The Badgers season is just 204 days away and what better time to start looking ahead than now? Coming off a school-record 13-win season, what does Paul Chryst and Co. have in store for the upcoming season? A lot depends on the schedule at hand of course and we’re here in the crack research lab of talkingBadgers doing the analyzing you don’t have time for on all 2018 opponents.
After looking at two of the three non-conference opponents earlier in the offseason, we’ll look in to a team few in Badger nation have likely seen over the past few years. It’s a team that sits in turmoil as we speak, as the New Mexico Lobos head coach, Bob Davie, is embroiled in a controversy over actions with police and players. He’s currently on a 30-day suspension and could be gone from the program.
But, with that in mind, let’s still take a look at what this team could look like on the field.
Let’s look at the New Mexico Lobos of 2018.
Head Coach: Bob Davie (30-45 at New Mexico, 65-70 overall)
2017 Record: 3-9 (1-7 Mountain West)
Bowl Game: none
Returning Starters: 13 (overall) — 6 on offense, 7 on defense
Player to Watch:
Tevaka Tuioti, QB
New Mexico graduated quarterback Jordan Lamar and with him went a lot of the experience in the Lobos backfield. Lamar’s understudy this last season was freshman quarterback Tevaka Tuioti. He played in eight games this past season, carrying the ball 28 times for 142 yards and a touchdown. It was good experience for the young quarterback and he may be the right person for the job. But, he may not be the winner of the competition and the Lobos are very much accustomed to two-quarterback systems in the past.
The question remains as to how Tuioti responds to being in the mix for the starting role. He’s certainly going to get a challenge from JUCO transfer Sheriron Jones, who was the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the JUCO rankings according to 247Sports. You don’t bring in that kind of player without the intention of having him at least compete openly for the starting role. Personally, Tuioti shows more long-term promise, but we’ll see.
Wisconsin’s Biggest Advantage:
Yes, the Badgers will have some holes to plug on the defensive front seven, but it has been next man up for a while in Madison and that doesn’t appear ready to stop any time soon. Even with the missing parts, the Badgers return a Heisman Trophy front-runner in Jonathan Taylor, have every starting offensive lineman returning, every starting wide receiver returning and get Butkus Award finalist and All-American linebacker T.J. Edwards back too.
Compare that with New Mexico, who went from a division title in 2016 to winning just one game in conference last season. As you’d expect it was a sparse year for the Lobos on the All-Mountain West teams, with just one player making either the first or second teams and only four players earning even Honorable Mention looks. All but one of those five players are gone, with offensive lineman Aaron Jenkins the only returning player from that list (and he was honorable mention).
There’s a massive gap in the talent that these two programs have and that should be enough to get by even on UW’s worst day. Oh, and the fact that Wisconsin doesn’t have a cloud of suspicion hanging around the head of its head coach this offseason certainly should help matters.
Wisconsin’s Biggest Worry:
New Mexico is one of a handful of team that will run the triple-option offense, which can be tricky. Hence how the Lobos averaged 235.4 yards per game on the ground despite a losing record.
With four of seven starters gone from UW’s defense, including both starting defensive ends and both starting outside linebackers, this could be a team that scares Wisconsin early on. It does help that only one of the top 4 running backs return next season, but that returner is a dangerous one in Tyrone Owens. He’s got 1,988 career rushing yards and averages 6.6 yards per carry in the Lobo’s triple-option offense.
But, Owens is the only real known in the Lobos offense heading in to 2018 and that makes even this “worry” category a minor one. Wisconsin’s defense may not see the triple-option very often, but the Lobos are far from perfecting it by the time they come to Camp Randall…and who knows if Bob Davie will even be the head coach, and thus still be using the triple-option, by the time this game even rolls around.