Preview: (9) Wisconsin vs Florida Atlantic

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0) vs the Florida Atlantic Owls (0-1)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: BTN with Kevin Kugler and Matt Millen in the booth, and Lisa Byington on the sideline.

The last time: This is the first ever meeting between the two schools

The series: N/A

The line: Wisconsin -33

The Badgers injury report:

QUESTIONABLE

RB Bradrick Shaw (leg)

OUT

Game:

RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
DE Chikwe Obasih (knee)
WR Kendric Pryor (face)
WR George Rushing (leg)
FB Jake Whalen (head)

Season:

LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) A one-time thing or a pattern?

After the way Wisconsin stumbled through much of the first half against Utah State in its opener, the Badgers need to show that it was a one-time thing and not something that will haunt them all year. If forced to choose what we might see on Saturday, we’d say it wasn’t something fans should worry about. But the anxiety will grow significantly if they struggle early against a Florida Atlantic team that Navy beat by 23 points last week.

2) See some improvement

Coach Paul Chryst doesn’t put much stock in the notion of team’s make their biggest jumps from the first game to the second, but he’s certainly looking for significant improvement in a number of areas, perhaps most notably when it comes to penalties. One of the most disciplined teams in the country in 2016, Wisconsin was called for nine penalties against Utah State — more than in any game a year ago. The Badgers need to clean it up, especially those happening before the play starts.

3) Time to dominate

One of the more surprising aspects of the Badgers slow start against Utah State was the inability of the offensive line to create running lanes and keep pressure off of quarterback Alex Hornibrook. Communication issues played a role, for sure, but the size and talent of the line is too great to not move teams like the Aggies and Florida Atlantic off the ball. While Wisconsin ended up rushing for 233 yards, the Badgers still need to show they can do it from the jump, especially against a Owls defense that allowed Navy to run for more than 400 yards in their opener.

4) More Jonathan Taylor

Nearly every player that made their debut a week ago lived up to the hype, but none more so than running back Jonathan Taylor. He showed off his speed, vision, balance and explosiveness in running for 87 yards and a touchdown. Now, with sophomore Bradrick Shaw a little dinged up, we could see a whole lot more of Taylor on Saturday. And if he capitalizes on it, he could stake his claim to being Wisconsin’s lead back moving forward.

5) Hurricane Irma

While five of the seven FBS teams that call Florida home cancelled their games this weekend due to Hurricane Irma, the storm bearing down on South Florida did not deter the Owls from making the trip to Madison. How will what’s happening back home impact the play of 18-to-23-year-old college students who left homes that may not be there when they get back?

And what about the eight players from the state of Florida on the Wisconsin roster? How focused can anyone expect them to be when their families are dealing with a storm of this magnitude?

The debate over whether the game should be played is pointless — it’s obviously going to happen. But the storm’s impact mentally for players on both sides is relevant and something to watch.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Wisconsin is 16-1 under coach Paul Chryst when holding teams to 100 yards or less on the ground.

Alex Hornibrook has thrown 73 passes since his last interception, a stretch that covers seven games. The quarterback’s last interception came in the fourth quarter of Wisconsin’s win over Nebraska last October.

Wisconsin’s 59 points against Utah State were the most under Chryst since he returned as coach in 2015, and the most they’ve put up when he’s been calling plays since hanging 62 on Purdue on Nov. 5, 2011.

After taking the ball away from Utah State four times in the opener, the Badgers are averaging three turnovers forced per game over their last six contests.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 52, Florida Atlantic 13 (1-0 on the season, 1-0 against the spread)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 53, Florida Atlantic 14 (1-0 on the season, 1-0 against the spread)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 56, Florida Atlantic 10 (1-0 on the season, 1-0 against the spread)

Wisconsin holds steady in one poll, falls in another

MADISON — Wisconsin won its season opener 59-10 over Utah State last Friday, but it was not enough to impress those that vote in the national polls.

