space at some point, but Abbrederis is the only proven guy. Hope he doesn't get hurt again.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 106.8 3.13 2.94 40.5% 58.9% 20.3% 69.7 8.3% 9.5%
Rank 37 34 84 47 104 86 106 114 104
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Rick Wagner LT 36 career starts; 2012 1st All-Big 10
Travis Frederick C 31 career starts
Ryan Groy LT 6'5, 317 Sr. *** (5.6) 20 career starts
Rob Havenstein RT 6'8, 338 Jr. *** (5.6) 15 career starts
Kyle Costigan RG 6'4, 304 Jr. ** (5.3) 9 career starts
Zac Matthias RG 6'5, 323 Sr. *** (5.6) 4 career starts
Robert Burge RT 4 career starts
Dallas Lewallen LG 6'6, 318 Jr. *** (5.6)
Jacob Ninneman C 6'1, 280 Jr. ** (5.2)
Riki Kodanko RT 6'9, 332 Jr. NR
Tyler Marz LT 6'7, 318 So. *** (5.5)
Ray Ball LG 6'7, 327 So. *** (5.5)
Dan Voltz C 6'4, 310 RSFr. **** (5.8)
Walker Williams OL 6'7, 318 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Trent Denlinger RG 6'6, 285 RSFr. NR
Jack Keeler OL 6'7, 285 Fr. *** (5.7)

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 15 13 17 11
RUSHING 25 13 17 10
PASSING 18 16 25 13
Standard Downs 12 21 9
Passing Downs 19 19 20
Redzone 64 37 95
Q1 Rk 36 1st Down Rk 12
Q2 Rk 3 2nd Down Rk 26
Q3 Rk 15 3rd Down Rk 19
Q4 Rk 43

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 109.6 2.66 3.32 39.0% 77.4% 19.5% 95.6 2.3% 9.1%
Rank 24 25 69 62 115 61 70 114 22
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
David Gilbert DE 14 31.5 4.4% 9.5 4 0 1 3 0
Beau Allen NT 6'3, 333 Sr. *** (5.6) 14 27.5 3.8% 7.5 2.5 0 2 1 0
Ethan Hemer DT 6'6, 296 Sr. NR 14 19.0 2.6% 2.5 1 0 3 0 0
Pat Muldoon DE 6'3, 258 Sr. *** (5.7) 11 12.5 1.7% 5.5 2.5 0 2 0 0
Warren Herring NT 6'3, 286 Jr. *** (5.5) 14 10.0 1.4% 1 0.5 0 1 0 1
Bryce Gilbert DT 6'1, 307 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 7.5 1.0% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Konrad Zagzebski DE 6'3, 271 Jr. *** (5.6) 13 2.5 0.3% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Jake Keefer DT 6'3, 254 So. **** (5.8) 4 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
James Adeyanju DE 6'2, 259 So. *** (5.7) 3 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Josh Harrison DE 6'0, 231 Jr. *** (5.5) 1 1.0 0.1% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Chikwe Obasih DE 6'3, 231 Fr. **** (5.8)

Alec James DE 6'4, 220 Fr. *** (5.7)







7. 3-4 compatibility grade: A

Wisconsin has won a lot of games in recent years, but the Badgers have done so despite what we might call poor timing. In 2011, Wisconsin ranked first in Off. F/+ but only 52nd in Def. F/+. In 2012, the defense came around (14th in Def. F/+), but the offense took a while to get rolling (28th). A team with Wisconsin's 2011 offense and special teams and 2012 defense would have ranked second overall in last year's F/+ rankings. And considering all the close losses, it's certainly not outlandish to suggest that team could have gone undefeated and made the BCS title game (and gotten whipped by Alabama). As it stands, Wisconsin made the Rose Bowl in both years, and maybe that's enough (instead of one huge peak and one lull).

That was a pretty meandering paragraph (sorry), but the main takeaway is this: the Badgers were damn good on defense last year, and they return all but two players from the front-seven two-deep. Granted, those two players (David Gilbert and Mike Taylor) were fantastic, but new coordinator Dave Aranda has a lot of toys to play with here. And honestly, the talent seems to fit his scheme.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Mike Taylor OLB 14 96.0 13.4% 15 3 0 4 0 1
Chris Borland ILB 5'11, 248 Sr. *** (5.5) 12 80.0 11.1% 10 4.5 0 6 3 3
Ethan Armstrong ILB 6'2, 216 Sr. ** (5.4) 14 73.5 10.2% 2 0 1 4 0 0
Brendan Kelly OLB 6'6, 250 Sr. *** (5.6) 11 22.5 3.1% 6 5 0 2 0 1
Derek Landisch ILB 5'11, 227 Jr. *** (5.5) 14 21.5 3.0% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Tyler Dippel OLB 6'4, 267 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 15.0 2.1% 5.5 3 0 1 0 0
Conor O'Neill ILB 6'0, 222 Sr. *** (5.5) 14 12.5 1.7% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Marcus Trotter ILB 6'0, 236 Jr. *** (5.7) 4 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Nick Hill OLB 6'2, 222 Sr. NR

Vince Biegel OLB 6'3, 230 RSFr. **** (5.9)

Garret Dooley LB 6'2, 215 Fr. *** (5.7)






8. I mean, really, this is just about perfect

Perhaps the most important piece lines up in the middle; the biggest issue in shifting from 4-3 personnel to 3-4 is that you rarely inherit the type of tackle who can easily eat up blockers and man the nose tackle position properly. Size is sometimes an issue in this regard.

