2007 RECORD: 9-4; BIG TEN: 5-3
Lost Outback Bowl vs. Tennessee 21-17
LOCATION: Madison, Wisconsin
STADIUM: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321)
HEAD COACH: Bret Bielema
OVERALL: 21-5 (2 seasons)
AT WISCONSIN: 21-5 (2 seasons)
Is the talent there for the Badgers to be ranked higher…maybe even challenge for a top ten spot? Sure. However, let’s not forget they opened the 2007 season ranked No. 7 in both polls and finished the year 21st in the Coaches Poll and 24th in the AP Poll. In five games against teams that finished last year ranked, Wisconsin was 1-4, with the lone win coming at home against a Michigan club that was sans Mike Hart and saw Chad Henne attempt a mere five passes (true freshman Ryan Mallett was 11-of-36 passing).
WHEN THE BADGERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Paul Chryst (4th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 9
KEY LOSSES: Tyler Donavan, Luke Swan, Paul Hubbard, Lance Smith (Dismissed)
While we’ve seen more three wide receiver sets under OC Paul Chryst, the Badgers aren’t going to the spread as many Big Ten stalwarts have—power football is still how their bread is buttered. Even without Lance Smith, Wisky is loaded in the backfield led by junior big back P.J. Hill. Soph Zach Brown provides a little more shiftiness, while freshman John Clay is yet another 230 pound bruiser. Whoever is toting the rock, they would be wise to follow senior FB Chris Pressley. The biggest question is at quarterback, where Allan Evridge is expected to take over. He will have a pair of playmakers at his disposal in Travis Beckum—the most explosive tight end in the country—and sophomore WR Kyle Jefferson. The line is big and talented (what else is new?), but they need to be more consistent than they were a year ago.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) TE Travis Beckum (SR), 2) OG Kraig Ubrik (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dave Doeren (3rd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 9
KEY LOSSES: Jack Ikegwuonu, Nick Hayden
This unit is solid, but not spectacular. DE Matt Shaughnessy (broken leg in the spring) leads the front four, FS Shane Carter recorded seven interceptions, and OLB Jonathan Casillas is their leading tackler. Other than Carter, there really isn’t a playmaker on this unit—no other player had more than one interception and DE Kirk DeCremer led the club in sacks as a freshman with 5.5. If players like DT Jason Chapman, LB DeAndry Levy and CB Allen Langford (if healthy) step up their game as seniors, this can be an improved unit. CB Jack Ikegwuonu will be difficult to replace and corner might be their most vulnerable position. Freshman corner Mario Goins and sophomore safety Jay Valai are two x-factors in the secondary.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) DE Matt Shaughnessy (SR), 2) DE Kirk DeCremer (SO)
Upset alert: September 13…not only do the Badgers play Fresno St., they’re making the trip out to Cali and two weeks later, they open up the Big Ten schedule at Ann Arbor. Last season, Wisconsin struggled away from Camp Randall—losing at Penn St., Illinois and Ohio St. by an average margin of 19 points and dropping a neutral site game to Tennessee. Their only road wins came at UNLV (2-10) and at Minnesota (1-11), so the Badgers shouldn’t put a “W” next to those games at Michigan St., Indiana and Iowa just yet.
Linebackers: Quarterback is the obvious choice here, but linebacker should be a team strength…but is it? Casillas’ overall tackles went up, but he had 3.5 fewer tackles for a loss as a junior with no interceptions and just one PD (1 INT & 6 PDs in 2006). OLB DeAndre Levy’s sack total was cut in half, from six to three. Neither made the progress expected in their second year as a starter. At middle linebacker, junior Elijah Hodge was so underwhelming that he is currently working as the third sting MIKE in camp. This group is a microcosm for the team…good, but not as good as advertised.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Not many coaches have replaced a legend as seamlessly as Coach Bielema has at Wisconsin (21 wins in his first two seasons). However, after shocking the nation with 12 wins in 2006, this group failed to live up to expectations in 2007. They are a good, solid team, but could disappoint again if the bar is set too high. If they are to creep back into the top 10 or reach double digits in victories, Evridge (or whoever plays quarterback) will have to ensure they have a balanced offense.
Credit: Collegiate Images
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
2007 RECORD: 9-4; BIG TEN: 5-3