The Badgers dropped one spot in Amway Coaches Poll to No. 11, with Oklahoma State the team replacing them in the top 10.

Meanwhile, in the AP Top 25, Wisconsin passed Florida State, but stayed at No. 9 because Michigan jumped the Badgers, coming in at No. 8.

Overall, there were four teams in the top-10 of the AP poll, while the coaches’ poll had three.

Michigan remains the only team on Wisconsin’s schedule that is currently ranked in either poll, though three others are receiving votes in one or both of the surveys.

Full AP Poll

Full coaches’ poll

No. 9 Wisconsin overcomes a slow start to whip Utah State 59-10

MADISON — It took nearly 29 minutes, but No. 9 Wisconsin finally woke up. And once it did, the Badgers turned into a steamroller, scoring 59 unanswered points, including 49 in the second half, to beat Utah State 59-10 on Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium.

Play of the Game

Utah State led 10-7 with 1:01 left in the first half and had a first-and-10 at its own 18-yard line. The Badgers had just gotten their first points of the game, so it would have made sense for the Aggies to be satisfied with their lead and head into halftime. They apparently weren’t satisfied, as quarterback Kent Myers came out throwing and it turned into a disaster. His short toss to Carson Terrell on first down went off the receiver’s hands and right into the waiting arms of linebacker T.J. Edwards.

“That was huge,” safety D’Cota Dixon said afterwards. “It was the hammer and the nail. That’s exactly what you need, especially when you’re down. It was exactly what we needed.”

The interception only led to a field goal, but it was the first of many mistakes the rest of the way for Utah State, which would go on to turn the ball over four times.

Game Balls

Offense: TE Troy Fumagalli

Others were flashier, but the senior posted a career-high 105 yards receiving, picking up where he left off in Wisconsin’s Cotton Bowl victory last January.

His 15-yard catch on third-and-12 in the second quarter kept the Badgers first scoring drive of the game going, and then quarterback Alex Hornibrook found him wide open on third-and-2 early in the third quarter for a 23-yard touchdown.

With his big night, Fumagalli now sits fifth all-time in receiving yards for a tight end at Wisconsin, and will likely end up with the second-most by the time his career is over.

Defense: ILB T.J. Edwards

The junior was everywhere on Friday night, collecting seven tackles, one tackle for loss, picking off one pass and breaking up two more throws. His interception late in the second quarter proved to be the turning point in a game that Utah State led at that point.

But it wasn’t just the numbers for Edwards. It was the passion he played with, finishing off tackles with an emphasis. It was everything you’d expect out of one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten.

Special Teams: K Rafael Gaglianone

He only kicked one field goal — from just 29 yards — but Gaglianone gets the game ball because it was his first time on the field since suffering a season-ending back injury last September.

Wisconsin didn’t need his leg to win on Friday night, but history would suggest they’ll need it at some point this season.

Video of the Game

In their own words

Jonathan Taylor describes his first career touchdown, a 13-yard scamper in the third quarter.

Quote of the Day

“I always describe Coach Chryst as a dad away from home. He’s just the same guy. He’s very smooth, very calm, very collected. But, as a father would when a child needs to be disciplined and needs to be talked to, he will discipline us. He just honestly told us the truth. We were beating ourselves a lot.”

— Dixon on the loud and direct message that coach Paul Chryst gave the team at halftime on Friday night.

In Case You Missed It

— Wisconsin’s captains were defensive end Alec James, wide receiver Jazz Peavy, tight end Troy Fumagalli and safety Natrell Jamerson. The honorary captain was Al Toon, a member of UW’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

— Several true freshmen made their debuts on Friday, including running back Jonathan Taylor, wide receiver Danny Davis, quarterback Jack Coan, cornerback Madison Cone and long snapper Adam Bay.

— Fumagalli wore No. 48 in honor of senior linebacker Jack Cichy, who will miss the year with a torn ACL. Fumagalli said it was just a one time thing, but that he really wanted to do it to show Cichy how much he meant to the team.

