The Badgers will be Ohio State's top challenger in the Leaders Division.
Wisconsin enters 2013 with a hint of mystery surrounding the team. The Badgers have played in three consecutive Rose Bowls, but there’s a new coach on the sideline and different schemes on both sides of the ball.
New coach Gary Andersen comes to Madison from Utah State, where he recorded a 26-24 record in four seasons. Although Andersen’s record wasn’t overwhelmingly impressive, the Aggies were 6-30 in three seasons prior to his arrival. Andersen clearly improved Utah State, but his task at Wisconsin won’t be about rebuilding – at least in 2013. With 11 starters back, the Badgers can make a run at the Leaders Division title and 10 wins this year.
The biggest question mark surrounding Wisconsin is quarterback play, especially with the addition of junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy. The defense is switching to a 3-4 scheme, but the Badgers have plenty of talent in the front seven to weather the transition.
Wisconsin’s schedule isn’t too challenging, but a road trip to Ohio State on Sept. 28 could decide who wins the Leaders Division.
What will Wisconsin's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Wisconsin's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|9/7 Tennessee Tech|
|9/14 at Arizona State|
|9/28 at Ohio State|
|10/19 at Illinois|
|11/2 at Iowa|
|11/23 at Minnesota|
|11/30 Penn State|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Wisconsin hit a home run by hiring Gary Andersen to replace Bret Bielema. Andersen elevated Utah State to a conference title contender during his time in Logan and inherits a Badgers’ team that’s capable of finishing in the 10-15 range in the final BCS poll. The biggest question marks for Wisconsin rest at quarterback and how this team transition to new schemes on both sides of the ball. Joel Stave would seem to have a slight edge on Curt Phillips and Tanner McEvoy for the starting quarterback spot, but all three could see playing time this year. Moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme in one offseason could present some headaches, but Wisconsin has enough talent to handle the transition. The biggest issue on defense is the secondary, which will have three new starters for 2013. The Badgers have a favorable schedule, but road trips to Arizona State and Ohio State won’t be easy. I also have Wisconsin stumbling at Iowa, but I’d keep a close eye on the Oct. 12 matchup against Northwestern.
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
I hate to simplify things this much, however one can argue Wisconsin’s season comes down to two games: at Ohio State (Sept. 28) and vs. Northwestern (Nov. 12). Yes, at Arizona State is hardly a walk in the park, but it’s a nonconference game. We’re talking about Wisconsin, the program that’s represented the Big Ten in the last three Rose Bowls. Pasadena is the goal, and it’s a possibility again—especially if the Badgers show up in the aforementioned marque games. Seriously, take away the Ohio State and Northwestern dates, and Wisconsin will be the heavy favorite in its other six Big Ten games. Considering the manageable schedule and the talent the Badgers return, both on offense (James White, Melvin Gordon, Jared Abbrederis, Jacob Pedersen) and defense (Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong, Beau Allen, Dezmen Southward), a 10-win regular season could be in the cards.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
Wisconsin may have won a Big Ten championship last season, but let's not forget the Badgers actually finished third in the Leaders Division in 2012 behind Ohio State and Penn State, losing the head-to-head match-ups to each. That said, the Badgers figure to have a team worthy of giving the Buckeyes a bit of a tussle this year in the race to Indianapolis if things fall according to plan. Though Wisconsin loses Monte Ball, a player that never really got the attention he probably should have, the Badgers will rely on a strong running game behind a proven James White. The Badgers also have one of the Big Ten's top wide receivers in Jared Abbrederis, so it's time once again to ask the annual question; Does Wisconsin have a quarterback? I think they do with Joel Stave, but we'll see which way new head coach Gary Andersen goes with this. One thing I do feel confident in with Wisconsin is their defense. The Badgers had a defense that was pretty overlooked last season despite finishing third in the Big Ten in total and scoring defense. I suspect Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will keep that theme moving forward in Madison with a guy like linebacker Chris Borland anchoring things in the middle of the field.
Wisconsin should get off to a fast start against some weak opponents but a road trip to Arizona State looks very dangerous. BYU also looks to be a real difficult non-conference game, and who knows what the season will look like for either team when that game comes around in November. I'll give Wisconsin a split in those two, and I'm putting the Badgers on upset alert at Iowa right now. I look for Wisconsin to finish strongly though. If the Buckeyes stumble, Wisconsin can take advantage.
Mike Fiammetta, (@B5Q), Buckys5thquarter.com
With a coaching staff that's entirely new outside of two retained assistants and questions at quarterback, receiver and in the secondary, Wisconsin's one of the hardest teams to pick in the Big Ten. That's probably true for all of college football, as well. A few things are certain, however. The Badgers return a ton of all-Big Ten-worthy talent, including running backs James White and Melvin Gordon, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, linebacker Chris Borland and safety Dezmen Southward. The schedule is also incredibly soft, with non-conference play presenting only one threat (at ASU, though BYU could be considered a challenge) and the Big Ten slate having just one game in which Wisconsin will clearly be an underdog (at Ohio State). The early returns on the Gary Andersen era have been remarkably positive, though of course things could always not gel for the problem areas, namely receiver, offensive line and the secondary. If it does, though, the Badgers very well could find themselves in Indianapolis fighting for a fourth straight Rose Bowl berth.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Not many new head coaches step into a "BCS" job for a team looking to become a four-time defending champion but that is what Gary Andersen has done in Madison. The Badgers have won three-straight Big Ten titles and have a roster — and schedule — capable of competing for another one in 2013. Road games with Ohio State and Arizona State early will really test the rebuilt secondary and efficiency of whoever is playing quarterback. Other tricky tests like Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern at home or rivalry road games with Iowa and Minnesota could all provide slip-ups for a team with new leadership. Most everyone in the industry respects Andersen and the Badger way of winning is proven. But it will be hard-pressed to win a division in which Ohio State resides.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I don’t know if Wisconsin is going to be dramatically better than it was last season, but the season I’ve picked (9-3 in the regular season) is two games better than the Badgers were last year (7-5). The Badgers’ record wasn’t great, but they were awfully close in the losses — three in overtime and the other three away from Madison by six points or less. More competent quarterback play could be the difference, even though the Badgers move on without Bret Bielema. The Arizona State game will be interesting, but that doesn’t set up well for Wisconsin: A decimated secondary against a veteran quarterback, a redshirt freshman center against defensive tackle Will Sutton and an untested quarterback on the road. The experience issues will get better, which is why Wisconsin can hope for a hot finish. Northwestern could shape up to be a key game. The Badgers’ quarterback and offensive line could be in good shape by that point of the year, but the Badgers are still going to have a tough time stopping teams that can throw the ball.
Wisconsin made a great hire in luring Gary Andersen away from Utah State to replace the departed Bret Bielema. Although it may take a couple of seasons for the Badgers to be completely Andersen's team, I'm not expecting much of a drop off in terms of results our of Madison this fall. UW won't break a sweat until heading out west to the desert to face Arizona State and even though the opening of its Big Ten slate could be somewhat rocky, the rest of the schedule shakes out nicely. The Badgers get a break by not having to face either Michigan, Nebraska or Michigan State from the Legends Division, and the toughest conference road date by far is against Ohio State. The Buckeyes will more than likely win the Leaders Division, but the Badgers should be able to claim second and at least match last season's win total before their bowl game.
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