The 2018 season was not necessarily one to forget for fans of the Wisconsin Badgers, but the season’s results failed to clear the bar of preseason expectations based on the preseason polls and media hype from various sources. Injuries slowed Wisconsin down before the season could get started and a number of tough losses in conference play reduced Wisconsin to finishing the campaign in the Pinstripe Bowl last December.
Despite a step back in 2018, Paul Chryst continues to guide a steady ship that only needs a few minor adjustments to regain form as a Big Ten West contender and a favorite in '19. Here are three reasons why Wisconsin fans should be optimistic things will be better in 2019 for the Badgers, who could find a way back to the Big Ten Championship Game.
1. Another year of Jonathan Taylor
You can just about always count on Wisconsin to be able to run the football. With Taylor back for his junior season, the ball could be in good hands. Taylor certainly knows how to lead the ground attack and he is capable of busting loose for a big gain at any moment. If he can improve his ball handling that became a concern last fall, the Badgers should once again trust Taylor with the football.
2. A growing secondary
When it came to pass defense in 2018, Wisconsin’s figures were up and down on a weekly basis. Because the secondary was a concern going into the season with some youth stepping into big spots with Faion Hicks and Madison Cone, the secondary should be one of the strengths of the Wisconsin defense this fall. And coming off a four-interception game against Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl could be a glimmer of hope for what’s to come from Wisconsin’s pass defense in 2019.
3. Early key games at home
Wisconsin faces some potentially tough road trips in the second half of the season against Ohio State, an improving Nebraska, and rival Minnesota (who just snapped their losing ways against the Badgers in 2018). That’s why taking advantage of home field in key Big Ten games earlier in the year could be important. Wisconsin will get Michigan and Northwestern in Camp Randall Stadium in back-to-back weeks in late September and they also will get home games against Michigan State in cross-division play and Iowa in a pivotal division showdown. Win those games and that could be the difference in the Big Ten West race in the end.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. 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.