Worse Season? (0:00)
More Tears (17:38)
Packers Eulogy (27:04)
RJ on the Badgers (46:25)
The University of Wisconsin will open spring practice this week and do so with extremely high expectations coming off its first 13-win season.
The Badgers return 10 of their 11 starters on offense from their Orange Bowl-winning team, while multi-year starters T.J. Edwards, Olive Sagapolu and D’Cota Dixon return on the defensive side of the ball. There are certainly holes to fill, and coach Paul Chryst and his staff will continue their efforts to plug them when the team takes the field Tuesday morning for the first of 15 practices.
Here’s a look at some of the guys we’ll be keeping an eye on:
TE Jake Ferguson
With Troy Fumagalli working towards a career in the NFL, the Badgers must find a new go-to weapon at the position. And while senior Zander Neuville and junior Kyle Penniston have game experience, it’s redshirt freshman Jake Ferguson that everyone is anxious to see.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound, Ferguson has been described as “really athletic” and extremely “fluid” by quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who said the Madison Memorial product made some crazy catches during practice last year. Fumagalli added that Ferguson, who was Wisconsin’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year, can be as good as he wants to be.
With as much as Chryst likes to use his tight ends, Ferguson could play a big role in 2018. Spring ball will be the first chance for us to see if he’ll be ready.
CB Madison Cone
As a true freshman, Cone played mostly on special teams, though he did get some time as Wisconsin’s fourth cornerback. Now, with Derrick Tindal and Nick Nelson gone, the Badgers will be looking at Cone to step up and join redshirt sophomore Dontye Carriere-Williams with the starting unit.
And they do think he’s more than capable. Defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard raved about Cone’s approach last year and was impressed with his maturity in understanding the game. Though he’s on the smaller side at 5-foot-9, he’s more than athletic enough to make up for it, as evidenced by this dunk. A strong spring for him could go a long way in solidifying the secondary.
CB Faion Hicks
Like Cone, Hicks is being looked at as a guy that could see significant snaps this fall, especially with as much nickel defense we see teams playing these days. A shoulder injury knocked him from spring ball last year and he didn’t hit the field again until mid-September. But, when healthy, Leonhard loved what he saw from the redshirt freshman. He described the 5-foot-10 Hicks as “extremely athletic” and “hungry.” And even though it was a small sample size, Leonhard believes Hicks has a chance to be “very good” in the program.
OLB Arrington Farrar
Last spring, after being moved around much of his career, Leon Jacobs went back to where he started and found a home at outside linebacker. He excelled last fall and is now fighting for a career in the NFL. Could Farrar follow in his footsteps?
As reported by Jason Galloway of the Wisconsin State Journal, Farrar has moved from inside linebacker to OLB. It means, like Jacobs, he’s come full circle. He played OLB for the first month he was on campus, moved to safety for two years and then to ILB last year. Now, back at OLB, the senior has a chance to push for time with Jacobs and Garret Dooley gone. How will the transition go? Spring ball should give us an idea.
QB Jack Coan
Though we saw him in mop-up duty — where he completed all five of the passes he threw — the last time most of the media saw Coan for an extended period came in mid-August during fall camp. At that point, there was a pretty significant gap between him and Hornibrook. Has that gap closed? Could Coan keep Wisconsin afloat if Hornibrook were to get hurt or struggle at some point this fall? He clearly wasn’t ready last year as a true freshman, but it seems reasonable that he’ll have taken a step forward and spring ball should show us if that’s the case.
OL: Cole Van Lanen and Patrick Kasl – Wisconsin wants to move senior Michael Deiter back inside, which can only happen if either of these guys show they are ready to step in at left tackle.
OL: Kayden Lyles – Expectations are high for the redshirt freshman, who some around the program believe could push one of the returning starters out of the lineup.
DL: Garrett Rand – Where will the junior play? He’s been at nose tackle the last two years, but figures to be a better option at defensive end this year.
DL: Bryson Williams – Early enrollee that could serve as a backup to Sagapolu at NT.
S: Scott Nelson – Potentially in the mix to replace Natrell Jamerson at safety, along with Eric Burrell and Patrick Johnson.
Early enrollees – In addition to Williams, we’ll get our first look at cornerback Donte Burton, wide receivers Aron Cruickshank and Taj Mustapha, and safety Reggie Pearson Jr.
MIAMI — Quarterback Alex Hornibrook tossed four touchdowns as Wisconsin beat Miami 34-24 in the Orange Bowl.