— Junior Zander Neuville’s first career catch turned into his first career touchdown, as he tightroped down the sideline for the 28-yard score early in the third quarter. But it wouldn’t have been possible without the extra effort of Danny Davis, who managed to block three different guys to help get the tight end into the end zone.

— Wisconsin trailed 10-0 in the first half. It was the first time the Badgers had trailed by double digits in a non-conference home game since 2012 against — you guessed it — Utah State. The Badgers won that game 16-14.

Inside the Numbers

15:19 — That’s how long it took for Wisconsin to go from down 10-0 to up 38-10.

87 — That’s the number of rushing yards for freshman Jonathan Taylor in his first career game. It included a pretty 41-yard run on the first play of the second half to jump start the offense.

99 — That was the length of Joe Ferguson’s interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the longest return in school history.

3 — That’s the number of touchdowns Alex Hornibrook threw on Friday night, a career high and 1/3 of what he threw all of last year.

478 — That’s the number of yards Wisconsin’s offense rolled up. It’s the third-highest total since Chryst took over as coach in 2015.

What’s Next

Wisconsin (1-0) will host Florida Atlantic next Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. The Owls, in their first game under new coach Lane Kiffin, lost 42-19 to Navy on Friday.

Preview: (9) Wisconsin vs Utah State

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 9 Wisconsin Badgers (0-0) vs the Utah State Aggies (0-0)

The time: 8 p.m. CDT, Friday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: ESPN with Adam Amin and Dusty Dvoracek in the booth, and Molly McGrath on the sideline.

The last time: In 2012, Utah State’s Josh Thompson missed a 37-yard field goal with 6 seconds left, allowing Wisconsin to escape with a 16-14 victory over Gary Andersen and the Aggies.

The series: Tied 1-1

The line: Wisconsin -27.5

The Badgers injury report:

OUT

Game:

RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
WR Kendric Pryor (face)
WR George Rushing (leg)
FB Jake Whalen (head)

Season:

LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)

THE BREAKDOWN: FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) The start

Wisconsin opens the 2017 season with high expectations. The Badgers are a consensus top-10 team for the first time since 2007 and nearly everyone is picking them to take home a third Big Ten West title in four years. And by all indications they are capable of fulfilling those expectations and more. On a team-wide basis, this fall camp, at least what the media got to see, was the most impressive since at least 2013. Will what we saw in practice show up when the lights come on? If it does, watch out.

2) Year No. 2 for Alex Hornibrook

Wisconsin’s offense has a number of very accomplished veterans, but it’ll go only as far as sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook takes it.

The good news is that he appears primed to lead it to new heights. After going 7-2 as a starter in 2016, Hornibrook set out to eliminate weaknesses in his game, spending his winter and spring break in California with quarterback guru George Whitfield, attending the invite-only Manning Passing Academy in June and leading player-only throwing sessions. The results, at least in fall camp, have been more than positive. His pocket presence is vastly improved and he has a little more zip on his passes, allowing him to fit throws into tighter spaces.

Fans will get to judge it for themselves on Friday, but the consensus among media members was Hornibrook took a big step from last fall.

3) The replacements

The Badgers lost a number of really talented players from their 2016 squad that are now fighting for jobs in the NFL, and many eyes will be on their replacements.

It starts at left tackle, where All-American Ryan Ramczyk left early for the draft and was a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints. Wisconsin went with junior Michael Deiter as his replacement, and while he’s started 27 straight games, none of them have come at tackle. His ability to handle the edge is paramount for the offense.

In the backfield, Wisconsin lost more than 1,800 yards rushing from Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale. That void will be filled by at least three players and maybe more as junior Chris James, sophomore Bradrick Shaw and freshman Jonathan Taylor battle for carries.

On defense, outside linebacker Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt got drafted in April, but their fill-ins — seniors Garrett Dooley and Leon Jacobs — are more than capable of stepping up, especially Jacobs, who had a monster fall camp and has the makings of a dominant pass rusher.

