Connect with us

Badgers football

10 Things to know about the Wisconsin Badgers 2017 season

Published

on

We’re here, just under one week away from the start of the 2017 season.

Now is a great time to take stock of the team following the answers and questions created by the release of Wisconsin’s first depth chart of the season. There’s a triple-threat at running back, some surprise names on defense and an ongoing offensive line battle that should be interesting.

It’s also important to take a look deep inside the program and find some numbers that will be telling. So, as we roll towards the season, let’s look at the 10 things we know about the 2017 Wisconsin Badgers…stats style.

1: Only one Wisconsin quarterback has ever taken a college football snap

No position will be as talked about or scrutinized in 2017 as the Badgers quarterback group. It’s part intrigue and part worry though, as redshirt sophomore Alex Hornibrook starts the season as the starter for the first time in his career.

Meanwhile, behind him are three completely untested players in Jack Coan, Karé Lyles and Danny Vanden Boom. Coan and Vanden Boom are true freshmen, while Lyles redshirted last season after having hip surgery.

Coan was named the backup entering the season, beating out Lyles. Head coach Paul Chryst noted that it was his steady progression throughout both spring and fall that gives the coaching staff confidence in him should anything happen to Hornibrook.

“I thought he did some good things in the course of practice when he were scrimmaging in some of those situations that weren’t necessarily schematic,” said Chryst at his weekly press conference. “I’ve liked the progress that he’s made. Certainly has a ton more to learn and ways to grow, but I do feel like he had a good camp.”

Vanden Boom seems like a good project to watch for the future, and likely will redshirt this season. However, when it comes to 2017, the coaching staff has to be hoping that Hornibrook can stay healthy and UW gets big enough leads in the second half of its opening two contests to get Coan some real work with the offense.

There is no more scary situation than the thin depth at quarterback for this year’s Badgers.

2: That is the number of touchdowns caught by both returning tight ends last season

Troy Fumagalli has taken all the headlines after a stellar 2016 season, but most would be surprised to know he had just two touchdown receptions last season. Most would also likely never guess that backup tight end Kyle Penniston tied Fumagalli with two touchdown receptions of his own.

Yet, heading in to 2017 that is exactly where we stand. Fumagalli paced all Badgers with 47 receptions for 580 yards last season, but his production was most valuable in between the 20-yard lines and certainly on third downs.

Conversely, Penniston began living up to some of his 4-star hype out of California by having two of his six receptions on the season go for scores. He also turned those six receptions in to 102 yards to showcase some serious potential as a pass-catcher going forward.

Could it be that both Fumagalli and Penniston are ready to be major weapons for Hornibrook in 2017? It sure would be nice to see them catch more than two touchdowns individually this season.

3: Wisconsin has won three straight bowl games heading in to 2017

If you don’t think that is more than some small feat, then you haven’t been paying attention to UW’s bowl game history at all. Only twice before has UW won at least three bowl games in a row.

The first came in 1994 to 96, as the Badgers won the Rose Bowl in 1994 and went on to win the Hall of Fame Bowl and then the Copper Bowl in the following two seasons.

However, Alvarez wasn’t done making sure his charges were postseason winners, this time racking up a program record four straight bowl wins from 1999 to 2002. Once again a new streak would start with a Rose Bowl win, as UW took home both the 1999 and 2000 editions of the Granddaddy of them all, followed up a Sun Bowl win in December of 2000 and a win in the Alamo Bowl in 2002.

Should the Badgers make another bowl game, they’ll have a chance to tie some program history as a team this season.

4: Wisconsin forced just 4.4 penalties per game against opponents last season

Much has been made about UW’s ability to avoid penalties last season, where they led the conference with just 3.4 penalties per game. However, the Badgers weren’t very good about getting penalty calls against opponents either.

Wisconsin ranked just 13th in the Big Ten with 4.4 opponent penalties per game. Part of that is UW’s ability to stay clean on its end of the bargain, but the Badgers also struggled to get penalty calls a lot in 2016.

