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1. The case for Paul Chryst
The Wisconsin program is a massive contradiction.
The Badgers are about to be on their third coach in four seasons following the departure of Bret Bielema for Arkansas in 2013 and the shocking departure of Gary Andersen for Oregon State this past offseason. We hear rumors about the heavy-handed rule of athletic director (and sometimes head coach) Barry Alvarez. We hear it's a hard job because of assistant coaching salaries or academic standards or any other reason.
We also see Wisconsin hasn't ranked outside of the F/+ top 25 since 2008. Change and potential discord have reared their heads, and it hasn't in any noticeable way impacted the Badgers' level of play.
Arkansas State has taught us that identity and support go a long way toward surviving coaching changes. The Red Wolves changed coaches for four straight years and averaged more than eight wins per year anyway.
Wisconsin isn't in that territory, but it's clear the Badgers have benefited in the same way. Bielema and Andersen continued Alvarez's vision of power football, and it has allowed UW to continue recruiting at the same level despite change; according to the 247Sports Composite, Wisconsin's class ranked sixth in the Big Ten in 2013 (Andersen's first couple of months on the job), fifth in 2014, and fifth in 2015 (after Andersen left).
That Alvarez replaced Andersen with an experienced coach with a Wisconsin identity might be all you need to know.
Paul Chryst was Wisconsin's quarterback in the late-1980s, served as an assistant for two years under Alvarez, and called the offensive shots during the Bielema era. He is well-versed in Wisconsin football, and he has three years of head coaching experience to go along with his 14 years as a coordinator. He's got a solid offensive mind, and he retained excellent young defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. He knows what it takes to win in Madison, and he will probably do just that.
2. The case against Paul Chryst, kind of
Maybe some head coaching jobs are easier than others, but the wrong hire can still derail the train.
In three years at Pitt, Chryst won just 19 games. He inherited a team that ranked 48th in F/+ and in three seasons ranked 48th, 49th, and 43rd. His teams went 5-10 in one-possession games. His offense took a significant step forward in 2014 just in time for his defense to collapse.
Despite some exciting young talent, he was struggling to move Pitt beyond the disorganized mess he got when, yes, he became the program's third coach in three years. Chryst looks like a Wisconsin prototype, but his three years as a head coach didn't inspire tons of confidence.
Of course, if he only maintains Wisconsin's level, the Badgers will remain quite good. And the Pitt program really was in disarray. The Panthers had gone from Dave Wannstedt's pro-style attack to one year of Todd Graham's attempted spread (with a two-week hire of Michael Haywood in between), and it took Chryst a while to right the ship. He won't have that exact problem in Madison.
Plus, Chryst scored a major victory in retaining Aranda. The Wisconsin defense took a step backwards in 2014 after replacing almost its entire front seven, but in 2012, Aranda improved Utah State's defense from 96th to 12th in Def. S&P+, and in 2013, he engineered a No. 14 ranking for his first Wisconsin defense. Wisconsin's defense is unlikely to fall far with him in charge.
Odds are in Chryst's favor. And while there is more on-the-field turnover to account for -- namely, the loss of all-world running back Melvin Gordon, two All-American offensive linemen, and two outstanding inside linebackers -- he should find the personnel to his liking.
No matter who's wearing the jersey or standing on the sideline, Wisconsin, with its three Big Ten title appearances in four years, is the king of the Big Ten West until proved otherwise.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 11-3 | Adj. Record: 12-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 25|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|7-Dec||vs. Ohio State||1||0-59||L||2%||-50.1||0%|
|Points Per Game||33.4||37||20.8||17|
3. Running into a buzzsaw
Look at the percentile chart above. "One of these things ... not like the other ones..."
Until the Big Ten title game, Wisconsin's season had taken shape predictably, given personnel changes and quarterback issues. With incumbent Joel Stave battling a case of the yips, converted safety Tanner McEvoy took the QB reins and was inconsistent. The result: a slow start and a fast finish.
- First 6 games
Average Percentile Performance: 66% (~top 45 | record: 4-2)
Average Yards Per Play: Wisconsin 7.0, Opponent 4.8 (plus-2.2)
- Next 6 games
Average Percentile Performance: 89% (~top 15 | record: 6-0)
Average Yards Per Play: Wisconsin 7.3, Opponent 3.9 (plus-3.4)
Wisconsin was underwhelming in a loss to LSU and a mediocre win over USF, and the Badgers were a major disappointment in a 20-14 loss to Northwestern. But that comes with the territory when you've got a questionable quarterback and new defensive pieces. The blips went away.
