Grading the Badgers: Wide receivers

The wide receiver position at Wisconsin was one that came into the season with high expectations. Senior receivers Jazz Peavy and George Rushing were supposed to lead the group while Quintez Cephus would have been great to watch develop.

Things didn’t pan out that way on the outside for the Badgers. Rushing didn’t play a snap all season and by the end of the year wasn’t around the team, Peavy played in the first four games before an injury and personal issues ended his season. He was also not with the team by the end of the year.

Cephus, however, took great strides in developing his game. He was Wisconsin’s most explosive threat on the outside. Cephus had 30 grabs for 501 yards and six touchdowns on the season before he suffered a leg injury requiring surgery against Indiana.

The absence of Cephus meant that Wisconsin was missing three of their scholarship wide receivers and had to rely on much younger players at that position than previously anticipated.

Sophomore A.J. Taylor, redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor, and freshman Danny Davis became the go-to threats for Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook.

Taylor was the only one of the three to play in all 13 games for Wisconsin this season. Both Pryor and Davis missed time due to injury. Pryor was involved in a moped accident during the preseason that caused him to miss time and Davis suffered a leg injury keeping him out of a game.

Of the three, Taylor had the best season. He finished with 23 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns. Davis was close behind him, finishing the year with 21 catches, 362 yards, and two touchdowns.

Davis and Taylor did more damage through the air than Pryor, although the redshirt freshman was still effective. Pryor had 11 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown through the air. He was also utilized in the team’s rushing attack, collecting 63 yards and two touchdowns on five carries this season.

The group grew quite a bit during the season, transforming from an experienced group with an explosive playmaker in Cephus to an inexperienced group of talented athletes. The future is really bright at this position, especially if Cephus can return to the level of play he was at during the season before he saw his season end prematurely.

GRADE: B+ — This group faced one of the more difficult transformations on the 2017 Badgers. They stepped up to the plate at the end of the season and have a very high ceiling, especially when Cephus returns. Davis might have the highest ceiling of the young trio playing at the end of the season, but Taylor and Pryor should certainly be significant contributors moving forward at the wide receiver position.

Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy declares for NFL Draft

MADISON — Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy announced that he will not petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility and instead has declared for the 2018 NFL Draft, he writes in The Players Tribune.

Cichy, a former walk-on, missed the final seven games of the 2016 season with a torn pectoral and all of the 2017 season with a torn ACL. He had high expectations nationally for this season, as he was named to several preseason watch lists, including for the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Award, and Lott IMPACT Trophy.

In his career he played in 25 games for Wisconsin, totaling 121 total tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Cichy was also named Defensive MVP for Wisconsin’s 2015 Holiday Bowl victory over USC. He had a team-high nine tackles and three sacks against the Trojans.

Cichy played as a true freshman in 2013 and then redshirted in 2014. After missing the entire 2017 season he would have been able to apply for a medical redshirt.

He was awarded a scholarship prior to the 2015 season.

Badgers fall to Virginia 49-37

CHARLOTTLESVILLE | The Wisconsin men’s basketball team lost their fourth game in the past week on Monday night 49-37 to the Virginia Cavaliers. It was the team’s first road game of the year, and also their fourth game against a ranked opponent. They’re still winless when playing a ranked team.

The Cavaliers improve to 7-0 with the win. Guard Kyle Guy led the way for Virginia with 17 points on the night and guard Devon Hall added in 16 points as well to push Virginia to victory.

Wisconsin struggled offensively, shooting 31.3% (15-48) from the floor on the night. Forward Ethan Happ was the leading scorer for Wisconsin with 14 points. Guard D’Mitrik Trice was the only other Badger to reach double-figures, he had 10 points.

Freshman guard Brad Davison suffered an injury to his shoulder during the game for the second time this season. He injured his shoulder against Baylor last week but returned to the game. Davison injured the same shoulder during the second half against the Cavaliers, and he did return to the game. He finished with five points on the night.

Wisconsin is back in action on Saturday afternoon when they open up Big Ten play against Ohio State at the Kohl Center.

Zone Power Rankings: Championship week

The College Football Playoff top 25 is set to be released for the final time in the regular season on Tuesday night. There will be plenty of shakeup this week following both No. 1 and No. 2 from last week taking their first losses of the season.

The final rankings that determine the participants in this year’s College Football Playoff will be released on Sunday, December 3, the day after the conference championships are finished.

