No. 12 – The Wisconsin Badgers come in at number 12 after finishing 11-3, including a Cotton Bowl win against Western Michigan. Last season, Wisconsin had one of the toughest schedules in college, having to play Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan during conference play, and LSU in their season opener. Wisconsin and head coach Paul Chryst are brining in the 7th best class in the Big Ten featuring Kayden Lyles, a 6’3, 330 pound guard.
Wisconsin ranked 7th in total defense last season, allowing just north of 300 total yards and now enter 2017 with a new defensive coordinator in Jim Leonhard. Leonhard was hired in 2016 as the DB’s coach, and was promoted after one single season of coaching. They will also enter 2017 without key defensive stars TJ Watt and Vince Biegel. The defense will have to replace 15.5 sacks from OLB, and the players to do that could be a pair of redshirt seniors; Garret Dooley and Leon Jacobs.
They also are replacing their running backs from a season ago with the three-headed monster of Chris James from Pitt, along with Taiwan Deal and Bradrick Shaw. James played for Chryst at Pitt and sat out a year per NCAA rules. Replacing Corey Clement will be no easy task, especially since he busted out for 1400 yards and 15 touchdowns, but Shaw showed signs of being ready last season, and James will be coming off a full year of no-contact and perfect health. Look for these guys to lead a steady Badger offense.
At quarterback for Wisconsin will be Alex Hornibrook. Hornibrook spent 2016 splitting time with Bart Houston, but now that he is gone, the offense belongs to Alex. Hornibrook’s best game last season came during a loss against Ohio State when he threw for 214 yards, the only time he passed 200 all season. Hornibrook will have to up his production this year after only throwing for 9 touchdowns and 1200 yards. This offseason will go with Alex Hornibrook.
Wisconsin’s tough schedule last season is in the past, and 2017 brings potentially the easiest schedule in the power 5. Some key games for the Badgers in 2017
Sep. 16 – Wisconsin @ BYU – Provo, UT
Nov. 11 – Wisconsin vs. Iowa – Madison, WI
Nov. 18 – Wisconsin vs. Michigan – Madison, WI