By Collin Post
Consistency. This word has become common place in Madison, Wisconsin over the last two years due to the strong performances of the University of Wisconsin’s football Badgers.
After back-to-back Big Ten championships, coach Bret Bielema’s group is poised to make it a historic three-peat this season as many key players return from last year.
One of these players is running back Montee Ball. You may have heard of him. Ball finished forth in the Heisman Trophy voting and recorded 1,923 rushing yards and 33 touchdowns last year, and there are no signs of a drop off in Ball’s performance this year.
One reason for this is the strength of his returning offensive line. As the depth chart stands now, Wisconsin’s offensive line is set to average almost 326 pounds and stand 6’6” tall.
Now, you may be thinking, “Just because they are HUGE, doesn’t mean they are good,” but you would be wrong. Wisconsin’s left tackle, Ricky Wagner, and center, Travis Fredrick, were members of the First-Team Big Ten squad last year and should pick up where they left off.
What also seems to be a reoccurring theme within the Wisconsin football program is their ability to find free agent quarterbacks.
Last season, Russell Wilson transferred from North Carolina State and was an integral piece of the Badgers’ Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl birth.
This season, Danny O’Brien transferred into the program from Maryland. O’Brien has not had the career that Wilson had prior to transferring, but O’Brien will be the Badgers’ starter for week one when they face off against Northern Iowa.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Badgers return two of the Big Ten’s top defensive players in linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland; both of which were top five in tackles last year. Wisconsin also returns an experienced defensive line and secondary.
After looking at Wisconsin’s schedule, there is even more reason for Badger fans to be excited about the 2012-13 season.
With an extremely weak nonconference schedule of Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, and UTEP the Badgers should start 4-0 without any problem.
Their next game is at Nebraska, which should be a rather intriguing matchup. With one year of Big Ten football under their belt, the Cornhuskers should be one of the stronger teams in the league this year, but I will give Wisconsin the nod in this one.
After a 5-0 start, Wisconsin should have no problem handling the Illini on October 6th in Madison. The Badgers would then take their 6-0 record to West Lafayette for a match up with the Boilermakers of Purdue.
Purdue has all the makings of a sleeper team in the Big Ten this year, and I am going to give them the upset win due to their great defensive line being able to shut down Wisconsin’s vaunted run game.
The following week the Badgers limp home to hold on to Paul Bunyan’s Axe as they defeat the Golden Gophers. On October 27th the Badgers take on Michigan St. in a rematch of last year’s inaugural Big Ten Championship game. With Michigan State’s fantastic defense, I am going to call them to defeat Wisconsin in a close game at Camp-Randall.
I will then say the Badgers close out with three consecutive wins over Indiana, Ohio St., and Penn St., giving them an 11-2 record and a legitimate shot at returning to the Championship game