But Aranda inherits man-mountain Beau Allen, a player who not only meets the size requirements (and then some) but also possesses some interesting play-making ability, especially against the run. If he is able to competently play his role at NT, then the planets around him align nicely. Chris Borland is a quality inside linebacker, and Brendan Kelly and Tyler Dippel could thrive in attacking OLB roles. Mike Taylor was a one-man run-stopper, but there's still a lot to like about this front seven.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Dezmen Southward SS 6'2, 214 Sr. ** (5.3) 14 56.5 7.9% 8 0 1 4 1 0
Marcus Cromartie CB 14 50.0 7.0% 0 0 1 12 1 0
Devin Smith CB 14 46.0 6.4% 1 1 4 13 1 0
Shelton Johnson SS 11 43.0 6.0% 0.5 0 0 4 0 0
Darius Hillary CB 5'11, 187 So. *** (5.5) 14 19.5 2.7% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Michael Trotter FS 6'0, 210 Jr. *** (5.7) 13 19.0 2.6% 1 1 0 1 0 0
Michael Caputo SS 6'1, 198 So. *** (5.6) 13 9.0 1.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Penial Jean CB 5'11, 188 Jr. *** (5.7) 5 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Devin Gaulden DB 5'10, 186 Jr. *** (5.5) 4 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jerry Ponio DB 6'1, 198 Sr. NR 10 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Terrance Floyd DB 5'10, 197 So. *** (5.6) 7 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kyle Zuleger SS 5'11, 188 Sr. NR


Hugs Etienne CB 5'11, 175 RSFr. *** (5.7)






T.J. Reynard DB 5'11, 180 Jr. NR

Keelon Brookins DB 5'11, 185 Fr. **** (5.8)
Sojourn Shelton CB 5'9, 162 Fr. *** (5.7)




9. A black hole at cornerback

If either Marcus Cromartie or Devin Smith returned at cornerback this year, I'd almost be talking myself into Wisconsin challenging Michigan State for the best defense in the conference. (That would also be bit outlandish considering the new system, so I should thank the CBs for protecting me from myself.) But as it stands, Wisconsin appears wonderfully stocked at linebacker and on the line, and the Badgers return a seasoned safety in Dezmen Southward ... but cornerback could be quite an issue.

Cromartie and Smith combined to defense 30 passes for a defense that shored up so many of its 2011 weaknesses last year; the eight returning defensive backs, including Southward, combined for nine. For all we know Darius Hillary, Penial Jean, and perhaps a couple of newcomers (either JUCO transfers or freshmen) could provide the same level of on-ball defending, but that's probably too much to ask. The Wisconsin pass rush better be pretty fantastic -- and it may be -- because the corners are going to need a little help for a while.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Drew Meyer 6'2, 182 So. 80 41.5 5 31 36 83.8%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Kyle French 6'1, 199 Jr. 49 63.5 27 55.1%
Jack Russell 6'0, 172 So. 28 57.8 1 3.6%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Kyle French 6'1, 199 Jr. 38-40 8-10 80.0% 2-6 33.3%
Jack Russell 6'0, 172 So. 14-15 0-1 0.0% 0-1 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Kenzel Doe PR 5'8, 171 Jr. 8 12.4 1
Melvin Gordon KR 6'1, 203 So. 7 21.6 0
Kenzel Doe KR 5'8, 171 Jr. 7 27.9 0
Jared Abbrederis PR 6'2, 188 Sr. 17 6.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 72
Net Punting 47
Net Kickoffs 43
Touchback Pct 60
Field Goal Pct 113
Kick Returns Avg 53
Punt Returns Avg 71

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug Massachusetts 125
7-Sep Tennessee Tech NR
14-Sep at Arizona State 36
21-Sep Purdue 80
28-Sep at Ohio State 10
12-Oct Northwestern 40
19-Oct at Illinois 94
2-Nov at Iowa 44
9-Nov BYU 34
16-Nov Indiana 62
23-Nov at Minnesota 72
30-Nov Penn State 24
Five-Year F/+ Rk 13
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 57
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* +3 / +9.8
TO Luck/Game -2.4
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (7, 6)
Yds/Pt Margin** -3.6

10. A one-game season

The non-conference slate features a pair of wonderfully interesting games versus Arizona State and BYU, but non-conference only matters if you're a national title contender. Wisconsin is not. But the Badgers are probably more capable of threatening for the Big Ten title (and a fourth straight Rose Bowl) than we are giving them credit for; the offense is perhaps limited at quarterback but stocked with exactly the type of players (i.e. running backs, a play-action deep threat, and solid line) its new coordinator needs. And the defense almost looks like it was built for a 3-4 defense all along.

Wisconsin was better than its record last year and returns more than enough pieces to threaten for a fourth straight Rose Bowl. And instead of drawing, say, Michigan and Nebraska from the other division, the Badgers get Iowa (on the road) and Northwestern (at home). Everything is winnable ... except, perhaps, for the trip to Columbus on September 28.

As you'll read later this week, I'm not nearly as high on the Buckeyes as some, but the winner of the UW-OSU game will almost certainly win the Leaders Legends West Leaders Division this year. Are the Badgers good enough to win in Columbus?

More from SB Nation:

Two college football players killed in car wreck

•SB Nation’s media days coverage, live from the scene: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Bill Connelly’s Big Ten preview series is underway

Projecting every 2013 college football conference race

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Today’s college football news headlines

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