Play of the Game
Wisconsin was in trouble. Trailing 14-3 at the start of the second quarter, Miami had a chance to go up three scores. Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel had other plans. Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier tried to throw a little quick screen and the Badgers’ junior stepped in the way and made the athletic interception.
The play proved to be the turning point in the game. Wisconsin would score 21 unanswered and didn’t trail again.
Offense: Alex Hornibrook
He received plenty of criticism this season, but the quarterback was fantastic most of the night. He threw four touchdowns, trusting his receivers in one-on-one coverage and they came through for him.
On the biggest drive of the season — after Miami had cut Wisconsin’s lead to 27-24 early in the fourth quarter — the sophomore led an 8-play, 75-yard drive that he finished off with a 6-yard scoring toss to Danny Davis. Hornibrook went 6-of-6 with five first downs and the touchdown.
It was an absolute must for Wisconsin to put together a drive and Hornibrook delivered his best of the season.
Defense: Andrew Van Ginkel
Van Ginkel was responsible for the biggest defensive play of the game — his second quarter interception — but he was big at other points as well. He finished with three tackles, including a sack, and nearly had another interception in the fourth quarter.
Wisconsin has rarely gone the junior college route in recruiting, but Van Ginkel ended up being an absolute steal. He’ll be one of the Badgers most important players in 2018.
Special Teams: Rafael Gaglianone
As he did all season, the Wisconsin kicker was money. He drilled a pair of kicks, including a 47-yarder. The junior finished the season 16-of-18 on the season and now sits just five field goals short of the most in school history.
Videos of the game
Much was made of the “turnover chain” Miami breaks out every time they force a turnover and they had a chance to use it once on Saturday night. But the Badgers had their own celebration with a chain and they got to use it a lot of more than the Hurricanes. Like on every one of their four touchdowns.
If that wasn’t clear enough as to how they felt about the turnover chain, then the video that caught Paul Chryst’s comments on it definitely should.
In their own words
“It’s awesome. That’s a record. No one has done that. That is something we all have to be proud of, and we are. Winning 13 games in a season is not easy.”
— LT Michael Deiter on Wisconsin winning a school-record 13 games
— Wisconsin CB Derrick Tindal on the feeling of winning the Orange Bowl in his hometown
In Case You Missed It
— Running back Jonathan Taylor finished with 133 yards on the night and 1,926 yards for the season. The latter mark set the record for the most yards by a freshman in FBS history.
— Outside linebacker Leon Jacobs played his 59th career game — the most in NCAA history
— Cornerback Nick Nelson announced after the game he will forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
— Offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel told reporters he will return for his senior year.
— Offensive lineman Michael Deiter and linebacker T.J. Edwards told reporters they haven’t decided whether they will return or leave for the NFL.
— Miami coach Mark Richt was flagged for contacting an official late in the first half. He was apparently upset over a non-call on the Badgers.
Inside the Numbers
13 — That’s the number of wins the Badgers had this season — the most in school history.
3 — That’s the number of touchdown catches for freshman wide receiver Danny Davis — the first player to record multiple touchdowns in a bowl game for the Badgers.
25 — That’s the number of touchdowns Alex Hornibrook threw this year — the second-most in school history.
The time: 7 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis, Ind.
The TV coverage: FOX with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt in the booth, and Jenny Taft on the sideline.
The last time: No. 2 Ohio State came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime 38-31 last October in Madison.
The series: Ohio State leads 58-18-5
The line: Ohio State -6
The Badgers injury report:
TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
OLB Noah Burks (leg)
WR Quintez Cephus (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)
TE Zander Neuville (leg)
RB Bradrick Shaw (leg)
THE BREAKDOWN: FOUR THINGS TO WATCH
1) Biggest game in school history
It may seem like hyperbole, but Saturday night’s game is the biggest in Wisconsin football history. A win against one of the blue bloods of the sport would give the Badgers their first Big Ten title since 2012, almost surely punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff and leave them just two victories short of the school’s first national championship. A loss wouldn’t make the season a failure, but it would be looked at as a missed opportunity to make a splash the rest of the country couldn’t ignore, one that would force the doubters to at least respect what the program has become. This is not the first time Wisconsin has been in position to make that statement but it’s certainly its best and something the Badgers can’t let fall by the wayside.
