The Wisconsin Badgers are coming off a second straight season having played in the Big Ten Championship Game (and losing) and playing in a New Year's Six bowl game (and winning). Following a largely successful season in Madison, what does Paul Chryst have cooking up in 2018? Can the Badgers get over the hump in the Big Ten title race, or will Wisconsin once again be destined to run through the Big Ten West Division and land in a New Year's Six bowl game as at-large constantly attempting to gain respect in the national polls?
The formula for Wisconsin may not change too much from what Badger fans are accustomed to seeing. With one of the breakout stars of the 2017 season back to carry the football next fall, Wisconsin should be in good hands right off the bat. Running the football is rarely a problem for this program, and that should once again be one of the main strengths of the Badgers in 2018.
1. Jonathan Taylor is just a sophomore
The Big Ten was particularly deep at running back last season, and Wisconsin's freshman workhorse managed to lead the conference with 1,977 rushing yards. Get ready for more of that from Taylor, who will be entering his second season as Wisconsin's top running back. No running back in the conference had more rushing attempts than Taylor's 299 last season, and his 13 rushing touchdowns were good for the second behind only Saquon Barkley of Penn State. Taylor and Ohio State's J.K. Dobbins could emerge as the top running backs in the conference this season.
2. Offensive line consistency
What good is having a solid running back if there isn't a sturdy offensive line up front to block for him? Taylor being back is great, but to be able to run behind five offensive line starters from this past season puts Wisconsin's running game ahead of the curve heading into the new season. Wisconsin will bring back an offensive line featuring two first-team All-Big Ten selections in offensive guard Beau Benzschawel (above, right) and offensive tackle Michael Deiter, second-team All-Big Ten tackle David Edwards and third-team All-Big Ten center Tyler Biadasz. The last piece of that juggernaut of a line up front is left guard Jon Dietzen.
3. The defense will be fine
Wisconsin is losing seven starters from last year's dominant bunch, but the new faces stepping into the big spots should adjust nicely. The schedule also allows for some players time to get acclimated in their new spots as well. Wisconsin has been one of the more consistent defenses in the Big Ten anyway, and there is nothing to suggest a major drop-off is on the horizon for the Badgers. Aside from running the football, Wisconsin has thrived on a team defense that may not have the star power other programs have but always seems to come together nicely. It should be more than good enough to hold the edge over the majority of their opponents in 2018.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.