Gordon and the run game were so good that the Badgers averaged more than 7 yards per play with a one-dimensional offense. Meanwhile, the defense went from solid to spectacular.
The Badgers advanced to the Big Ten Championship, where they were slaughtered by the eventual national champion.
Wisconsin was awesome over the last half, but there were still ifs, especially the passing game. Ohio State was bound by no ifs; the Buckeyes needed to make a case for the College Football Playoff, and with the pressure on, they played maybe the best game of the season by anybody. Wisconsin obliged by folding. And then Gary Andersen left for Corvallis.
The combination of the egg-laying and escape left a bitter taste in Wisconsin fans' mouths. But a rebound win against Auburn made things a little smoother.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||46.8%||21||Succ. Rt. +||115.5||21|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||30.0||71||Def. FP+||103.0||33|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.6||49||Redzone S&P+||105.6||52|
|Q1 Rk||93||1st Down Rk||9|
|Q2 Rk||25||2nd Down Rk||13|
|Q3 Rk||2||3rd Down Rk||13|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Joel Stave||6'5, 220||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||110||206||1350||9||10||53.4%||10||4.6%||5.8|
|Tanner McEvoy||6'6, 222||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8690||65||112||709||5||6||58.0%||2||1.8%||6.1|
|Bart Houston||6'4, 218||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9175||1||3||6||1||0||33.3%||0||0.0%||2.0|
|D.J. Gillins||6'3, 201||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8922|
|Alex Hornibrook||6'4, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8281|
|Corey Clement||RB||5'11, 217||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9308||147||949||9||6.5||6.8||42.9%||0||0|
|Tanner McEvoy||QB||6'6, 222||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8690||63||591||6||9.4||7.0||68.3%||5||1|
|Dare Ogunbowale||RB||5'11, 188||Jr.||NR||NR||34||193||1||5.7||3.1||52.9%||0||0|
|George Rushing||WR||6'1, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8467||5||33||0||6.6||3.7||60.0%||0||0|
|Austin Ramesh||RB||6'1, 247||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8613|
|Taiwan Deal||RB||6'0, 216||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8789|
|Caleb Kinlaw||RB||5'9, 180||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8593|
|Jordan Stevenson||RB||5'9, 190||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9160|
|Bradrick Shaw||RB||6'1, 205||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.8779|
4. Plug 'n play
The Badgers must replace the best running back in the country, a guy who rushed for nearly 2,600 yards, caught 19 passes, scored 32 touchdowns, and put together some of the most brilliant performances you'll ever see.
They must also replace the country's best right side of an offensive line, losing guard Kyle Costigan and tackle Rob Havenstein. Both were All-Americans and three-year starters. Left guard and two-year starter Dallas Lewallen is also gone.
What's your reaction? If you're honest, it's probably "Yeah, they'll be fine." It's almost impossible to worry about the Wisconsin run game. It is one of football's quintessential plug-and-play offenses. Gordon was amazing, but Corey Clement will rush for 1,500 yards if healthy. And if Clement's not, redshirt freshman Taiwan Deal will probably be ready.
A new crop of road graders -- sophomore tackle Hayden Biegel, enormous guards Walker Williams, Ray Ball, and Michael Deiter (average size: 6'6, 320) -- will probably step right in without missing more than a beat or two.
No one has a more consistent identity. The Badgers have had 13 thousand-yard rushes in the last 11 seasons, a patently absurd total, and in riding James Conner to more than 1,700 rushing yards at Pitt last year, Chryst proved he knows what to do with a good run game.