Here is our weekly Zone top ten, as voted on by myself, Ebo Thoreson, and Zach Heilprin.

1. Clemson (30 points) – The Tigers looked dominant in their win over South Carolina on Saturday evening. It’s hard to argue that anyone is playing better football right now, except for maybe Auburn. The Tigers have a date with the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night for the ACC crown. If Clemson wins they’ll earn a spot in the playoff, if they lose, the committee will have an awfully tough decision to make.

2. Oklahoma (26 points) – Quarterback Baker Mayfield didn’t start for the Sooners in the regular season finale against West Virginia, but that didn’t matter as they were still able to roll over the Mountaineers. They take on TCU this week for the Big 12 Championship. It’s ironic that the sole purpose of adding the extra game was to try and help the conference be represented in the playoff, and a TCU upset win could knock the conference out of it.

3. Wisconsin (24 points) – The Badgers might finally be starting to impress some people nationally. They took care of business against Minnesota this past weekend to finish the season with a perfect 12-0 record for the first time in program history. Their biggest test comes this week when they take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game. A win over the Buckeyes and there is no scenario where Wisconsin fails to make the playoffs.

4. Auburn (22 points) – Auburn is the hottest team in the country, at the moment. In the past three weekends, they’ve beaten the No. 1 team in the country on two separate occasions. Their win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl was a dominating one, and sets them up to make the playoff if they can beat Georgia, again, in the SEC Championship game this weekend. That would also cap off one of the more impressive four week runs in recent memory.

5. Alabama (18 points) – The Crimson Tide suffered their first defeat at an extremely inopportune time. They didn’t look like a typical Nick Saban led squad against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. That loss means that their season is finished and the chances of them making the playoff are completely out of their control. The best bet for Tide fans is that Ohio State tops Wisconsin in a close game and the committee picks the Tide over a two-loss Buckeye team.

6. Georgia (15 points) – The Bulldogs dominated their in-state rivals, Georgia Tech, this past weekend. Their only loss to date is the thrashing they took at Auburn a few weeks back. They get the opportunity to avenge that loss and grab a seat at the playoff table with a win over the Tigers this weekend in the SEC Championship.

7. Ohio State (11 points) – The Buckeyes have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the country this season. They’ve looked really good at times, but they’ve also looked putrid at times. Despite their 31-point loss at Iowa this season, there is still talk of a potential playoff berth for the Buckeyes if they can beat Wisconsin this weekend. However, it might take another 59-0 win in order to do so.

8. Miami (8 points) – The Hurricanes suffered one of the more head-scratching defeats of the season when they lost on the road against Pitt to close out their regular season last Friday afternoon. They’ve got a date with the Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship this weekend. If they can win that game, it might be enough to sneak into the semi-finals.

9. USC (5 points) – The Trojans are a new addition to our top 10 this week. Since their blowout loss to Notre Dame in South Bend earlier this season they’ve been on fire. While the playoffs might be out of reach for them, a win over Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship would cap off a solid season for them.

10. Penn State (4 points) – The Nittany Lions had a rather uneventful end to their regular season, thrashing Maryland by a score of 66-3. Penn State has beaten a bunch of really bad teams by large margins, but failed to knock off either of their two ranked opponents this season, Ohio State and Michigan State.

Others receiving votes: TCU (2), Central Florida (1)

Jonathan Taylor’s impact noticed across the country

MADISON – Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor wanted to come in and make an impact for the Badgers. He just didn’t know when he would be able to.

“I always knew that I could make an impact,” Taylor told reporters. “It was just a matter of time of once I learned everything and once I just caught up to the speed of the game and got into the whole college flow.”

Taylor has certainly gotten into the flow of the collegiate game. He has not only been the best players on Wisconsin’s offensive unit this season, but one of the country’s best, as well. He’s currently third in rushing yards in the entire country with 1,657. That’s impressive for anyone, let alone a player that was dominating high school opponents 12 months ago.

He’s gone from dominating high school teams to tearing up the Big Ten in a short time, and he’s been deservedly recognized for his efforts. Tuesday, he was named a finalist for the Doak Walker award. That honor goes to the country’s most outstanding running back and has every year since 1990. A true freshman has never won the award and Taylor is trying to become the first. The other two finalists are Saquon Barkley of Penn State and Bryce Love of Stanford.

