Defending Big Ten Champs, Wisconsin are definitely one of the favorites to go back to the Rose Bowl. The Badgers only have 12 returning starters, yet somehow Wisconsin appears to be even stronger heading into 2011. Russell Wilson is arguably the most talented QB in Wisconsin history. How fast Wilson adapts to the new system and his new team will determine whether the Badgers are able to make another run for the Roses. Wisconsin is becoming a national power that reloads rather than rebuilds, so a lack of returning starters doesn’t mean a lack of returning talent.
Best Bar To Watch Wisconsin Badgers in Chicago:
As always, what’s a Chicago college football preview without letting people know the best spot to party? For Badger games in 2011, the place to be is Will’s Northwoods Inn. This place is as Wisconsin as it gets. Badgers and Packers sports bar heaven. Good food, great drink specials, and they even have a Wisconsin girl “beauty pageant”. Its definitely the place to get your jump around on this fall.
RB Montee Ball. Even though Russell Wilson received all the headlines this offseason, its the running game that still makes the Badgers offensive go. If Wisconsin is going to be a dominant force again this year, it’ll be because Montee Ball is one of the nation’s premier running backs. Both Ball and sophomore James White will receive a ton of carries, but Ball is more of the bruising back that Wisconsin historically loves to deploy. Look for Ball to go over 1000 yards for the first time in his career and he should also be a Doak Walker finalist.
LB Mike Taylor. Mike Taylor has started all each of the 19 games he has been in uniform for as a Badger. The Redshirt junior seemed to get better every week in 2010. Taylor’s 2009 season was cut short after suffering a season ending injury in week 7. Taylor should be back to full health and full speed in 2011. Look for Taylor to be the leader of the Badger defense from his Will LB position.
Offensive New Name-To-Know:
OT Rob Havenstein. The easy play here would have been Russell Wilson, but everyone already knows his name. Wisconsin is becoming “Offensive Tackle U”. Joe Thomas graduates…no big deal, the Badgers just replaced him with another NFL First round pick in Gabe Carimi. Havenstein certainly looks the part of the next great Wisconsin tackle. After red-shirting in 2010, the 6’8″ 345-pound freshman is currently number two on the depth chart, but will definitely see time as a part of the tackle rotation. Havenstein is athletic for his size and will soon be paving the way for Ball and White.
Defensive New Name-To-Know:
LB Chris Borland. Chris Borland isn’t necessarily a new name, but is perhaps a forgotten one in many Big Ten circles. Borland was Big Ten freshman of the year in 2009, but has disappeared after a series of shoulder injuries forced him out of action. Borland’s health and play-making ability are two huge keys to the Badger’s defense in 2011. If Borland can stay healthy, his versatility and leadership will go a long way to help Wisconsin morph into more than just an average defense.
Schedule and Predictions:
Oregon St– W
N. Illinois– W
S. Dakota– W
@ Mich St– W
@ Ohio St– L
@ Minnesota– W
@ Illinois– W
Penn State– W
Total: 11-1. I think the Badgers will end up having one of their best offensive seasons in school history. Russell Wilson and Nick Toon will prevent opposing defenses from stacking the box with 8 or 9 guys. The powerful Wisconsin running game combined with a dynamic Quarterback should give the Badgers the most explosive offense in the B1G. Wisconsin’s month of October is brutal though. They will play the three most talented teams in the conference including back to back road games against Michigan State and Ohio State. I don’t think Wisconsin’s defense is good enough to make it through that month unblemished. However, a trip to the Big Ten Championship and a BCS game still seem likely.
Bowl Prediction: Rose Bowl.
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