With some new pieces to the puzzle in 2017, it will be worth watching to see how the penalty situation unfolds. Given Paul Chryst’s attention to detail and penchant for not accepting penalties from his charges, look for UW to stay near the top of the fewest penalties against list.

But, let’s see if Chryst’s group in 2017 can be more adept at creating penalties against opponents as well. Whether one wants to admit it or not, pushing opponents to their limits also includes getting them to make mental mistakes, and thus penalties against.

5: Jazz Peavy topped the team with 5 touchdown receptions in 2016

It was no secret that the Badgers passing attack lacked an ability to get in the end zone last season. Part of that steamed from inexperience at quarterback, but part of it also steamed from a lack of big play receivers in the mix.

However, that wasn’t the case for then-junior wide receiver Jazz Peavy. He broke out last season, leading all wide receivers with 43 receptions and leading the team with 635 yards and five touchdowns.

Wisconsin put up just 14 touchdowns as a team, so Peavy’s five TD receptions accounted for nearly 50 percent of the passing TD production as a team. The 14 passing touchdowns were good enough for just 11th in the Big Ten, and it is certainly a stat UW’s coaching staff would like to see get better this season.

Interestingly enough, the Badgers haven’t thrown more than 22 touchdown passes in the past five seasons and never ranked higher than eighth in the Big Ten outside of Russell Wilson’s one year in town in 2011. That season, Wisconsin led the conference with 34 passing touchdowns.

With a ton of youth getting a look behind Peavy, can the Badgers break out of their passing slump on the scoreboard?

6: That is the number of fumbles lost by the Badgers in 2016

Wisconsin has always prided itself on not making stupid turnovers, especially in the run game. 2016 was no different, as UW lost just six fumbles for the entire season.

A look inside those numbers suggests how little the Badgers compounded any mistake made in 2016 as well, with all six fumbles lost coming in six different games.

Wisconsin played seven ranked teams in 2016, and lost just one fumble in those games. Is it any wonder they beat expectations and went to the Cotton Bowl?

How does this stat translate to 2017? Of those six fumbles lost, four of them happened by four different players that are on this season’s roster. Only Corey Clement and his two lost fumbles are gone from last season.

Running back Bradrick Shaw, wide receivers Jazz Peavy and George Rushing, as well as quarterback Alex Hornibrook each lost a fumble last season. All four are likely key contributors in 2017 and keeping those lost fumble numbers low will be a key stat to watch this season.

7: That is the number of interceptions thrown in 2016 by Alex Hornibrook

Wisconsin is going to ride or die with Hornibrook at quarterback, and there certainly were indications that he could be special in 2016.

However, for all those special moments, there were plenty of head-scratching ones as well. That played out in the fact that he threw nearly as many interceptions (seven) and he did touchdowns (nine).

Most of those interceptions came as Hornibrook tried to squeeze passes in to really tight windows. It was a sign of great moxie, good arm strength and a willingness to take chances.

8: That is the number of freshman listed on Wisconsin’s two-deep to start the season

Transition happens every year, but the 2017 version of the Wisconsin Badgers was supposed to see a good mix of experience and youth. One could say the youth has certainly begun to take over though, as eight true or redshirt freshmen made the opening week two-deep for the Badgers.

We’ve already talked about both true freshmen Jack Coan, but he could also be taking snaps from another freshman, this time redshirt freshman center Tyler Biadsz.

He was the surprise in spring camp and in the end was one of the five best UW offensive lineman and pushed all-Big Ten center Michael Dieter out to left tackle with his play all the way through summer drills.

Oh, and fellow redshirt freshmen Cole Van Lanen and Patrick Kasl are just one injury away from being the left and right tackle pairing for the Badgers this season as well.

Coan’s fellow true freshman Danny Davis is in the two-deep at wide receiver and technically we could say nine players are in the mix as freshmen if you include Jonathan Taylor (who is listed third on the RB depth chart but also as a co-starter). But, since he’s third there are technically only eight freshman in the two-deep.