2) Containing J.T. Barrett
The big story this week has been the knee injury to Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, the one that knocked him out in the third quarter of last week’s game at Michigan. The senior reportedly had arthroscopic surgery on the knee on Sunday, but coach Urban Meyer is expecting him to play. If he does, then it becomes vital for the Wisconsin defense to keep him in the pocket. In last season’s game, Barrett was Ohio State’s leading rusher with 92 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. It’s not that he can’t beat you with his arm — he can — but if you’re Wisconsin, you want to force him to show it again.
3) No turnovers
Wisconsin is a bit of anomaly this season. You don’t normally see an unbeaten team like the Badgers turn the ball over as much as they do. They rank No. 97 in the country with 21 turnovers and there are only three FBS teams with a winning record that have more than that. It’s not an every player problem. In fact, it’s mainly a two player issue — quarterback Alex Hornibrook and running back Jonathan Taylor. The duo has accounted for 18 of the 21 turnovers this year. Wisconsin’s defense has been able to erase many of those mistakes, but you sure don’t want to put them in that position against the most explosive offense the Badgers have faced this year.
When people hear the term redemption in regards to this game, most probably think of the 59-0 shellacking that Ohio State delivered to Wisconsin in the 2014 title game. But they would be wrong. Sure, that one hurt, but that game was over almost as soon as it started. No, the game the Badgers want (need?) redemption for is the 2016 title game when they blew a 28-7 lead to Penn State and lost 38-31. A defense that was so good all year, got exposed with big plays down the field and some brilliance from All-American running back Saquon Barkley. Nearly all of Wisconsin’s defenders from that game are still around and have told the media this week they believe they learned some valuable lessons as a result of that collapse. We could see if that’s true on Saturday night.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
Wisconsin is an underdog for the first time in 20 games. The last time the Badgers weren’t favored was the Buckeyes visit to Camp Randall Stadium last October.
Current or former walk-ons have combined for 862 yards of total offense, seven touchdowns, 117 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks and four interceptions this season for Wisconsin.
The Badgers are allowing just 236.9 yards per game, the lowest mark by a Wisconsin team since 1954.
A couple of the better hype videos to get you ready for the game:
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 21
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 24
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 21
Danny Cunningham’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 21
Eric Single, SI.com: Wisconsin
Molly Geary, SI.com: Wisconsin
Andy Staples, SI.com: Wisconsin
Joan Niesen, SI.com: Wisconsin
Paul Myerberg, USA Today: Wisconsin
George Schroeder, USA Today: Wisconsin
Erick Smith, USA Today: Wisconsin
Eddie Timanus, USA Today: Wisconsin
Dan Wolken, USA Today: Wisconsin
Corby Davidson, Sportsday: Wisconsin
Rich Cirminiello, College Football News: Wisconsin
Jeff Feyerer, College Football News: Wisconsin
Pete Fiutak, College Football News: Wisconsin
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports: Wisconsin
Ohio State (18)
Edward Aschoff, ESPN: Ohio State
Zac Al-Khateeb, Sporting News: Ohio State
Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports: Ohio State
Bruce Feldman, SI.com: Ohio State
Chris Johnson, SI.com: Ohio State
Scooby Axson, SI.com: Ohio State
Jace Evans, USA Today: Ohio State
Ben Baby, Sportsday: Ohio State
Scott Bells, Sportsday: Ohio State
Chuck Carlton, Sportsday: Ohio State
Adam Grosbard, Sportsday: Ohio State
Ric Renner, Sportsday: Ohio State
Newy Scruggs, Sportsday: Ohio State
Kevin Sherrington, Sportsday: Ohio State
Brett Vito, Sportsday: Ohio State
Ralph Russo, Associated Press: Ohio State
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: Ohio State
Bryan Bischer, Athlon Sports: Ohio State
MADISON – Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst was named the Big Ten Dave McClain / Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year, the conference announced.
Chryst is a repeat winner, having win the award as voted on by the coaches in 2016. Penn State’s James Franklin won the media vote that season. This is the fifth time Wisconsin’s head coach has won the award.
Since taking over the program prior to the 2015 season, Chryst has a record of 33-6. Chryst has a career record of 52-25 as a head coach including his three-year run at Pitt.
The time: 2:30 p.m. CDT, Saturday
The place: TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn.
The TV coverage: ABC with Mark Jones and Rod Gilmore in the booth, and Quint Kessenich on the sideline.
The last time: Wisconsin scored 24 straight points in the second half to overcome a 10-point deficit and win 31-17 last November at Camp Randall Stadium.