Taylor not only could become the first freshman to win the Doak Walker, but also become the Big Ten record holder for most Freshman of the Week awards won. After the Badgers defeating Michigan in week 12 he was honored by the conference for the seventh time. That tied him with J.T. Barrett of Ohio State for the most ever. A strong performance against a Minnesota defense that has allowed 4.6 yards per carry on the season would likely give him his record-breaking eighth award.

“I was definitely surprised, just getting that many Big Ten Freshman of the Week [awards], I didn’t know what to say, I was just like, ‘that’s crazy’,” Taylor said when he was told that he had the opportunity to break Barrett’s record this week. “It came down to me focusing every week and just doing the best that I can. Focusing on how can I help the team this week, how can I help the team get out with a W?”

He’s done more than just help the team, at times, he’s carried the team.

To say that his focus is on breaking the Big Ten ecord would be a disservice to Taylor and the rivalry that Minnesota and Wisconsin share on the field.

“It should be fun, but we definitely talk about respecting the rivalry, so we’re going in and trying to give them our best shot,” Taylor said.

Taylor giving Minnesota his best shot could catapult him further on to the national scene than he already is. He’s already had three games where he has gone over 200 yards, and two more over 150 yards. Add another one to that list and the possibilities are endless.

He’s impressed those across the country, obviously, with the national attention he’s gotten. He’s also impressed teammates of his, including fellow freshman Danny Davis.

“It’s been crazy, man,” Davis said. “Some of the stuff he does is unreal. You continue to do that, and this is just a stage for him to continue to keep getting better as the years progress. I’m excited to play with him.”

Taylor’s sights aren’t only on breaking Barrett’s record and being a Walker finalist, however.

“Every kid dreams about winning the Heisman,” Taylor said. “Coming in that wasn’t my main, I always talking about how my focus was just staying ready and just being ready whenever my number was called.”

Wisconsin has had a great history of backs to win both the Walker and the Heisman. Ron Dayne, Montee Ball, and Melvin Gordon have all won the Walker award, with Dayne doubling as the Heisman winner. While it’s uncertain, if not unlikely that Taylor joins them this year, it would surprise no one to find Taylor among those names by the end of his time at Wisconsin.

Zone Power Rankings: Week 12

MADISON – The college football regular season comes to a close this weekend with the exception of the Army-Navy game on December 9. Things are starting to sort themselves out as far as the playoff race goes.

The College Football Playoff Committee will release a new ranking this week and next before the selection on December 3.

Here are the power rankings following week 12 as voted on by myself, Ebo Thoreson, and Zach Heilprin.

1. Alabama (30 points) – The Crimson Tide have all but clinched their spot in the semi-finals as they can mathematically have no more than one loss entering bowl season. They’ve been impressive as they have fought through injuries as of the past couple of weeks. Alabama squares off with Auburn in the Iron Bowl this weekend in what will certainly be the toughest test to date for both teams.

2. Miami (27 points) – Miami had a predictably slow start against Virginia this past weekend at home. They trailed early on in their first non-primetime game in two weeks. The ‘Canes were able to turn it on late, scoring the final 30 points of the game to win 44-28. They close out the regular season on the road against Pitt before taking on Clemson in the ACC Championship game on December 2.

3. Oklahoma (22 points, TIE) – The Sooners had a blowout win Kansas this weekend in what was their easiest game of the season. The Jayhawks are one of the worst Power-5 programs in the country at the moment and this was an expected result. The news out of this game was that star quarterback Baker Mayfield will be benched for Oklahoma’s regular season finale against West Virginia due to his controversial conduct on the sidelines during the 41-3 win over Kansas. After taking on West Virginia they’ll play in the first Big 12’s first championship game since the 2010 season, likely against TCU.

3. Clemson (22 points, TIE) – The Tigers loss against Syracuse is still one of the worst among teams still alive for the playoffs. Despite that, their body of work has the chance to be one of the best in the country. Depending on how things shake out this weekend, they could have wins over six eight-win programs heading into bowl season. They close out the regular season with South Carolina before taking on Miami for the ACC Championship.

5. Wisconsin (19 points) – The Badgers continue doing the only thing they can to impress the committee. They’ve now won all 11 games they’ve played this season after beating Michigan at home 24-10 on Saturday. The formula for Wisconsin has been to feel a team out in the first half and then impose their will in the second half. It’s worked to date, and likely will against Minnesota this weekend. They’ll take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game in two weeks, and a slow start against the Buckeyes would likely be very costly.