Defensively, there isn’t as much for the freshmen as there is on offense, but don’t sleep on nickel back Donyte Carriere-Williams. He’s joined as a redshirt freshman by one of my most intriguing players to watch in 2017 — mammoth defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk.

Let’s just say, youth is going to have a big impact on the Badgers in 2017 and that may not be a bad thing considering what we’ve already seen.

9: That is the number of career rushing touchdowns for UW’s starting running backs

Plug-and-play has long been the motto for Wisconsin at running back, but things are different these days. Following the exit of both Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, there is a huge set of shoes for someone or someones to fill.

Most believed the redshirt freshman season of Bradrick Shaw was enough for him to win the starting job. Spring and fall camp has only muddied the waters, with Pitt transfer Chris James doing more than providing depth.

There also is incoming freshman Jonathan Taylor, who won back-to-back New Jersey state 100-meter track championships. But, could he really be in the mix once thrown in to the deep end in fall camp? Apparently so, because all three were named co-starters for the season opener and all three will see significant time in the backfield against Utah State.

However, there are just nine career rushing touchdowns amongst all three of those co-starters.

Perhaps the biggest question is if they have a huge nose for the end zone. Given limited carries, nine touchdowns returning amongst those three suggests they’ll be just fine. But, this is Wisconsin and rushing touchdowns are the Badgers bread and butter.

10: Wisconsin has won 10 or more games every season under Chryst so far

Sure, it has only been two seasons and all, but the fact that UW has been consistently very good in the face of a third coaching transition in less than four years speaks volumes of the players and Chryst’s own coaching talent.

The old swagger of this program is back, and while it may not be fancy, most opposition dreads playing the Badgers because they once again are back to not caring if you know what’s coming and just beating you with technique and poise.

Wisconsin is coming off another trip to Indianapolis in the face of what experts thought was one of the toughest schedules in the country last season. A win in the Cotton Bowl didn’t hurt expectations either.

As 2017 looms, the Badgers schedule and lack of Ohio State or Penn State from the other division, have plenty of people talking another 10-win season. If it does happen, Chryst would go down as the only coach in program history to win 10-plus games in his first three seasons in Madison.

Think about where that would put him in the echelon of Badgers coaches for a second. Few would’ve seen that coming, yet it seems like a real possibility.

A 10-win season may actually be a bit of a disappointment in 2017, with the hope of progress to a Big Ten title and maybe even the College Football Playoff the real hope of the season for fans and pundits alike.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

Continue Reading
Comments

Badgers football

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes: What we’re watching for

Published

on

Kicking off conference play with a bitter rivalry game is one thing. Doing so following a bitter loss in the non-conference finale is another. 

That’s what the Wisconsin Badgers face as they go to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes this Saturday night. 

What could this matchup hinge on? We’re going to be watching for a few key things to tell us how this game is going to go. 

Badgers O-Line vs. Iowa D-Line

It’s true, one could likely put this as a thing to watch every year between these mirror image programs. But, in 2018 and following a loss in which the Badgers offensive line played far below expectations, this is going to be a tell-tale sign of how things are going to go on Saturday night. 

Winning the battle up front is normally a big deal, but in this contest it truly will be be the difference between a win or loss. UW’s O-Line has to show up in a way it really hasn’t so far this season — against the pass rush.

Iowa comes in to this game with 12 sacks as a team, second-most in the Big Ten behind Penn State’s 13. The Hawkeyes starting defensive line has proven to do most of that damage, with end A.J. Epenesa racking up four sacks already. Anthony and Matt Nelson have a sack each and Parker Hesse has two to his name. That’s a total of eight of the 12 sacks Iowa has put up. 

UW’s offensive line has given up six sacks on the season along, which is tied for 10th early on the season. 

You can bet this is going to be a huge point of emphasis for the Badgers offensive line and winning it could mean winning the game. 

Iowa’s Run Game

One of Wisconsin’s strongest points to its defensive success as of late has been its ability to make offenses one-dimensional. Relying on the pass game is something that usually hasn’t ended well for opponents. 

