If it is something familiar you are searching for in the Big Ten, say hello to the most consistent program in the Big Ten West. The Wisconsin Badgers enter the abbreviated 2020 Big Ten season widely regarded as one of the favorites in the West. They may not have Jonathan Taylor running the ball anymore, but you can count on Wisconsin to be strong in the trenches and run the ball effectively while the defense keeps everything within reach.
The Badgers draw a relatively favorable crossover rotation with the Big Ten East. The Badgers avoid having to face Ohio State and Penn State, but they will have to make a road trip to Michigan (Wisconsin also gets a home game against Indiana). Running the table is not impossible for Wisconsin, in which case you may want to prepare for a potential College Football Playoff discussion in Madison. But can Wisconsin avoid a key stumble, like their road trip to Illinois last season?
Wisconsin Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Badgers have won four out of the last six Big Ten West Division titles and are positioned to repeat in 2020. Quarterback Jack Coan’s status is uncertain due to an injury in practice, but backup Graham Mertz ranked as one of the top QB recruits in the 2019 signing class and gained valuable experience last fall. Filling the void left behind by Jonathan Taylor and receiver Quintez Cephus won’t be easy. But as usual, the Badgers have a couple of backs poised to handle the load, and the offensive line figures to rank among the best in the conference. After limiting teams to 16.9 points a game last season, Wisconsin should be strong on defense once again thanks to the return of eight starters. Key games against Minnesota, Indiana and Purdue take place in Madison, but coach Paul Chryst’s team hits the road for matchups against Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa. The home date versus Minnesota is likely to decide which team wins the West, but the road trip to Michigan might decide whether or not the Badgers are unbeaten going into the Big Ten title game.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
The foot injury suffered by quarterback Jack Coan adds some intrigue to Wisconsin's outlook but I have a lot of belief in Paul Chryst and what's he built in Madison. Everyone knows what to expect when you face the Badgers and it doesn't stop them from winning a lot of games. There may be no Jonathan Taylor to run the ball, but Wisconsin is far from a one-trick pony. I'm not sure how the College Football Playoff selection committee will view a 7-1 Badgers team as the schedule isn't that difficult but that should at least get them an invite to Indianapolis to play for the Big Ten title.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB)
He may not be able to get a casual fan to run through a brick wall, but it is difficult to suggest Paul Chryst doesn't know what he is doing in Madison. The Badgers aren't going to wow you with dazzling highlight plays, but they don't need to. Jack Coan is more than capable running the offense and I have faith Wisconsin's stable of running backs will be more than good enough even if they don't have a clear cut primary back just yet. They may be favored in every game they play in the regular season as well, but road trips to Michigan and Iowa look like dangerous spots for the Badgers. The good news is 6-2 may be just enough to scratch together a Big Ten West title this season.