6. Auburn (15 points) – The Tigers have a golden opportunity to become the first two-loss team to make the College Football Playoff. Winning out would almost certainly place them in the semi-finals. The kicker? They need to beat Alabama and Georgia, again, in successive weeks in order to do so.

7. Georgia (12 points) – The Bulldogs losing to Auburn obviously ruined their perfect season, but it didn’t eliminate them. They close the regular season with Georgia Tech before heading to Atlanta to take on the winner of the Alabama-Auburn game. If they can defeat either of those teams in the SEC Championship, they’ll head to the semi-finals as long as they don’t slip up against Georgia Tech.

8. Notre Dame (eight points) – Notre Dame beat Navy this past weekend in a relatively boring game. Watching triple-option attacks are typically boring in today’s day and age. The Midshipmen led Notre Dame to only three possessions in the second half. They scored on four of their six possessions in the game and that’s all it took. They close out their regular season on the road against Stanford. While a win there likely isn’t enough to put them back into playoff contention, it would cap off a very nice season for an Irish team that finished 4-8 a year ago.

9. Ohio State (seven points) – The Buckeyes destroyed lowly Illinois this past weekend in the final home game for quarterback J.T. Barrett and the rest of that senior class. Ohio State takes on Michigan this weekend in The Game and is locked into the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin in two weeks. They’re still alive for the playoffs, but their 31-point loss at Iowa is probably the worst loss by any contender this season.

10. Penn State (two points) – The Nittany Lions took care of business against Nebraska this weekend by dropping 56 points on the Cornhuskers. The downside is that they allowed 44 to the Nebraska offense. Running back Saquon Barkley broke out of his slump, finishing with well over 200 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Penn State is effectively out of the playoff race and will close out the regular season against Maryland this weekend.

Others receiving votes: TCU

Wide receivers Jazz Peavy and George Rushing not currently with Wisconsin

MADISON — Wide receivers Jazz Peavy and George Rushing are not currently with Wisconsin’s football team, head coach Paul Chryst announced Thursday morning.

Peavy played in four games this season, totaling five catches for 55 yards and three rushing attempts for seven yards. He last played in week five against Northwestern. He had been appearing on the injury report handed out by Wisconsin with a right leg injury beginning in week six. Thursday, we was absent from the list.

Rushing injured his left leg in the preseason and has not appeared in a single game this season. He was taken off the injury report Thursday as well.

“For different reasons both are not with the team right now,” Chryst said Thursday. “Certainly different reasons. There’s a lot going on in these guy’s lives. All that matters is that they’re doing alright. It was kind of decided for both to kind of help them navigate everything to take some time away.”

Peavy is a fifth year senior and Rushing is in his fourth year at the program. Since Rushing has not appeared in a game this season, redshirting is a possibility.

“This is his fourth year and he’s going to graduate this year, but we haven’t had those discussions,” Chryst said about Rushing.

Bo Ryan talks Wisconsin and the Hall of Fame

MADISON — Former Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame  this week in Kansas City.

Despite watching a lot of basketball, and golfing even more, Ryan took a few minutes out of his morning to talk with the Joe & Ebo Show on some of his favorite career memories, what he’s seen from the Badgers and the honor of getting into the Hall of Fame.

Take a listen below to hear from the all-time winningest coach in Wisconsin men’s basketball history:

Zone Power Rankings: Week 11

MADISON – The picture for the College Football Playoff cleared up a little bit on Saturday for Wisconsin. Not only did the Badgers get their first win against a ranked opponent this season, but multiple teams ahead of them fell in blowout losses.

Georgia, Notre Dame, and TCU were all blown out on the road this weekend, granted all were opposed by ranked teams.

Georgia went on the road and dropped to Auburn 40-17, Notre Dame was throttled 41-8 by the Hurricanes in Miami, and TCU lost to Oklahoma 38-20. While all three did lose, they lost to teams.

The playoff committee is made up of 13 members who vote each week on the teams that will be finding themselves playing in the semi-finals. Our committee works the same way, except it is only three members. The teams have been voted on by myself, Zach Heilprin, and Ebo Thoreson.

The point system works the same way as the AP Top 25 does, but scaled to 10 teams instead of 25. For example, a first-place vote garners 10 points, and a tenth-place vote is worth one point.

Following the results of week 11, here is our Zone Top 10.

