Wisconsin was a touchdown away from representing the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff a season ago. With sophomore running back Jonathan Taylor and junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook (6’4, 218) back in the fold, there’s reason for optimism in Madison. With roster turnover and coaching changes in the conference, Wisconsin is a safe pick to win the Big Ten in 2018. On defense, the Badgers have to replace seven starters from a season ago but will return linebacker T.J. Edwards (6’1, 244) for his senior season. Edwards was a first- team All-American a season ago and recorded four interceptions. On the back end, safety D’Cota Dixon (5’10, 198) has started 23 games and will be the elder statesman in a secondary which welcomes three new starters around him. If Wisconsin has a spot of concern it could be the inexperience at defensive back. However, the Badgers had the nation’s second-best total defense last season and with its offensive playmakers having another year of experience under their belts, look for Wisconsin to compete again for a College Football Playoff spot.
Troy’s player to watch
23 Jonathan Taylor 5’11 214 RB-Sophomore
Taylor, a former state champion in track and field with 10.49 100-meter speed, burst onto the college football scene last season, rushing for 1,997 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Wisconsin running back will enter 2018 as one of the best players in the nation and a Heisman candidate. Head coach Paul Chryst has prided himself on running the football early and often. He will once again rely on Taylor to shoulder the load. Expect Taylor to get anywhere from 275- to-300 touches in 2018 and to lead the conference in rushing yards.
Game of the season
October 13th at Michigan
The Badgers will get their first test of the season when they go on the road to the Big House. Wisconsin won’t have to play Michigan State and Ohio State until a potential conference championship game. The Badgers defeated the Wolverines last year, 24-10, in Madison. It’s a good chance the only two ranked teams Wisconsin will face during the regular season are Michigan and Penn State, which means they could run the table to an undefeated season.
DraftNasty’s Prospect Watch
63 Michael Deiter 6’6 329 OC-Senior
Where will Deiter line up this fall? After all, he’s earned starts at center, left guard and left tackle. The position he may be best suited to play on a regular basis is left guard. As a left tackle, there could be next level question marks regarding his foot speed. While at that position, however, he takes the correct hinge steps on the backside and locks out his arms favorably in pass pro. His tenacity as a run blocker is most evident on trap blocks. In these instances, he has shown the ability to throw defensive linemen around (see Nebraska ’16). Perhaps even more exciting for NFL scouts is the fact that he’s displayed an adequate ability to snap and pull from the center position. Deiter’s value for the NFL-level is his positional flexibility.
Prediction: 11-1 overall
The Wisconsin Badgers will win the Big Ten West division but will not go undefeated. Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a road loss in November to Penn State.