Despite the losses, the ceiling for this offense will again be defined by the pass. It was starting to get somewhere in November before falling apart, and we'll see what Chryst and coordinator Joe Rudolph (Wisconsin's tight ends coach from 2008-11 before following Chryst to Pitt) can do to get it going.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Alex Erickson||WR||6'0, 196||Sr.||NR||NR||101||55||772||54.5%||33.7%||67.3%||7.6||84||7.5||93.6|
|Troy Fumagalli||TE||6'5, 246||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8044||25||14||187||56.0%||8.3%||40.0%||7.5||13||7.5||22.7|
|Jordan Fredrick||WR||6'4, 214||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8100||19||13||126||68.4%||6.3%||26.3%||6.6||-29||7.6||15.3|
|Corey Clement||RB||5'11, 217||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9308||16||14||119||87.5%||5.3%||37.5%||7.4||-42||8.4||14.4|
|George Rushing||WR||6'1, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8467||10||5||62||50.0%||3.3%||70.0%||6.2||-2||7.0||7.5|
|Austin Traylor||TE||6'3, 248||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8900||9||4||35||44.4%||3.0%||55.6%||3.9||-17||3.8||4.2|
|Reggie Love||WR||6'3, 214||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8316||6||2||15||33.3%||2.0%||50.0%||2.5||-13||2.8||1.8|
|Derek Watt||FB||6'2, 236||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.7900||4||0||0||0.0%||1.3%||75.0%||0.0||-6||0.0||0.0|
|Austin Ramesh||RB||6'1, 247||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8613||3||3||18||100.0%||1.0%||100.0%||6.0||-16||N/A||2.2|
|Robert Wheelwright||WR||6'2, 201||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8855||3||1||17||33.3%||1.0%||33.3%||5.7||3||9.8||2.1|
|Eric Steffes||TE||6'3, 259||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8600||2||0||0||0.0%||0.7%||100.0%||0.0||-3||N/A||0.0|
|Krenwick Sanders||WR||6'1, 193||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8740||1||1||10||100.0%||0.3%||0.0%||10.0||-1||N/A||1.2|
|Jazz Peavy||WR||6'0, 187||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8059|
|Kyle Penniston||TE||6'5, 230||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8893|
|David Edwards||TE||6'7, 225||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8767|
5. Wringing more out of the passing game
The Badgers had to replace their top two wideouts (Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth) and starting tight end (Jacob Pedersen), and Wisconsin's Passing S&P+ ranking slipped from 42nd to 60th. Sam Arneson became a lovely weapon at tight end, but Alex Erickson and Kenzel Doe (combined: 7.5 yards per target) couldn't replicate Abbrederis and Duckworth.
Needless to say, the quarterback situation didn't help. Tanner McEvoy, by all accounts a phenomenal athlete (as attested by his 9.4 yards per carry, not including sacks), alternated between good and horrific (against LSU and Northwestern: 12-for-34, 74 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs), then ceded the job to Joel Stave in October. Stave's yips cleared up, and after a shaky start, he found his groove.
- First 4 games: 48% completion rate, 13.6 yards per completion, 4.7% INT rate
- Next 4 games: 67% completion rate, 12.9 yards per completion, 1.4% INT rate
And then he lost it against Ohio State and Auburn.
- Last 2 games: 44% completion rate, 9.9 yards per completion, 8.6% INT rate
Every time you think Stave has turned a corner, he regresses, but it appears he's the man heading into his senior season. McEvoy has moved back to safety (and also got work at receiver in the spring), and Stave fended off backups Bart Houston and D.J. Gillins.
So who will Stave be throwing to? Alex Erickson was hit-and-miss in moving from No. 4 wideout to top dog, but he had his moments -- five catches for 121 yards against Maryland, five for 160 against Minnesota. And senior Jordan Fredrick is a decent possession man. But despite the best play-action potential in the country, the big plays were sorely lacking, and unless someone like junior Robert Wheelwright or sophomore George Rushing can generate more of a threat, last year's problems might be this year's problems.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Rob Havenstein||RT||42||All-American, 2014 1st All-Big Ten|
|Kyle Costigan||RG||35||All-American, 2014 1st All-Big Ten|
|Tyler Marz||LT||6'5, 321||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7500||27|
|Dan Voltz||C||6'3, 311||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9528||20|
|Walker Williams||LG||6'7, 320||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8434||0|
|Ray Ball||LG||6'7, 324||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8600||0|
|Michael Deiter||RG||6'5, 317||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8329||0|
|Hayden Biegel||RT||6'6, 303||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8292||0|
|Jaden Gault||OL||6'6, 310||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9423||0|
|George Panos||C||6'5, 301||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8849|
|Beau Benzschawel||RT||6'6, 291||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8145|
|Jacob Maxwell||LT||6'6, 295||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7874|
|Jon Dietzen||RG||6'5, 330||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8898|
|Kevin Estes||OL||6'5, 270||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8822|
|David Moorman||OL||6'5, 275||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8798|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||36.1%||16||Succ. Rt. +||113.3||26|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||30.3||67||Off. FP+||101.0||51|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.4||70||Redzone S&P+||103.5||49|
|Q1 Rk||42||1st Down Rk||17|
|Q2 Rk||4||2nd Down Rk||50|
|Q3 Rk||13||3rd Down Rk||48|
6. Keeping Aranda was huge
Last year, Wisconsin had to replace 64 percent of its line tackles and 69 percent of its linebacker tackles. There were some blips (relative to the level of competition) early and against Ohio State, but aside from a few breakdowns against Iowa, the Badgers were magnificent over the final seven games of the regular season, and they kept Auburn mostly in check.
