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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers: Pelini, Andersen look for signature win

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Fasten your seat belts Big Ten fans, because at approximately 2:30pm central time on Saturday, November 15th, the race for the B1G West division will all but be decided over the course of a 3 hour (most likely 4 hour) football game, as it’s the Wisconsin Badgers vs. Nebraska Cornhukers.

The two teams will be battling for the first-ever Freedom Trophy, a trophy some veterans are not too happy with and many fans wish would go back to the drawing board.

Technically, Minnesota is still in contention for the West division as well, but it would take not one, but two massive upsets in Lincoln and Madison (in back-to-back weeks no less) to pull it off.

Bo Pelini comes into Saturday’s matchup without a true road win over a ranked opponent since 2011.  His last win over a ranked opponent was Penn State, and that game was played under some extenuating circumstances (that was the Jerry Sandusky Scandal week).  Since that win in Happy Valley, Pelini’s Huskers are 0-5 in games played against ranked teams that were not held at the comfy confines of Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

Nebraska is still in contention for the college football playoff if they were to win their remaining 3 games as well as knock off No. 8 Ohio State in the B1G title game.  But after being dropped 3 spots by the College Football Playoff committee on their bye week (from 13 to 16), it is clear that the college football selection committee wants to see Nebraska prove themselves on the field. This much is clear, a win at Camp Randell will look very good on any team’s playoff resume.  Since 2004, Only LSU (69) and Ohio St (68) have recorded more wins at home than Wisconsin has (67).

Gary Andersen is currently in his second year at Wisconsin, and he has yet to record a “big” win to help win over some wavering fans who are unsure about the new head man.  Saturday’s contest represents a great opportunity for coach Andersen to go ahead and get that first “big” win at Wisconsin.

The only other ranked team to visit Camp Randell since Andersen arrived in 2013 was the 19th ranked Northwestern Wildcats.  That game was a 35-6 blowout in favor of Wisconsin.  I would be surprised by anything less than a fantastic college football game come Saturday.

I am going to highlight some keys to look for on Saturday:

Keys for a Nebraska win:

1) Play a clean game – anything more than one turnover will be a lot to overcome on the road.  Penalties will be drive killers against the top ranked Wisconsin defense.  Nebraska needs a clean performance from its players to deliver a big win on the field.

2) Stay committed to the running game – regardless of star tailback Ameer Abdullah’s health, Nebraska must not fall in love with the pass against Wisconsin’s top ranked pass defense.  Even if they don’t have immediate success running the ball, Tim Beck needs to stay patient and incorporate Tommy Armstrong and Imani Cross into the running game in order for it to be successful.

3) Defensively, don’t allow the big play – This one is much easier said than done against the top running back duo in the nation in Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement.  The defense needs to react much better to the jet sweep (which i can guarantee UW will run at some point) than they did in the teams last meeting in 2012. Wisconsin also likes to shoot for big plays in the passing game as well too keep opposing teams’ defensive backs honest.  Gordon will get his, (averages approximately 166 rushing ypg) but holding Wisconsin to field goals in the red-zone will be a great indicator of the outcome.  Gary Andersen’s record when Wisconsin scores more than 30 points is 12-1, with the lone loss at Arizona St (in which the officials completely mishandled the final seconds of the game).

Keys to a Wisconsin win:

1) Force Tommy Armstrong to beat you with his arm – Armstrong is one of the best running quarterbacks in the B1G, but the Huskers passing game isn’t especially strong.  Wideouts Kenny Bell and Jordan Westerkamp will receive most (if not all) of the targets when Nebraska does elect to pass.  Wisconsin would much rather rush the passer anyways, as outside linebackers Vince Biegel and inside linebacker Derek Landisch will be looking to get after Armstrong with a variety of different blitzes and stunts at the line of scrimmage.

2) Be sound in special teams – Nebraska has a very deadly return game this season.  Demornay Pierson-El has already taken 2 punt returns for scores and Ameer Abdullah has been returning kickoffs for the past few weeks.  Gary Andersen was harping about how the punt and kickoff coverage units need to improve earlier this week.  Field position could easily decide the game with a big return at a critical juncture.  Wisconsin needs to be ready to go come Saturday.

