In the era of the championship game for the Big Ten, no team has been better than the Wisconsin Badgers. After all, they do own two of the three Amos Alonzo Stagg trophies given out. However, last season was a step back in Gary Andersen’s first year at the helm with a nine-win season.
Yet, 2014 promises some intrigue as 26 seniors departed this offseason and the roster has had a ton of turnover. Six of the seven starters on the defensive front seven are new, a quarterback battle raged on all they way up until LSU game prep and the secondary has new parts to it too.
With all that newness there’s a lot of uncertainty over what to expect from the Badgers in 2014.
However, our job is to give you certainty, so let’s take a look at the Wisconsin Badgers’ 2014 schedule and tell you how the season will play out.
Aug. 30 – vs. LSU (Houston, TX): LOSS
This pick is so hard, probably the hardest of any I’ve made to date. Wisconsin and LSU are mirror images of each other in many aspects. Both teams have major holes to fill and are very young, both are likely to play multiple quarterbacks and both are likely to lean on the run game. At the end of the day though, I don’t see this game getting out of the 3-4 point range for whomever wins. It’s just hard to see Wisconsin winning with all the 5-star talent LSU has racked up in recruiting classes.
Sept. 6 – vs. Western Illinois: WIN
The Leathernecks weren’t very good last season at the FCS level, and Wisconsin was pretty good at the FBS level. This pick was pretty easy, and I’d expect the Badgers to rebound quickly after a tough loss to LSU the week before. Wisconsin by five touchdowns easy — and that may be giving Western Illinois too much credit.
Sept. 20 – vs. Bowling Green: WIN
On paper the Badgers’ non-conference schedule outside of LSU seems very winnable, and that is certainly the case. Yet, sleeping on the matchup with Bowling Green isn’t a wise choice. The Falcons are a very solid MAC program, if not the best the conference has going in to 2014. It should be an interesting matchup, and I see this one being closer than most will think — somewhere around 34-24 or so.
Sept. 27 – vs. USF: WIN
USF went from a potential sleeper team just a few years ago to one of the worst teams in FBS last season. Yet, for head coach Willie Taggart last season was about establishing himself and his players. There was no bigger example of that than putting a true freshman out there at quarterback and letting him sink. White wasn’t good last season, but he fought off a hard challenge from former Penn State QB Steven Bench. Too bad it’s not enough to get past the Badgers at home in Camp Randall.
Oct. 4 – at Northwestern: WIN
This is a scary trip for Wisconsin football, as Ryan Field has derailed many a promising season since the Barry Alvarez era. 2014 could be more of the same for the Badgers if Northwestern is more of the team we thought they’d be in 2013. I don’t see that being the case given the loss of Venric Mark to D-II West Texas A&M and Christian Jones to a season-ending injury. Wisconsin exercises some demons on this trip to Evanston.
Oct. 11 – vs. Illinois: WIN
Wisconsin has some serious momentum rolling after a four-game win streak after a tough loss to LSU. Illinois and Wisconsin have played some close games in recent memory, but the Badgers have found a way to make it look not so close in the end. Something like that will happen again here, as UW wins it going away after a close first half.
Oct. 25 – vs. Maryland: WIN
Maryland has seen big stadiums before, but I’m not sure they’ve ever experienced a place like Camp Randall. The Terps could give the Badgers defense a run for it’s money, but the exact same thing can be said about the Wisconsin offense versus Maryland’s defense. In looking at those two defenses it’s clear that Wisconsin’s is better equipped to handle what Maryland will throw at them.
Nov. 1 – at Rutgers: WIN
Of the two teams coming in to the Big Ten this season, Rutgers has the most to prove in terms of competitiveness. While this game is a road one for the Badgers, it’s also perhaps their easiest road game of the season. Unless Rutgers’ QB Gary Nova becomes all-world I don’t see a way Wisconsin doesn’t win this one going away again.
Nov. 8 – at Purdue: WIN
There’s a reason I said “perhaps” next to “easiest road game” when talking about Wisconsin versus Rutgers, and that’s because this week is Purdue. Wisconsin used to have some issues playing at Ross-Ade Stadium, but it has gone away in recent years. The Badgers blew Purdue out of the water last season at home (41-10), and while the Boilermakers appear better, it won’t make a difference against one of the best teams in the Big Ten.
Nov. 15 – vs. Nebraska: WIN
Nebraska returns to the scene of its first Big Ten game and first Big Ten loss looking to likely control its own destiny. Same for the Badgers, who could put some big distance between themselves and the rest of the Big Ten West. Nebraska has the better all-around team on paper, but that was the conventional wisdom the last three times these two teams met and the Badgers nearly pulled off three straight wins in the series. Having this game at home makes all the difference and that means a close Wisconsin victory.
Nov. 22 – at Iowa: WIN
If you haven’t been keeping track, the Badgers are on a serious roll—winning 10 games in a row. Yet, a trip to Kinnick likely looms large for both teams’ hopes of making it to Indianapolis. Iowa is not to be taken lightly and for me this will be the Badgers’ toughest Big Ten game. At the end of the day, Wisconsin’s offense has more explosive options and that matters in a slugfest between these long time rivals. The Heartland Trophy will travel from Madison to Iowa City, and go right back in a huge win for the Badgers.
Nov. 29 – vs. Minnesota: WIN
A decade of dominance for Wisconsin doesn’t sit well with Jerry Kill and the Gophers players. They see this game as a chance, not only to win Paul Bunyan’s Axe but also to show they are a serious contender in the Big Ten and not just a one-year wonder. With the Badgers looking a trip to Indianapolis and a massive game against whomever wins the East division right in the face, don’t expect them to drop this game, especially at home. Minnesota will get closer than they have in recent years to winning, but it’ll be the Badgers coming up with a touchdown late to put this away 31-21.
Overall Record: 11-1
Big Ten Record: 8-0
Big Ten West Predicted Standings:
1. Wisconsin Badgers (11-1, 8-0)
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-2, 6-2)
3. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 5-3)
4. Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4, 4-4)
5. Northwestern Wildcats (5-7, 2-6)
6. Illinois Fighting Illini (5-7, 2-6)
7. Purdue Boilermakers (3-9, 0-8)