Wisconsin has come up just short of a Big Ten championship in each of the past two seasons, but the Badgers are once again labeled one of the favorites in the conference this fall. Until proven otherwise, there is little incentive for dismissing Wisconsin in the Big Ten hunt because Paul Chryst's team is the one to beat in the Big Ten West and will be a solid opponent for whoever comes out of the East.
The bigger question may be whether or not Chryst can get Wisconsin over the Big Ten title hurdle and be able to grab a spot in the College Football Playoff. This year’s schedule has some challenges, so let’s see how the Athlon Sports crew sees the season playing out in Madison from a win-loss standpoint.
Wisconsin Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Wisconsin fell just short of reaching the CFB Playoff last season and will be back in the mix for a spot in the top four this fall. The Badgers are once again strong on the offensive line, boasting the best in college football for 2018. Sophomore Jonathan Taylor is primed for another monster year at running back, while quarterback Alex Hornibrook (above, right) seems poised to take a step forward in his development. Wisconsin held opponents to 13.9 points a game last fall, but coordinator Jim Leonhard has hoes to fill at all three levels of the defense. Additionally, the line has already lost two key contributors — one for the entire year and another for likely the first few weeks of 2018. Despite the turnover on defense, Wisconsin will push for another undefeated season. However, road trips to Michigan and Penn State will drop this team to 10-2 in the regular season — but still the clear favorite to win the Big Ten West Division.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
It’s hard to imagine a top-10 team having such a bad home schedule — in terms of quality of opponent. Nebraska is intriguing because it’s Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers don’t figure to be very good in Scott Frost’s first season. Who is the second-best team that will visit Madison? Minnesota? BYU? It’s tough to find another home game in which the Badgers won’t be favored by at least three touchdowns. The road slate is a different story, and the Badgers’ success away from Camp Randall will determine if they can emerge as a legitimate CFB Playoff contender. I’m very high on this team and believe they can make it through the road gauntlet with just one loss, at Michigan on Oct. 13. Winning at Penn State will be tough, no doubt, but I believe in the Badgers!
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
The Badgers have gotten better each season under Paul Chryst and I'm not going to assume that stops in 2018. QB Alex Hornibrook gets knocked around by those in the Big Ten but you saw what he was capable of in the Orange Bowl and I think we'll see much more of that version from the signal-caller – especially as teams load up to stop Jonathan Taylor. The defense might not be quite the lockdown unit it's been recently but it will still be more than good enough against this schedule.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
There are few things to be concerned about with Wisconsin’s identity. They’ll continue to run the ball with sophomore Jonathan Taylor leading the way and a helping hand from the most stable offensive line in the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s defense does have a lot of players to replace from last season, but this unit should manage to get by. The schedule offers very few breaks, especially with the toughest games likely to all be played on the road. That schedule will cost Wisconsin at some point, but the Badgers should still be in a position to play for the Big Ten title, and perhaps be able to make a case for the playoff.