Wisconsin's overall ratings fell because of the early struggles -- from 14th in Def. S&P+ in 2013 to 29th in 2014 -- but Aranda figured out what buttons to press.
Aranda, apparently a player favorite, assures a level of continuity. But he'll also provide a constant while the front seven does more rebuilding. Gone are ends Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring and two outstanding ILBs in Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch. There is talent in the pipeline, however, and Aranda should know what to do with it.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Arthur Goldberg||DE/NG||6'3, 290||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8407||14||19.0||2.8%||1.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Chikwe Obasih||DE||6'2, 268||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8869||14||14.5||2.1%||2.5||1.5||0||1||0||0|
|Alec James||DE||6'3, 259||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8728||14||6.5||1.0%||1.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|James Adeyanju||NG||6'2, 262||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8800||10||6.0||0.9%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jake Keefer||DE||6'3, 269||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9000||13||5.0||0.7%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Conor Sheehy||NG||6'5, 279||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8857||14||1.5||0.2%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Garret Dooley||DE||6'2, 238||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8687|
|Billy Hirschfeld||DE||6'6, 271||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8731|
|Jeremy Patterson||NG||6'3, 326||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8635|
|Zander Neuville||DE||6'5, 226||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Olive Sagapolu||NG||6'2, 295||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8522|
|Kraig Howe||DE||6'3, 253||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8472|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Joe Schobert||OLB||6'2, 240||Sr.||NR||0.7700||14||56.5||8.3%||13.5||3.0||0||7||2||0|
|Vince Biegel||OLB||6'4, 244||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9360||14||47.0||6.9%||16.5||7.5||0||2||2||0|
|Leon Jacobs||ILB||6'2, 230||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8066||14||23.0||3.4%||2.0||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Jesse Hayes||OLB||6'3, 229||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8800||12||3.0||0.4%||1.5||1.5||0||0||1||0|
|Keelon Brookins||ILB||5'10, 209||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8524||7||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|D'Cota Dixon||ILB||5'10, 206||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8453||3||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Garret Dooley||OLB||6'2, 238||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8687|
|Jack Cichy||OLB||6'2, 220||So.||NR||NR|
|T.J. Edwards||ILB||6'1, 229||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7631|
|Arrington Farrar||OLB||6'2, 202||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8994|
|Nick Thomas||ILB||6'2, 230||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8194|
|Ty DeForest||ILB||6'1, 220||Fr.||NR||NR|
|Kellen Jones (Clemson)||ILB||6'0, 230||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||N/A||13||17||0.5||0||0||0||1||0|
7. High expectations for a few sophomores
A 3-4 line isn't usually intended to make many plays; the goal is to occupy blockers and allow linebackers to flow to the ball. But Wisconsin's needed to make a few more plays than it made last year.
Wisconsin linemen combined for 18 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 2013, but those numbers fell to 11.5 and four, respectively, last fall. The pass rush was still a strength thanks to the linebackers, but Wisconsin fell from ninth to 28th in Rushing S&P+.
Aranda will do some retooling. Nose guard Arthur Goldberg moves to end, putting a lot of pressure on high-upside (and relatively undersized) sophomore Connor Sheehy, the new presumptive starter in the middle. If Sheehy holds up and former four-star signee Chikwe Obasih experiences a second-year breakthrough (he evidently had a great spring), the line will improve.
And that could mean great things for the linebackers.
Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch were more disruptive than your normal 3-4 ILBs, combining for 27 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and six passes defensed. Losing them is tough, but new starter Leon Jacobs saw action last year, and the OLBs should bring the hammer again. Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel combined for 30 (!) TFLs, 10.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, and four forced fumbles.