And in the secondary, where cornerback Sojourn Shelton and safety Leo Musso needed to be replaced, the Badgers appear to have top-flight options in the form of transfer Nick Nelson at cornerback and wide receiver-turned-cornerback-turned safety in senior Natrell Jamerson.

4) Young guys on deck

Wisconsin isn’t known for playing a lot of true freshmen, but there are a number of them in the two-deep, including three at skill positions.

Jack Coan beat out redshirt freshman Kare Lyles for the backup quarterback job, Taylor’s performance in the final few weeks of fall camp has the coaching staff salivating over his potential and wide receiver Danny Davis has proven to be as good as his 4-star recruiting ranking suggests.

Taylor and Davis are almost guarantees to play, while it remains to be seen how coach Paul Chryst wants to use Coan in blowout situations.

5) Back in time

After two so-so years, the Wisconsin offensive line looks to be on the verge of returning to the dominating form it’s showed so often over the last 25 years. There aren’t any seniors, but nearly all the contributors are in their third or fourth years in the program, having gained the strength and experience necessary for success. Utah State’s defensive line might not be the greatest test, but it is the first and it’s one the line is ready to attack.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Wisconsin has won 37 straight home games against non-conference teams, the second-longest streak in the country. The last loss came in 2003.

Friday will be the sixth time the Badgers have opened the season with a night game at home. They are 4-1 in those games, including a 51-17 whipping of UNLV in 2011.

Senior Troy Fumagalli needs 81 yards to move into fifth-place for career receiving yards among tight ends in Wisconsin history. If he puts up the same numbers he did a year ago — 580 yards — he would finish his career with the second-most yards for a tight end at UW.

PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Wisconsin 41, Utah State 3 (0-0 on the season)
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 44, Utah State 6 (0-0 on the season)
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 42 , Utah State 7 (0-0 on the season)

Wisconsin has its No. 2 quarterback

MADISON — Following Wisconsin’s scrimmage last Friday, coach Paul Chryst said it was too early to name a No. 2 quarterback. Six days later, Chryst has made a decision.

During a Thursday night appearance on 100.5 FM in Madison, the third-year coach said true freshman Jack Coan would serve as Alex Hornibrook’s backup in 2017. Coan beat out redshirt freshman Kare Lyles for the job.

A 3-star recruit, the Sayville, N.Y. native enrolled early after setting Long Island career records by throwing for 9,787 yards and 128 touchdowns. He added another 2,551 yards and 33 touchdowns on the ground.

During spring practice and fall camp, Coan flashed the attributes that allowed him to be so prolific as a prep, though his lack of experience was evident in terms of his inconsistency.

It remains unclear how Chryst will choose to use his backup quarterbacks. Most coaches wouldn’t want to burn a true freshman’s redshirt year just for some mop-up duty, but Chryst also has to make sure Coan is ready if Hornibrook were to miss any significant time.

If Coan does play, he’ll have done something few others at Wisconsin have in the last 30 years. Using a true freshman at quarterback in Madison is almost unheard of, with the last one to start a game being Lionel Crawford in 1988.

Wisconsin will open its season Sept. 1 against Utah State at Camp Randall Stadium.

LB Jack Cichy to miss 2017 season

MADISON — Wisconsin has lost senior linebacker Jack Cichy for the 2017 season.

The school announced Wednesday morning that the former walk-on had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during practice on Tuesday. Cichy will undergo surgery in Chicago on Friday.

“You hate it for Jack,” coach Paul Chryst said in a statement released by the school . “You only get so many chances to play this game and you never want to see a guy miss any of those opportunities. He’s one of the leaders of our team and I know he’ll be a big part of what we do moving forward this season.”

The Somerset, Wis., native went down clutching his right knee without being touched during a drill Tuesday night. He walked off under his own power and later returned to practice but was clearly still bothered by it.

