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The Badgers have been at the top of college football for a long time. They built their reputation on a tough defense and a strong running game. One thing they have done over the years to maintain their dominant running game is reloading on the offensive line. However, the only thing that is a constant seems to be change. New coach Gary Anderson comes in at a time when scholarships are down, and there were only eight healthy lineman on the roster this spring. The team has a redshirt freshman stepping in at center for Frederick. They know how to develop talent in Madison, but the loss of Frederick is going to be big, he had enough talent to get drafted in the first round a couple of months ago.
They come into the season with the deepest group of running backs they have had in a long time. The departure of Montee Ball will be big, but the Badgers have lost talent in the past. White is the second leading rusher among active FBS backs with 2,571 career yards. He will step in as the starter and produce well but the team also has good guys to spell him. Sophomore Gordon showed a glimpse of what he is capable of when he ran through Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game for 216 yards.
Yet, as much as things change they also stay the same. The quarterbacks in Wisconsin haven’t been anything to write home about and last year was no different. They ranked last in the Big Ten in passing yards and they need to put something together if they want to take the next step towards the National Championship game. The team brought in a highly regarded junior college transfer in Tanner McEvoy. He is a dual threat QB who could bring a new dimension to the offense. I doubt anyone will mistake Wisconsin for the Ducks under Kelly last year but a change of pace can help keep the offense unpredictable and that means success.
One defense that I absolutely can’t stand is the prevent defense. If one thing has been proven it’s that the prevent defense only prevents your team from winning. Running a close second is the bend-but-don’t break philosophy. That’s what the Badgers have been using in recent years, but this year marks change on defense too. The Badgers are expected to come out in an aggressive 3-4 defense, but will also mix in some four man fronts.
The most important part of a 3-4 defense is the nose tackle. You need an immovable object in the middle of the line if you’re going to make the offense go laterally inside of pushing up the gut. The team also plans on moving Kelly and Dippel from defensive end to outside linebacker in their new scheme. They led the defense with five sacks each last season and moving to outside linebacker can only help that. Both seem to be athletic enough to play in space, but until they prove it under the bright lights it remains a question mark.
Brett Bielema was the man in Madison for a lot of years. Before he was the hand picked successor to Alvarez he was an up and coming assistant. And even with everything he’s been through, this was the season that he openly admitted was going to be his best ever. There are 23 returning seniors on the roster and that is a lot of leadership in the locker room. However, Bielema is in Arkansas this year and there is no hand picked successor to replace him, seven assistants left as well. The school was applauded for bringing Anderson in from Utah State, but this year is going to look rough in spots. Can the Badgers make it to a 4th straight Rose Bowl appearance? The jury is still out on that one.