Note – This is the information for the 2012 season. Please check the 2013 Wisconsin page for a look at the 2013 season.
Can Badgers Continue Winning at a High Level?
Ever since Bret Bielema took over for legendary coach Barry Alvarez in 2006, Wisconsin has been a consistent winner. You could argue he’s outperformed Alvarez. His teams have won more consistently. Bielema is a fiery coach. He’s gutsy, sometimes to a fault. But one thing is certain – his teams will always play physical, smart, and won’t get pushed around. And because of that style of play, they’ll always be competitive in the Big-10.
How competitive will Wisconsin be in 2012? Most experts project them to win the Leaders division and some predict them to win the Big-10. In order for them to do that, they must find replacements for some key players. The biggest loss is quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson came to Wisconsin last year after transferring from North Carolina State. In just one season, he became an All-Big-10 quarterback and helped lead the Badgers to their second straight Rose Bowl appearance.
Russell’s apparent replacement is another transfer. Junior Danny O’Brien – transfer from Maryland – comes to Madison with big shoes to fill. He definitely has the talent to fill those shoes quite well. He doesn’t have to be Russell Wilson. Wisconsin can win the Leaders Division without great quarterback play. There’s not much competition other than Ohio State, which can’t play in the Big-10 Championship Game thanks to Jim Tressel’s naughty ways. But poor quarterback play could cause the Badgers to lose the division.
Wisconsin’s success in 2012 will hinge upon how well the newcomers perform. The Badgers only return 10 starters (4 on offense, 6 on defense). The losses of Wilson, C Peter Konz, and WR Nick Toon are going to be hard to overcome. The good news for Badgers fans is Bielema and his staff have done an excellent job of consistently developing players. Wisconsin has a “next man in” mentality. When someone gets injured, he’s replaced by a capable backup. When a star graduates, he’s replaced by a rising star. Wisconsin plays outstanding team football and play as physical as any team in the country. They’ll never get Top 10 recruiting classes consistently, but they don’t need to. They’re well coached and outwork their opposition.
Wisconsin is attempting to win their 3rd straight Big-10 title, which is something they’ve never done. Their next goal is to win the Rose Bowl, which is something they haven’t done since 1999 when Barry Alvarez was the coach. The Badgers have suffered back-to-back heartbreaking defeats in the Rose Bowl versus TCU and Oregon. If they make it back to the Rose Bowl this year, you can bet Bielema will do everything it takes to prepare his team to pull off a victory.
Badgers Running Game: Their Key to Success
There’s really no secret when it comes to Wisconsin football under Bret Bielema. You either contain their running game or you lose. Even with Russell Wilson at quarterback last year, the Badgers were a run-first football team. Over the past few years, Wisconsin’s had some of the best offensive lines in the country. They build big, strong linemen up their in Madison. But this year could be different. Only 2 starters remain from last year’s talented offensive line unit.
The biggest loss on the line will be C Peter Konz. He was an outstanding team leader and his value is immeasurable. Travis Frederick moves to center in hopes of providing some stability and leadership in the middle of that offensive line. The guards – Ryan Groy and Robert Burge – don’t have much experience. With that said, Wisconsin finds a way to develop offensive linemen quickly, better than anyone.
The Badgers offensive line will be blocking for perhaps the most talented backfield in the country. When Montee Ball announced he was coming back for his senior season, Madison celebrated. Ball is a big back with deceptive speed. He’s rushed for more career yards than any other active player (3,310). He’s our pick for Big-10 Offensive Player of the Year and will certainly factor into the Heisman Trophy race. It wasn’t a banner offseason for Ball, however. He was allegedly a part of an on-campus brawl and then ended up being jumped and severely injured as a result of the fight. Ball was beaten unconscious and hospitalized. He should be available for the opener but did miss some practice time this summer.
Montee Ball isn’t the only capable running back the Badgers have. Junior James White has game breaking speed. He rushed for 741 yards last season as a backup. He’s not going to beat out Ball for the starting spot, but he’s too talented for Bielema to keep him off the field. On any other team, White is a feature back and potentially an all-conference performer. At Wisconsin, he’s just another running back.
2012 Wisconsin Football Schedule: Predicting Wins and Losses
The schedule, as always, sets up nicely for Wisconsin. They always seem to have very favorable schedules. Michigan is off the schedule this year and Michigan State and Ohio State are home games. The non-conference schedule is filled with 4 cupcakes. Their toughest non-conference game will be at Oregon State – a probable bottom of the Pac-12 team. Wisconsin will be favored in at least 11 games this year – and possibly all 12. Here are our predictions on the 2012 Wisconsin Badgers…
Sept 1 vs Northern Iowa – WIN
Sept 8 at Oregon State – WIN
Sept 15 vs Utah State – WIN
Sept 22 vs UTEP – WIN
Sept 29 at Nebraska – LOSS
Oct 6 vs Illinois – WIN
Oct 13 at Purdue – WIN
Oct 20 vs Minnesota – WIN
Oct 27 vs Michigan State – WIN
Nov 10 at Indiana – WIN
Nov 17 vs Ohio State – WIN
Nov 24 at Penn State – WIN
Dec 1 vs Michigan State (Champ Game) – LOSS
Overall Record: (11-2)
Big-10 Record: (7-1)
Games Favored: 12
Games Underdog: 1
Wisconsin Badgers: Final Analysis
Wisconsin is going to be a quality football team in 2012. We know that. But we don’t know just how good. There are some question marks. The offensive line is revamped and the defense must replace some key starters. But Wisconsin lucks out with their scheduling yet again, and will probably win 10+ games as a result. We’re predicting 11 wins, but expect them to play a few close games that could go either way.
Danny O’Brien fitting into Bielema’s system and developing chemistry with his receivers will be key. O’Brien threw for more than 4,000 yards in 2 seasons as Maryland’s starting quarterback. His numbers dropped off last year because Maryland switched to a spread offense. Or, at least, Wisconsin better hope that’s why his numbers fell. O’Brien has just one proven pass catcher to throw to – Jared Abbrederis. The 933 yards and 8 touchdowns Abbrederis had in 2011 were second on the team.
There isn’t a game on the schedule that Wisconsin can’t win. But there are a handful of games they could lose if they don’t play their best. Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Nebraska, and possibly even Penn State are capable of pulling off an upset. Wisconsin is now the hunted. They’ve won 2 straight Big-10 titles and teams are now gunning for them. We are projecting an 11-2 season, but wouldn’t be surprised with an 8-win season out of the Badgers. Everything is resting on the development of the O-line and Danny O’Brien.