3) Andy Ludwig needs to play to his quarterbacks’ individual strengths – This has improved in the past couple of games but it remains very important.  Wisconsin uses a two quarterback system with two players with different skill sets.  When Stave is in the game, keep him in the pocket and let him air it out on early downs to keep the huskers D off balance.  When McEvoy is in the game,  utilize his mobility by moving the pocket and running some triple option with Gordon/Clement in the backfield.  If Ludwig can play to his quarterbacks strengths and not ask them to do too much, it will only make things easier on Saturday.

Whether the fanbases like it or not, this yearly matchup between perennial B1G powers is quickly blossoming into one of the B1G’s best rivalry games.  If you are a fan of college football, Saturday’s 2:30 pm time slot has it all.  Get your popcorn ready!

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Badgers Basketball

Former Badger Jon Leur traded to Milwaukee Bucks

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They say you can always go home, and for one former Wisconsin Badger he’s coming back to a state he called home for four years.

Former Badgers forward Jon Leuer was traded early on Thursday morning from the Detroit Pistons to the Milwaukee Bucks. In exchange for Leuer, the Bucks gave up the 30th overall pick in tonight’s NBA Draft and traded away Tony Snell.

Last season, Leuer played in 41 games for the Pistons and made just one start. He averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game in his ninth season in the NBA.

Leuer is a very similar player to Snell, but comes at a much more team-friendly salary.

In trading away Snell, the Bucks free up an additional $4 million in salary this year and another $12 million next year.

This could be seen as a way for the Bucks to pony up the big money that Khris Middleton wants from the team in order to stay in Milwaukee.

As for Leuer, he is 17th on the all-time Badgers scoring list with 1,376 points to his name. He also finished his career with 551 rebounds.

Leuer’s final season in Madison was his best statistically, as he helped lead the 2010-11 Badgers team to the Sweet 16. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game that year.

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Best, Worst case scenarios for Badgers RB’s in 2020

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Believe it or not, we’re just over 2 months away from the start of the Wisconsin Badgers 2020 season. It may not feel like it outside or in your mind, but it’s time to hunker down and look at the team as it stands prior to fall camp.

Of course we’ll have the full position break downs and all the information you’ve come to expect from a preview in general.

But, we’re starting things off a bit different this season. Yes, we’re going to look in to the best and worst case scenarios that could happen to each position in 2020.

We start with the marquee position at UW — running back.

Best Case Scenario

Jonathan Taylor to the left, Taylor to the right…Taylor up the middle too.

Is there any other better thought in the minds of Badgers fans or the coaching staff for that matter? The dude has smashed nearly every Badgers and national record you can think of for just two years of college.

The best case scenario for UW success this season is more of the same from Taylor, especially in terms of his explosiveness. If Wisconsin doesn’t have to rely on him as much as they did last season, that would be great. But, they’ll still need him to hit those big runs and touchdowns.

He ran for 10 or more yards on 61 carries last season and ripped off 16 runs of 20-plus yards as well. More of that, even with fewer carries would be the best case scenario.

Worst Case Scenario

An injury that ends Jonathan Taylor’s season.

It’s a frightening thought for the Badgers season, let alone the running back position. Simply put, there’s no scenario in which Taylor has an extended amount of time away from the team and the Badgers have a winning season.

Unlike season’s past, the Badgers don’t have proven depth at this position. Is Nakia Watson ready to take on 300 carries? His production at the collegiate level isn’t a given.

Counting on Garrett Groshek as the featured back? That’s all sorts of a bad idea. Maybe incoming freshman Julius Davis surprises in the fall or converted wide receiver Isaac Guerendo could also surprise?

That’s a whole lot of maybes and what-ifs for anything resembling success happens in the face of an injury to Taylor. Hell, do you think this offense is ready to become reliant on the pass game? I certainly don’t.

So, let’s all hope nothing crazy happens to Taylor this season.

Most Likely to Happen

Taylor rushes for 1,700 yards or more and 20 touchdowns on the season. It would likely end up with him as a major candidate for the Heisman Trophy come December. If that’s the case, it’s likely that the Badgers are also playing for a Big Ten championship once again as the West division champions.