The series: 59-59-8
The line: Wisconsin -17
The Badgers injury report:
S D’Cota Dixon (leg)
LB Chris Orr (leg)
TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
WR Quintez Cephus (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)
THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH
1) Looking for perfection
Wisconsin is off to the best start in school history and with a win can have its first unbeaten conference season since 1912. Now sitting at No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings, the victory would also keep the Badgers in the race for one of four spots as they head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game against Ohio State next weekend. All of this coming knowing that a loss would make Minnesota’s season. No pressure.
2) For the ‘Axe’
Thirteen years. That’s how long it’s been since Minnesota players have touched Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the trophy that goes to the winning team in the oldest rivalry in college football. And Wisconsin has no intention of the streak — the longest for either team in the series — coming to an end on Saturday. They know what’s at stake for their season but also in the rivalry itself, as a win would give the Badgers the series lead for the first time ever.
3) Need a clean game
The only way Minnesota has a chance to beat Wisconsin is if the Badgers beat themselves with penalties and turnovers. The latter begins and ends with quarterback Alex Hornibrook. He’s thrown at least one interception in every conference game this year, including three against Iowa — the last trophy game Wisconsin played. Can the Badgers win even if he does turn it over? Sure. But they can be scary good when he’s on the mark and not forcing the issue.
4) The curious case of Demry Croft
Minnesota’s quarterback hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in more than a month, and the Gophers are just 1-3 with him as their starter during that period. But in the one game they did win — a 54-21 whipping of Nebraska — the sophomore put on a show. He threw for 105 yards and ran for another 183 yards and three touchdowns. It’s an outlier in an otherwise rough season, but Wisconsin can’t allow Croft to get loose. They need to force him to beat them from the pocket, something he has largely proven he can’t do.
5) P.J. Fleck vs Paul Chryst
The men that lead these two programs could not be more different. Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck is a never ending string of words and actions designed to get your attention and keep it. He’s a cliche machine with his “Row the Boat” mantra and a ball of energy that is constantly rolling. On the other sideline is Paul Chryst — almost the exact opposite. Both have been successful in their careers, though everyone is waiting to see if Fleck’s success at Western Michigan can be duplicated in Minnesota. Neither way is the right way, but it’s impossible to not notice the difference.
NUMBERS TO CONSIDER
Wisconsin is 16-1 in its last 17 trophy games (Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska).
Running back Jonathan Taylor needs 269 yards to break the single-season FBS rushing record for a freshman, which is currently held by Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson. He ran for 1,925 yards in 2004.
The Badgers are allowing just 246.4 yards per game, the No. 2 mark in the nation behind Alabama. While noting they still have at least three games to play, that total would be the fewest by a Wisconsin defense since 1958 (244.1).
Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 31, Minnesota 17 (11-0 on the season, 7-4 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 34 , Minnesota 14 (11-0 on the season, 7-4 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 41, Minnesota 10 (11-0 on the season, 7-4 against the spread)
The expectation became reality today for the Wisconsin football team.
On Thursday’s injury report, wide receiver Quintez Cephus had gone from out for Saturday’s game against No. 20 Iowa to out for the season. It comes five days after he suffered a leg injury against Indiana that required surgery.
“You feel bad for him, certainly,” coach Paul Chryst told reporters. “[Quintez] will bounce back.”
Wisconsin is losing its No. 1 receiver in Cephus, who is tied with Troy Fumagalli with the most catches (30) on the team and leads the Badgers in receiving yards (501) and touchdowns (6). In fact, with Cephus out, along with seniors Jazz Peavy and George Rushing likely not playing again, Wisconsin must finish the year without three guys that have amassed 120 catches, 1,761 yards and 11 touchdowns in their careers.
That said, the Badgers have become accustomed to dealing with injuries and other guys filling in. In this case, that means sophomore A.J. Taylor, freshman Danny Davis and redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor. That trio has combined for 31 catches, 534 yards and three scores in their careers, most of which has come this season.
“I’m excited for them and their opportunity,” Chryst said. “Every time you say that it’s not like you’re not going to miss [the guy you lost]. You miss all the people. But, absolutely, I feel confident about the guys in that room stepping up and those around stepping up.”
Here’s a look at the full injury report in advance of Wisconsin’s game with No. 20 Iowa.
MADISON — Wisconsin will not have the services of wide receiver Jazz Peavy on Saturday against Purdue.
