The Wisconsin Badgers only lost one game in 2017. Unfortunately, it came against Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, knocking them out of contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Badgers responded by beating Miami in the Orange Bowl to cap off a 13-1 campaign.
Wisconsin will now be looking to take things one step further and win their first conference title since 2012. They also won’t complain if a Big Ten championship also helps them land a spot in the four-team playoff. Those may seem like lofty expectations, but the Badgers may have the pieces in place to do it.
Oddsmakers are expecting 10 wins out of the Badgers in 2018, which would actually be a drop-off of two wins after Wisconsin finished the 2017 regular season at 12-0. The Badgers are also listed at +2700 to win the national championship, giving them the ninth-best odds of any team. Considering the relative ease the Badgers have had in recent years getting to the Big Ten title game, the odds are good that they’ll be able to control their own destiny late in the season when it comes to reaching the Playoff.
More importantly, the Badgers return nearly every starter on offense, including quarterback Alex Hornibrook, running back Jordan Taylor, and the entire offensive line. With that much talent returning, the Wisconsin offense is poised to be among the best in the country, especially if Hornibrook can curb the turnovers that plagued him last season.
To be fair, the Badgers have a lot to replace on defense. There concerns about the secondary as well as the depth on the defensive line. However, with what they have coming back on offense, it’s hard to see the Badgers losing more than two games during the regular season, so reaching 10 wins seems like a safe bet.
|Aug 31||Western Kentucky Hilltoppers||9:00 PM|
|Sep 8||New Mexico Lobos||12:00 PM|
|Sep 15||Brigham Young Cougars||3:30 PM|
|Sep 22||@ Iowa Hawkeyes||1:00 PM|
|Oct 6||Nebraska Cornhuskers||1:00 PM|
|Oct 13||@ Michigan Wolverines||12:00 PM|
|Oct 20||Illinois Fighting Illini||12:00 PM|
|Oct 27||@ Northwestern Wildcats||1:00 PM|
|Nov 3||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||1:00 PM|
|Nov 10||@ Penn State Nittany Lions||12:00 PM|
|Nov 17||@ Purdue Boilermakers||12:00 PM|
|Nov 24||Minnesota Golden Gophers||1:00 PM|
It’s no secret that Wisconsin benefited from a rather weak schedule last season. This year’s schedule won’t be quite so easy, but it will be manageable. The non-conference schedule doesn’t present too many challenges, so the Badgers will get their first test when they travel to Iowa in Week 4. Michigan, Northwestern, and Penn State will be their toughest games in 2018, and all will be on the road. However, no other team on Wisconsin’s schedule comes close to matching up with them talent-wise.
If Wisconsin can get through that schedule with no more than one loss, they should have no problem winning the Big Ten West division and returning to the Big Ten Championship Game. In the conference title game, they will most likely be matched up with Ohio State, who they narrowly lost to last year.
Beating the Buckeyes won’t be easy, but it’s possible if the Wisconsin defense can make some strides over the course of the season. A one-loss Wisconsin team that beats Ohio State to win the Big Ten championship would stand a good chance to being in the College Football Playoff.