1. Alabama (29 points, two first place votes) – The Crimson Tide went through the first part of their season in a rather ho-hum way. They looked impressive, but didn’t play a difficult schedule to say the least. Over the past two weeks they’ve defeated ranked opponents in LSU and Mississippi State on the road. The game against Mississippi State was closer than Nick Saban and company would’ve liked, but a win on the road in the SEC can be tough to come by.

2. Miami, FL. (28 points, one first place vote) – The Hurricanes, much like Alabama didn’t have any noteworthy wins until last week when they beat Virginia Tech. Most recently, the ‘Canes welcomed No. 3 Notre Dame to Miami and took them to the woodshed. The blowout was one of the most impressive victories of the season.

3. Oklahoma (23 points) – Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield very well may have the Heisman Trophy locked up with two weeks remaining in the regular season. The Sooners won their last challenge of the regular season by defeating TCU, and have looked tremendous offensively in back-to-back wins over Oklahoma State and TCU. Their schedule lightens up this upcoming weekend when they take on Kansas.

4. Clemson (21 points) – The Tigers were locked in a battle with Florida State in the fourth quarter last Saturday. Typically, that would be a sentence many would expect to read, however that wasn’t the case with the year that the Seminoles have had this season. The Tigers still boast wins over Auburn and Virginia Tech, but that loss against Syracuse looks worse every week. The did clinch their side of the ACC and will have the chance to square off with Miami in the ACC Championship Game, likely deciding a berth in the College Football Playoffs.

5. Wisconsin (21 points) – The Badgers played their best game of the season defensively against Iowa last weekend at Camp Randall. Wisconsin only allowed 66 yards of total offense to the Hawkeyes and forced three turnovers on the afternoon. Freshman running back Jonathan Taylor continues to impress, rushing for over 150 yards for the fifth time this season. Wisconsin does need to do a better job taking care of the ball, as quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw three interceptions and Taylor lost a fumble.

6. Auburn (15 points) – Auburn earned one of the more impressive victories of the season by defeating Georgia at home this past weekend. The Tigers were able to upset a team that had been dominant all-season long. They’ve got two losses, but if they can beat Alabama in the final week of the season to earn a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship they could be playing for a berth in the CFP. They would be the first two-loss team to make it.

7. Georgia (12 points) – Georgia has been one of, if not the best team in the country for the entire season. That wasn’t the case on Saturday as Auburn soundly beat them at Jordan Hare Stadium. This might be a bit of an overreaction, as winning out and defeating either Alabama or Auburn to win the SEC Championship would be enough to get them in the semi-finals.

8. Notre Dame (seven points) – Like Georgia, Notre Dame has been largely dominant all-season long. The Fighting Irish were unprepared heading into Miami for their primetime matchup with the Hurricanes. The loss does knock them out of the playoff race in all likelihood, but they still have some very impressive wins this season that shouldn’t be thrown out due to one bad night.

9. Ohio State (five points) – A week after getting destroyed on the road at Iowa, the Buckeyes were back on the winning side of a blowout, defeating Michigan State. While that win was impressive, looking past a 31-point loss against an unranked team should be a difficult thing for the committee to look past should the Buckeyes win the Big Ten.

10. Southern Cal (four points) – The Trojans have been quietly putting together impressive wins since they lost by 35 in South Bend during October. This team is in the drivers’ seat to win the Pac-12 and find themselves in a New Years’ Six Bowl. It’s likely that the playoffs are out of the question for not only the Trojans, but the rest of the Pac-12 at this point, however.

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma State.

Leon Jacobs wins Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week

MADISON — Wisconsin linebacker Leon Jacobs was honored as the Co-Defensive Player of the Week for the Big Ten for his performance against Iowa in week 11. Jacobs finished the game with four tackles, a sack, and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned 21 yards for a touchdown.

Defensively, Wisconsin only allowed 66 total yards of offense to the Hawkeyes in their 38-14 victory. Iowa did not score a touchdown offensively, as both their scores came on interceptions returned for touchdowns by defensive back Josh Jackson. Jackson shared the honor with Jacobs this week.

The 66 yards allowed was the fewest that Wisconsin has ever allowed to a Big Ten opponent in program history.

This is the second time that Jacobs has earned the honor, the first coming in week seven after Wisconsin beat Purdue 17-9.

Jacobs also set a school record by appearing in his 55th game on Saturday against Iowa.