The school released its final injury report for the week and Peavy was listed as out with a right leg injury. Coach Paul Chryst told reporters that it’s something that’s been bother the senior for a while, but he did practice some this week and it isn’t expected to be something that keeps him out long term.
Peavy has not been as involved in Wisconsin’s offense this year as he was as a junior, as sophomore Quintez Cephus has ascended to the No. 1 spot. Still, his absence will mean more chances for younger receivers, including sophomore A.J. Taylor, freshman Danny Davis and redshirt freshman Kendric Pryor.
“It’s another opportunity for guys to step up,” Chryst said. “You always want all your players, but you want them to be at their best. Obviously, Jazz isn’t able to do that. [We’ve] done it at a lot of other positions, and [now] that [wide receiver] group has to step up. And those around have to step up.”
Peavy has five catches for 55 yards this season.
The rest of the injury report:
OL Jon Dietzen (leg)
RB Chris James (leg)
OL Micah Kapoi (arm)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)
For the first time since 2011 the Wisconsin Badgers are unbeaten through five games on the gridiron. Unlike that 2011 season, the 2017 version of the Badgers have an incredibly manageable schedule the rest of the season.
Wisconsin should be a favorite in every game remaining on their schedule, with the closest matchup talent-wise coming in the second to last game of the season, when the University of Michigan comes to Camp Randall. Truthfully speaking, Wisconsin shouldn’t have trouble with Purdue, Maryland, Illinois, or Indiana before they take on Iowa November 11.
Having a schedule like this can give some teams a reason to look ahead, and potentially overlook an opponent, which is something Wisconsin can ill-afford to do.
“I’ve been a part of it and your experiences help guide you.” Head coach Paul Chryst told the media during the week following the win against Nebraska. “I think that’s why you spend a lot of time talking to them about [not looking ahead] and yet in the end every person has to make a choice about how they want to approach it. You try and do all that you can, but at some point, they have to choose. That’s where your veteran leadership has to help.”
The Badgers are starting to attract national attention, moving up to seventh in the Associated Press Poll, their highest ranking since the Big Ten Championship game last December. With the road that’s in front of them, they should climb higher as the season goes on.
“We always have an end goal and things like that, but we know our goal every week is to win that game at hand.” Linebacker TJ Edwards told the media. “I think our team has such good guys who relay that message to the younger guys to not get ahead of ourselves so that’s not really a problem with us.”
For some, it might be easier than others to not look past the week at hand, as Chryst said. One who doesn’t think it’s a challenge is offensive lineman Michael Deiter.
“It’s easy, it’s the same approach as every other season. It’s just another week.” Deiter said. “The 5-0 [record] is nice, that’s good, but we have Purdue this week. There’s no reason to get ahead. You can’t go anywhere beyond the season if you don’t win every game during the season. You can really trip yourself up if you get caught looking forward. It’s just a week to week thing with us and I think we’re good at that.”
The Badgers have high expectations for themselves, which they should. A five-game winning streak to start the season is not something that should be looked upon lightly, especially when one of the wins comes at Nebraska. If they’re going to hit their lofty goals, they’re going to need to keep their focus on a weekly basis.
“Obviously your mind is going to wander and do things like that just because you have such high expectations for this team, and things like that.” Edwards said. “We come in here on Sunday and Monday and know what our goal is at the end of the week.”
MADISON — It’s looking like Wisconsin will have the services of tight end Troy Fumagalli on Saturday at Nebraska.
“Troy’s been able to work every day this week and each day do a little bit more,” coach Paul Chryst told reporters. “Feel good [about him playing] barring any setback from [Thursday’s] work.”
Fumagalli is Wisconsin’s top offensive weapon, leading them in catches (15) and yards (236) despite missing last week’s game against Northwestern with a leg injury. In his place, sophomore Kyle Penniston and junior Zander Neuville combined for one catch.
Meanwhile, Chryst said that defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk, who is listed as questionable with a leg injury, practiced on Thursday and he feels good about his chances of playing on Saturday. The 6-foot-7, 303-pound redshirt freshman is a vital component to Wisconsin’s front seven, especially with senior Chikwe Obasih still out with a knee injury.
Here is Wisconsin’s full injury report:
TE Troy Fumagalli (leg)
DE Isaiahh Loudermilk (leg)
K P.J. Rosowski (leg)
RB Taiwan Deal
DE Chikwe Obasih
WR George Rushing
OUT FOR SEASON
OLB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Broadner (knee)
ILB Jack Cichy (knee)
ILB Mason Stokke (leg)