For the third season in a row, Penn State will conclude the regular season against the Wisconsin Badgers. I’m sure that every Penn State fan remembers how last season’s meeting went, as the Nittany Lions concluded the 2012 season with a memorable senior day win against the Badgers in overtime. Wisconsin has been to three straight Rose Bowls, but has lost every one (only by a combined 15 points). As most people know, the only reason Wisconsin represented the Leaders in last season’s Big Ten championship game was because of the penalties against Penn State and Ohio State. And even though most people are already putting the Buckeyes in the 2013 Big Ten championship game, the Badgers shouldn’t be discounted.
- Coach- Gary Andersen, 1st season (was 11-2 in 2012 as head coach of Utah State)
- 2012 record- 8-6
- Key Departures- RB Montee Ball, OL Travis Frederick, LB Mike Taylor, OT Ricky Wagner, DB Shelton Johnson, DE David Gilbert, OLB Brendan Kelly
- Key Returnees- QB Curt Phillips, RB James White, RB Melvin Gordon, WR Jared Abbrederis, TE Jacob Pedersen, LB Chris Borland, S Dezmen Southward, DL Beau Allen
Wisconsin’s offense- so simple yet so effective. A physical, hard-nosed running attack with those huge Wisconsin-bred offensive linemen (Wisconsin’s projected starting offensive line averages 319 lbs.). And even though the touchdown machine known as Montee Ball has moved on to the NFL, there is no shortage of running backs in the Wisconsin backfield. James White (806 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012) and Melvin Gordon (621 yards on only 62 carries in 2012) will anchor the running game. Freshman Corey Clement, who has reportedly been very impressive this summer, looks to be the next man up in the long line of great Wisconsin running backs and he should contribute in 2013 as well. In terms of pass catchers, Jared Abbrederis is one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten and Jacob Pedersen is one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten. Curt Phillips and Joel Stave are battling it out for the starting quarterback job. But no matter who wins, they’ll be handing the ball off quite a lot.
The Badger defense is led by Chris Borland, who’s not only one of the top linebackers in the conference, but in the nation. Borland has racked up 247 tackles the last two seasons and is slated for a big senior season. Losing fellow linebacker Mike Taylor will hurt, but guys like Ethan Armstrong and Derek Landisch should help fill that void. The defensive line will be Wisconsin’s strength on defense. They return experienced players such as seniors Beau Allen, Pat Muldoon and Tyler Dippel. In the secondary, the Badgers have to replace three of the four starters as senior safety Dezmen Southward is the lone returning starter. An inexperienced secondary could be the weak link in Wisconsin’s defense. Freshman Leo Musso is projected to start at the other safety position and sophomore Darius Hillary is projected to be one of the starting cornerbacks. Junior Peniel Jean should occupy the other cornerback spot. Clearly Wisconsin’s front seven is better than the secondary, so don’t be surprised if Wisconsin’s opponents try to air it out often against the Badgers in 2013.
Obviously Ohio State is the overwhelming favorite to win the Leaders Division. However, if Wisconsin can pull off the upset in Columbus on September 28th, they’ll have a great chance of going to their third straight Big Ten championship game. The rest of Wisconsin’s conference schedule isn’t too difficult and most notably in the non-conference they play at Arizona State and host BYU, which could be challenging games. The key for the Badgers this season will be adjusting and getting used to new head coach Gary Andersen and the new staff. I think that 9-3 is a possibility in Andersen’s first year in Madison. And as good as the Buckeyes are, there’s plenty of talent and experience left over from the Bret Bielema regime to help Wisconsin contend for yet another Big Ten championship and another Rose Bowl berth.
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