That's incredible production, and if the OLBs hold steady and the line improves, Wisconsin can afford a step backward at ILB.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Michael Caputo||SS||6'1, 212||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8700||14||85.0||12.4%||6||1||1||6||2||0|
|Darius Hillary||CB||5'11, 188||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8500||14||31.0||4.5%||3||0||0||5||0||0|
|Sojourn Shelton||CB||5'9, 178||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8672||14||28.5||4.2%||1||0||0||6||0||0|
|FS||6'6, 222||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8690||11||20.0||3.1%||1||0||1||4||0||0|
|Lubern Figaro||FS||6'0, 179||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8306||13||18.0||2.6%||1.5||0||1||0||1||0|
|Austin Hudson||DB||6'2, 205||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7994||14||16.5||2.4%||1||1||0||0||1||0|
|Derrick Tindal||CB||5'11, 174||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8215||12||10.0||1.5%||1||1||0||1||0||0|
|Joe Ferguson||SS||6'1, 210||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||14||8.5||1.2%||0.5||0||0||1||0||0|
|Devin Gaulden||CB||5'10, 187||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8000||14||8.0||1.2%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Leo Musso||SS||5'10, 194||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793||12||7.5||1.1%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|A.J. Jordan||CB||6'0, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8500||14||6.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Terrance Floyd||CB||5'10, 191||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8400||9||4.0||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Serge Trezy||CB||6'1, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8519|
|Natrell Jamerson||CB||5'11, 180||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8414|
|Evan Bondoc||FS||6'1, 201||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Titus Booker||CB||5'11, 176||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8587|
8. An underrated secondary returns almost intact
Wisconsin's secondary benefited from a strong pass rush in 2014, but it also benefited from play-making depth of its own. Three DBs recorded at least three tackles for loss, three defensed at least five passes, and seven saw solid playing time. Of those seven, six return, and that doesn't include 2013 contributor Tanner McEvoy, back from his sojourn at QB.
With McEvoy sliding into the role of departed free safety Peniel Jean, it appears this secondary is stable. And while there are seniors at the top, a fun crop of sophomores will serve as understudies. From a recruiting rankings perspective, Wisconsin hasn't signed the most high-upside defensive backs in the world, but Badger DBs were successful in 2014 and should be again.
|Drew Meyer||6'3, 187||Sr.||54||37.4||3||16||18||63.0%|
|Bart Houston||6'4, 218||Jr.||7||34.7||0||0||1||14.3%|
|Andrew Endicott||5'9, 175||Jr.||90||61.5||28||1||31.1%|
|Rafael Gaglianone||5'11, 231||So.||59-61||14-15||93.3%||5-7||71.4%|
|Special Teams F/+||86|
|Field Goal Efficiency||9|
|Punt Return Efficiency||70|
|Kick Return Efficiency||102|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||125|
9. Find a return man
Kenzel Doe's production as a return man was somewhere between decent and below average; in the Big Ten, that's more like bad and dismal. The Big Ten has the best set of return men in the country, and Wisconsin lost field position ground both because of the lack of a return game and the lack of good punt coverage.
With Doe gone, Wisconsin has to roll the dice again. The Badgers have a pretty good place-kicker in Rafael Gaglianone, but special teams might again be a net loss if the new return man isn't efficient enough.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||35.6% (10)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||35 / 36|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-9 / -1.9|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||-2.5|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||13 (6, 7)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||10.7 (-0.7)|
10. The champion until proven otherwise
The rest of the B1G
The rest of the B1G
It's hard to avoid making assumptions. No matter the coach, no matter the personnel, you know the Badgers are going to run well, and thanks to four top-30 defenses in the last six years, you assume they are going to play steady D. There will be power football, there will be "Jump Around," and there will be wins.
We assume this, but turnover makes this less than completely certain.
Still, Wisconsin is the surest bet in the Big Ten West. Minnesota has risen for three straight years, and Nebraska's got new energy and a nice schedule. But the kings are still the kings until they are dethroned. The Badgers have won three of four against Nebraska and 11 straight against Minnesota. That they have to go to Lincoln and Minneapolis is scary, especially since the passing game isn't guaranteed to improve, but they avoid both Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State out of the East and will be favorites in each of their other six conference games.
Paul Chryst isn't a perfect hire, but he seems good enough to keep this ship steered. Wisconsin will have a solid chance of winning the West, and with quite a few high-impact underclassmen, the Badgers set up well for 2016 as well.
Plus, considering his background, Chryst probably isn't going to leave in two years. The pieces are in place for a sustained run, even if there's a non-zero possibility of a 2015 blip.