However, early on this year the Badgers defense has had trouble containing the run game of opponents.

New Mexico caught the Badgers off guard with a variation of the option offense in the first half of its Week 2 matchup before settling in and allowing just 77 yards on the ground. Last week saw BYU run consistently against the Badgers defensive group, racking up 191 yards as a team in the win. 

It’s led to Wisconsin ranking just eighth against the run in the Big Ten, allowing opponents to put up 130.6 yards per game on the ground. 

Iowa is looking to establish a run game behind Monona Grove product Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin. The early results suggest that is a work in progress to say the least. 

So far this year, the Hawkeyes are averaging 173.6 yards per carry. That may seem high, but given the opponents played they rank just 11th in the Big Ten. Young leads Iowa in rushing, but his 234 yards on the ground is only good for 12th individually in the conference. 

Wisconsin can’t let the Iowa’s mediocre run game get going and expect to win. Let’s see if UW can learn from the film Iowa State put up, allowing just 105 yards on the ground in a defensive slug fest two weeks ago. 

Can Hornibrook Break Out?

It seems like this is a weekly wish for Badgers fans, and rightfully so. He’s teased us with greatness at various points in his career, but he’s never been able to harness that greatness on a consistent level. 

Any hopes of that happening in 2018 seem to have diminished already. It’s easy to see why when you compare his numbers last season to this season — they are eerily similar. 

Take a look for yourself: 

Courtesy GoIowaAwesome

Yes, you can point to Hornibrook being unlucky to have one of those two interceptions counting against him, but the numbers are what they are and once again we’re seeing a QB that’s efficient when he has to be, but is far from spectacular more often than not. 

After an opener in which he put up 257 yards, Hornibrook hasn’t topped the 200-yard mark in either of the next two games. Sure, he wasn’t counted on much (just 11 attempts) against New Mexico, but he went just 18 of 28 and averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt with 190 yards and no touchdowns against BYU last weekend.

If that doesn’t sound like inconsistent football, I don’t know what will from a quarterback. 

If ever there was a game for the junior to get back to that level he showed us in the Orange Bowl, this would be a perfect time to do it. 

We’ll keep hope alive for a bit longer, but at some point we’ve got to see him turning the corner to believe this team can get to the level needed to compete nationally. 

Continue Reading

Badgers football

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes: 5 Things to Know

Published

on

How do you get over a heartbreaking defeat? The Wisconsin Badgers will find out quickly, as they turn around from a loss to BYU last week with a game against rival Iowa on Saturday night. 

The now annual battle for the Heartland Trophy has a lot of attention on it, and rightfully so. Could the winner be the frontrunner for the Big Ten West division?

While we won’t know the answer to that for a few weeks, there are some key facts to know about these teams and this game. So, let’s look at five things you should know heading in to the battle for the Heartland Trophy (and Wisconsin’s continued dominance in the battle for the Rusty Toolbox). 

5: A win on Saturday would make Wisconsin the 5th team in Big Ten history to reach 700 wins as a program. 

Despite decades of bad football, the Badgers program is on the verge of history. The program currently sits at 699-491-53 overall in its history. Wisconsin would join the ranks of the 700-win club with the likes of Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State and would become just the third long-term member of the Big Ten to make it to that milestone. What better way to reach win No. 700 than to do it against a rival like Iowa? 

4: Iowa is looking for a 4-0 start for the fifth time in the Kirk Ferentz era

Good starts to the season generally mean good finishes. Case in point the Kirk Ferentz era for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa has previously started 4-0 in 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2015. In three of those four previous seasons they’ve won at least 10 games. The lone outlier is the 2006 season, in which they started 4-0 and limped to the finish line with a 6-7 overall record and a 2-6 record in Big Ten play. 

What does that tell us? It tells us that either Iowa wins and goes on to dominate the West division…or it losses and won’t be able to catch the Badgers. Either way, this shows just how important this game is to the future of both programs in 2018. 

3: Wisconsin is going for its third-straight win the series with Iowa. 