I also believe it’s likely that we see Nakia Watson develop as the heir apparent to Taylor, thus the lower yardage numbers projected. It would be nice not to put 300 carries on Taylor’s body in what is likely his final season in Madison and Watson’s emergence as the second back would be a huge help there.

Overall, expect the Badgers run game to be more of the same, but perhaps more balanced than it was last season. That’s not a bad thing in my book.

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Badgers basketball land Davis twins

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After missing out on the Hauser brothers late last month, the Wisconsin Badgers added a different pair of siblings on Saturday night.

Following an offer to the brother of 4-star shooting guard Johnny Davis and an appearance at a team camp this weekend, the Davis brothers announced their pledge to the Badgers according to Badger247.

It took less than a week after head coach Greg Gard gave the O.K. to offer Jordan for the pair to commit to Wisconsin.

Johnny held offers from Marquette, West Virginia, Iowa, Minnesota, DePaul, UNLV and others.

Jordan had offers from UW-Milwaukee and Green Bay, while also becoming a sought after recruit on the football field as well. Once he became serious about wanting to play basketball first, it seemed like a matter of time before Wisconsin offered.

That time came after seeing Jordan play in a camp last weekend.

It also came because it was time to figure out if Johnny was serious about the Badgers or not.

With the July evaluation period coming up, Wisconsin’s coaching staff put the final chips in the middle with this recruitment and it appeared to pay off.

Johnny joins as the No. 141 ranked player in the country and the No. 14 ranked combo guard in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

The twins will join Detroit, Mich. native Lorne Bowman in the 2020 class.

Wisconsin still has one scholarship available in the class as well, which is likely being held for 5-star and Wisconsin native Jalen Johnson.

After missing out on talented in-state players over and over again, this was a major win for Gard and his coaching staff considering how hard schools like West Virginia and Marquette were after Johnny’s commitment.

As for Jordan, it appears the coaching staff believes he is improving enough to get a scholarship and continue his improvement with this program.

Offers don’t come out just because it may win over a different recruit at Wisconsin. That wasn’t Bo Ryan’s style and it also isn’t Greg Gard’s style.

The trio of players put the Badgers at No. 8 in the country and No. 3 in the Big Ten in the 2020 class as of today.

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A look at Badgers 2021 football recruiting: Defense

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Earlier this week we began our in-depth look at the 2021 Wisconsin Badgers football recruiting class. After all, UW just got its second commitment in the class on Sunday.

We started looking at the offensive side of the ball, where both commitments have come from.

Today we are taking a look at the Badgers defensive efforts on the 2021 recruiting trail.

Where do things stand and what names do you and I need to pay attention to? Let’s take a look at the defensive side of the Badgers on the recruiting trail.

State of the 2021 Class

Commits: 2 (both on offense)
Likely Scholarships Left: 14-16

A look at the scholarship chart heading in to 2021 suggests that the Badgers aren’t going to have a massive class, like we talked about earlier this week.

But, on the defensive side of things it appears this class is likely to be spread out pretty evenly. Wisconsin loses a pair of defensive ends, four total linebackers and four defensive backs at the very least heading in to the 2021 season.

So, don’t be surprised to see the bulk of the effort on the recruiting trail focused on the back end of the defense.

Defensive End

Will the names Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand live up to lofty recruiting expectations? We have two years to find out, but if they do they will leave a big hole in the Badgers defense upon their departure following the 2020 season.

That makes recruiting at defensive end pretty important for the 2021 class, because we haven’t seen much depth develop over the past few years either.

So, it shouldn’t surprise that UW has been hot on the 2021 defensive line recruiting circuit. To date they have offered six different prospects at defensive end and three defensive tackles as well.

Most of those offers have gone to highly rated players at both positions, but just how likely are the Badgers to hook one of the big fish? Let’s get in to that.

Name to Watch: JC Latham

Wisconsin was home to one of the best players in the country in the 2021 class in Latham. However, after this past season he moved to IMG Academy in Florida and that means his recruitment is going even more national than before.

He’s got offers from almost every blue blood program, with Clemson and Ohio State holding out so far but likely to offer at some point in his junior year.

Can the Badgers keep up with the Jonses in this recruitment? If they could land the current No. 8 strong-side defensive end it would be a game changer in the class, but he’s also the lynchpin of where this defensive line class will head.

