New Coach, Same Quality Football Team in Madison?
Bret Bielema’s sudden departure to Arkansas came as a surprise to, well…everyone. Gary Andersen, formerly Utah State’s head coach, takes over in Madison with the task of keeping the program at its current level. That means if Andersen expects to win the fan base over, he better consistently contend for Rose Bowl’s. That won’t be an easy task for a coach that has yet to prove he can win at this level. Of course, neither had Bielema when he was hired to replace the legendary Barry Alvarez in 2006.
Wisconsin has many questions entering the 2013 season on both sides of the football. They have to replace Monte Ball at running back – college football’s all-time touchdown leader. If that isn’t difficult enough, Wisconsin must replace 5 starters on both sides of the ball from a team that, despite going to the Rose Bowl, was disappointing. 8-6 seasons aren’t common lately in Madison. With Ohio State off probation, Wisconsin will have a lot of work to do if they have any dreams of getting back to the Rose Bowl for a 4th straight season.
The Badgers Offense
Replacing Monte Ball Won’t Be Easy, Getting Consistent Play out of the Quarterbacks Will Be Even Tougher
We can’t say enough good things about what Monte Ball did in his brilliant career at Wisconsin. When all was said and done, the bruising back set the NCAA record for touchdowns. He was nearly impossible to stop inside the red zone and one of the best running backs in the land the past few seasons. Now he hands over the reigns to another very talented back, James White. White is more athletic and faster than Ball but he doesn’t have the durability. We fully expect a 1,200+ yard rushing campaign from White and potentially an All-American year. As always, Wisconsin has a big, talented offensive line for their backs to run behind.
The tight ends and receivers are solid as well. Jared Abrederis leads a talented receiving corps. Abrederis can make big plays and has great hands. Unfortunately, for the Badgers talented receivers, the quarterback throwing them the ball is very inconsistent. Joel Stave had an up and down freshman year (to be expected). The Badgers ranked 111th in the nation in passing offense a year ago. That was the reason they won just 8 games – the fewest since 2006. Stave needs to improve. That’s no secret. If he doesn’t, Danny O’Brien will get his shot. O’Brien began 2012 as the team’s starting quarterback after transferring from Maryland. To say he was a disappointment is quite an understatement.
The Badgers Defense
Will Be Difficult to Run on Them, Not-So Difficult to Pass
Unless young guys step up and become major contributors right away, Wisconsin’s secondary is going to struggle. The lone returning starter in the secondary is free safety Dezmen Southward (a senior). Cornerback is a position of uncertainty for Wisconsin. There is virtually no experience in the secondary other than Southward. Look for Wisconsin to struggle with pass-happy offenses.
Fortunately, the back-4 should get help from the front-7. They were stout in 2012 and return 6 of 7 starters. Wisconsin will be one of the most difficult teams in the country to run the football on. Despite the loss of All-conference performer Mike Taylor, the linebackers are experienced and talented. Ethan Armstrong and Chris Borland form one of the top LB duo’s in the B1G.
A Final Word on the 2013 Wisconsin Badgers
Again, the Badgers success will rely heavily on the cornerback and quarterback positions. If Joel Stave doesn’t improve, it’s unlikely the Badgers will. Yes, Wisconsin did make it to the Rose Bowl last season but that’s only because Penn State and Ohio State were ineligible (both superior teams). The schedule sets up nicely for an 8-9 win season for Gary Andersen. But it’s going to be quite the challenge to upend Ohio State in the Legends Division.