The Badgers are owners of back-to-back wins in this series, taking a 17-9 decision in 2016 and a 38-14 win at Camp Randall last season. UW has also won five of the last six games, including a three-game win streak (2010, 2014, 2015) in the series. In fact, since the East-West division split for the Big Ten, the Badgers-Hawkeyes series 

2: Iowa is second in the nation in total and scoring defense.

Whatever you make of Iowa’s schedule heading in to conference play, the fact of the matter is that the Hawkeyes have been impressive on defense so far this season. They are allowing just 209 yards per game and an average of 8.0 points per game. Of course, it’s also been nice to play all three games in the friendly confines of Kinnick Stadium, but the Badgers offense is going to be tested much like it was last week against BYU if you look at the stat sheet. 

1: That is the number of losses in true road games for Wisconsin under Paul Chryst.

Playing on the road in the Big Ten is supposed to be really hard, but for the Paul Chryst-led Badgers it has been easier than it is supposed to be. UW is 14-1 in true road games in the four years Chryst has been at the helm of the program, and own a 9-game road winning streak. That win streak is second longest active road win steak in the country, trailing only Oklahoma’s 17-game win streak. 

Wisconsin’s lone loss on the road in Chryst’s tenure was to Michigan in the 2016 season. That loss was a narrow one, with the Wolverines winning 14-7. 

Continue Reading

Badgers football

Badgers Hangover: Season far from over for UW

Published

on

One look at the Twitter universe around the Badgers after Saturday’s loss to the BYU Cougars and it is easy to see Wisconsin’s season is over with.

The common refrain went something like this: 

But, the Twitterverse is often not indicative of reality. Such is the case with the all the doom and gloom surrounding the 2018 Wisconsin Badgers season. 

As one person on Twitter said in response to a Tweet we made, the season really isn’t lost. The path forward is more difficult, but there is history to show that winning a lot the rest of the season goes a long way towards repairing that one loss early on in the season. 

Another thing lost in all of this doom and gloom from around the social media world? BYU is pretty dang good. 

The Cougars have played three Power 5 opponents to start the season and are 2-1 — owning wins on the road against Arizona and Wisconsin. It’s loss to Cal was a narrow one and guess what? BYU happens to still have three more games against Power 5 opponents.

Up next for BYU is a date with McNeese State prior to a big one with Washington. Then there is a red-hot Boise State program and a season-ending date with Utah too — all three of them on the road no less. Those are major teams to compete against and potentially win against. 

Is it far-fetched to think the Cougars can’t win those games? Not after what we saw on Saturday inside Camp Randall. This is a program that is stout up front, assignment sure and has a quality run game. You can win a lot of games in college football with that formula…just ask the Badgers. 

How the Cougars play the rest of the season will only matter if the Badgers do their part and win out though. 

That begins with regrouping for a major rivalry game at Iowa on Saturday night. Winning that against a 3-0 Hawkeyes team sets up the Badgers for it’s first step towards national respect once again — controlling its own destiny in the Big Ten West division. 

Then there are big matchups with Michigan and Penn State to win as the season goes along. Get both of those games and Wisconsin is suddenly right back in the picture. 

Of course, all of this is speculation and if’s and but’s and wonderment. That’s what losing a game will do — make you speculate instead of controlling your own fate. 

Ultimately, the Badgers still have their main goals in front of them. Win the Big Ten West division. Play for and win a Big Ten championship and let the chips fall where they may for the College Football Playoff committee. 

Wisconsin still controls how those things could happen — even if Saturday’s loss felt like a familiar gut-punch to hype and hope for the Badgers faithful. 

It certainly isn’t time to jump off the bandwagon or abandon all hope. 

Saturday’s loss hurts, but if we are being honest, one loss doesn’t define a season like it used to in college football. Wisconsin’s reaction to that loss…well, that will define it’s season. 

Continue Reading

Badgers football

BYU stuns Badgers as non-conference play comes to an end

Published

on

All good streaks must come to an end.