I wouldn’t put my money on the Badgers winning out over all others, which means they have to put their eggs in other baskets. One name that I’d put in this position if it weren’t for Latham is actually someone the Badgers have yet to offer, but just hosted on campus in Chandler, Ariz. native Anthony Franklin.

Defensive Tackle

If you don’t aim to the highest of heights you’ll never achieve them, right? That seems to be Wisconsin’s strategy so far at defensive tackle, as they’ve offered three players at the position so far and all three of them are inside the top 5 of the 247Sports composite rankings.

Does it bode well for the Badgers? So far not a single one of them is listed as “warm” on UW, if that tells you anything.

Name to Watch: Rocco Spindler

Spindler is not only a highly-rated recruit, he is from a state that Wisconsin has begun to have a lot of success in — Michigan. Getting in early with one of the Midwest’s best recruits in the 2021 class doesn’t hurt and neither will UW’s current track record with players out of the state of Michigan.

Will any of it matter? That’s a question that few seem to be able to answer. I wouldn’t bet on Spindler choosing the Badgers, but I would bet that his recruitment will be a good indication of where offers could go in this class.

Outside Linebacker

Don’t expect this class to be heavy on outside pass-rushers per say. Only two offers have gone out to date and both are in the state of Georgia, where UW had the beginnings of a foot hold under Gary Andersen and haven’t been able to sustain a lot of that momentum under this coaching staff.

Name to Watch: None

UW has offered both Chaz Chambliss and Barrett Carter, but neither have really been receptive to the efforts on the recruiting trail to date. Chambliss could be a heavy Clemson lean, given he’s visited the school multiple times and recently for the Dabo Swinney Camp as well.

If the Badgers are going to land a 2021 outside linebacker, that person has not been offered to date.

Inside Linebacker

Recently, the Badgers biggest track record of success on defense has come at inside linebacker. So much so that a player who would start almost anywhere is finally becoming a starter again as a Senior (Chris Orr).

So, keeping up that tradition is important and vital to success on the field of course. To that end, UW has offered four targets and few of them are huge names in the 2021 class on a national level. The good news there is that Wisconsin actually has a chance with a few of those names.

Name to Watch: Bryan Sanborn

If that name sounds familiar, you would be right. Bryan is the younger brother of Wisconsin’s potential starting inside linebacker Jack Sanborn. Having that family connection won’t be the end-all, be-all of his recruitment given he is the No. 9 ranked inside linebacker in the class. But, the good news is that the Sanborn family really loves what the Badgers have to offer as a whole program.

This recruitment is going to be huge to prove the Badgers can stick in with some of the biggest names in the country and win. They’ve proven that with other players, but continuing to do so is going to be important. Wisconsin has more than a 60-40 chance to win his commitment and the younger Sanborn could be a player that helps elevate UW with other targets on the recruiting trail.

Cornerback

Umm…so far things have been really quiet on this front and that’s likely because the Badgers are going to be really experienced at this position on the field in 2021.

Just how quiet are things to date? There literally isn’t a single offer out to a cornerback in 2021. That’s a sign that the Badgers aren’t prioritizing this position and are going to be selective with offers.

In the end, expect one or two cornerbacks at most in this class.

Safety

Safety is the exact opposite of cornerback, as UW currently would only have three scholarship players on the roster (with the 2020 cycle yet to land a safety commitment). That means we should expect some pressure to get quality in this class.

As such, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out there have been seven offers out at Safety in the 2021 class. There are some high-end offers out there and some under the radar ones as well.

But, the Badgers could stay home and get a big named recruit as well.

Name to Watch: Hunter Wohler

It isn’t often that one of the country’s best defensive backs sits in the Badgers back yard according to the rankings. But, Wohler is the No. 7 ranked player in the nation at his position and the No. 1 recruit in Wisconsin.

Simply put, this is a must-win recruitment for the Badgers. Letting the No. 1 player slip out of the state and at a skill position nonetheless would be a massive disappointment.

The good news is that UW seems to be the early leader in his recruitment and according to his own words earlier this week, will look to commit after his junior season at the earliest.

Michigan State and Ohio State could be Wisconsin’s biggest competition here so it will be interesting to see how things shake out.

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