Wisconsin had a 41-game home win streak in non-conference play coming in to Saturday’s contest with the BYU Cougars. It no longer has that streak as the Cougars bested the Badgers 24-21 at Camp Randall Stadium. 

The Cougars used a large part of Wisconsin’s game plan to beat the hosts — beating them in the trenches and racking up 191 yards on the ground in the win. 

Squally Canada needed just 11 carries to get 118 yards and two big touchdowns. His first score tied things up at 7-7 and his second took away another Badgers lead, scoring from two yards out early in the third quarter to make it 21-14. 

UW’s Heisman hopeful, Jonathan Taylor, was largely bottled up on the day. He ran the ball 26 times for just 117 yards and never got in to the end zone. Instead, it was senior Taiwan Deal pushing the ball over the goal line twice for the Badgers.

With the run game struggling, much of the hope turned to the pass game. Junior Alex Hornibrook didn’t respond well, completing 18 of 28 passes, but only gaining 190 yards. 

He also had a bad turnover, missing the underneath coverage on a huge third down play on the Badgers opening second half drive. 

Any momentum that the defense was able to gain was squandered over and over by the offense on the day. 

But, this one started off looking like the Badgers had found a way to spark itself early on — a problem that plagued them in the first two weeks of the season. 

Wisconsin got on the scoreboard first against BYU as running back Taiwan Deal capped off an 8-play, 63-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

But, the lead was short-lived, as BYU answered right back on their next drive. Cougars running back Squally Canada capped off a 75-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown and it was 7-7 just 3:10 after the Badgers took the lead. 

BYU forced a 3-and-out by the Badgers on the next possession and then drove the ball right down the UW defense again. However, it was a trick play that put the Cougars up 14-7, as Aleva Hifo hit Moroni Laulu-Pututau on a wide receiver pass for 31 yards. 

Despite the struggles, the Badgers responded back with a late touchdown by fullback Alec Ingold to knot the score at 14-14 with 1:17 to go in the second quarter. 

After a three-and-out forced by the Wisconsin defense to open the second half, it appeared the typical quick start to the half was in order in Madison. 

That feeling didn’t last long though, as Alex Hornibrook threw an interception on the ensuing possession. It was returned to the Badgers 27-yard line and the defense needed to come up big. 

However, BYU took advantage of the miscue and punched in a short-yardage TD by Canada to make it 21-14 Cougars with 9:54 to play in third quarter.

Wisconsin tied things up two possessions later, as it went 10 plays and 82 yards for a touchdown. Deal got his second score of the game and it was 21-21 with 12:43 to play in the final stanza. 

The defense gave up a huge run to Canada on the ensuing drive, but held up after that and forced a 45-yard field goal to make the game 24-21 Cougars with 9:58 to play in the game. 

UW couldn’t get anything going on the next drive, eating over three minutes of clock in just five plays and were forced to punt. 

That gave the defense one last opportunity to make a stand, and they did exactly that. However, BYU’s punt bounced in front of Jack Dunn, who let it go and rolled inside the Badgers own 10-yard line. 

The ensuing drive saw Wisconsin attempt to take the clock down and get within scoring range at the same time. Instead of going for the touchdown and the outright victory, it appeared head coach Paul Chryst was content turning things over to his senior kicker Rafael Gaglianone. 

However, that strategy backfired as Gaglianone missed a 42-yard field goal attempt way wide left with just 35 seconds to play in the game. 

The senior was seen apologizing to his teammates for the uncharacteristic miss, but this loss was far from his fault.

Even if he would’ve made the field goal, overtime would’ve loomed large and anything could’ve happened at that point. 

Wisconsin will look to rebound next week as it opens Big Ten play against the rival Iowa Hawkeyes. Kick is scheduled for 7pm CT on ABC from Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

talking10 Podcast

Advertisement

Most Popular

Copyright © 2018 talking10.com. This site is not affiliated with, endorsed or sponsored by the Big Ten Conference. It is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and is no way associated with the NCAA, the Big Ten or any member institutions.