Inside linebacker is among the deepest positions on Wisconsin’s roster. Junior T.J. Edwards is entering his third year as a starter, junior Ryan Connelly started the final seven games of last season and sophomore Chris Orr started six games a true freshman in 2015.

Cichy, named a captain by his teammates, missed the final seven games of last year after tearing his left pectoral. Despite that, he still earned All-Big Ten honorable mention by racking up 60 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Wisconsin cancels practice in Milwaukee due to threat of severe weather

MADISONWisconsin won’t be holding a scrimmage in Milwaukee after all.

The school announced Wednesday afternoon that with the potential for severe weather in the area on Thursday, it had decided to cancel the open practice that was going to held at Custer Stadium in the afternoon.

“It’s disappointing that we’re unable to go to Milwaukee,” coach Paul Chryst said in a release from the school. “I know there was a lot of planning that took place and I’d like to thank Bill Molbeck of Milwaukee Public Schools for all his help. Our hope is to be able to visit at some point in the future.”

Officials said a decision needed to be made by Wednesday because of the logistics involved with moving an entire team and all of its equipment to another location.

Like he did with Barry Alvarez, former coach Lou Holtz made an impression on the current Badgers

MADISON — Lou Holtz has been one of the biggest professional influences in Barry Alvarez’s life. The Hall of Fame coach hired Alvarez to oversee the linebackers at Notre Dame in 1987 and then had him run his defense the two years after that. The lessons learned and the advice gained during that short time together stayed with Alvarez during his 16 years as the head coach at Wisconsin and his 14 years as the school’s athletic director. So when Alvarez offered to have Holtz come speak to this year’s team, current coach Paul Chryst was receptive to the idea.

“Certainly there’s a lot of the philosophical foundational pieces that Coach Alvarez got from him, and I certainly have gotten from Coach Alvarez,” Chryst said of the points hammered home by Holtz. “The game is a vehicle we can use to teach and help these young guys grow. It was a good message.”

A majority of the players these days know Holtz more for his time on TV than as the coach of six different college programs, including his 11 years with the Fighting Irish where he led the program to its 11th national title in 1988. Yet, despite the nearly 60-year age difference between Holtz and most of the Badgers, his message to them of knowing their role on the team, and the need to embrace it, hit home with several players.

LISTEN: CB Derrick Tindal says it’s time the UW secondary gets some respect.

“Don’t be the guy that [doesn’t] accept your role,” cornerback Derrick Tindal said of what stood out to him. “Everybody can’t be a superstar. Everybody can’t be a starter. If your job is on special teams, and we need you to block, do that to the best of your ability.

“You think I like going out there to block on punt return sometimes? [No.] But I’m going to do whatever to help the team. I don’t care if it’s punt return, kickoff, kick return. They can put me on the front line if they want to. If they feel like that’s what is going to help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.

“I thought [coach] Holtz did a good job of [getting that message across].”

In recent years, injuries have forced Wisconsin to adapt on the fly and go deep into its roster to find replacements. And it’s worked well because players haven’t fallen into the trap of just going through the motions when they know they’ll likely be back on the bench when the first-team player returns. Instead, they’ve seen an opportunity and pounced on it, sometimes with stellar results.

LISTEN: UW coach Paul Chryst says the backup QBs are still very early in their development.

It was that type of work that led to the rise of linebackers Jack Cichy, Chris Orr and Ryan Connelly in the last two seasons, while also giving wide receiver Jazz Peavy the break he needed when guys at his position went down. Wisconsin’s football history is littered with similar examples.

“Embracing your role on this team and never being content with anything that you’re doing,” Orr said of his biggest takeaway from Holtz’s speech. “I think that was a good message for young guys and old guys [to hear].”

For nose guard Garrett Rand, whose high school coach played for Holtz at Notre Dame, the overriding theme was to focus on holding up his end of the bargain and expect his teammates to do the same.

“Even for the guys that aren’t playing as much, do your job,” Rand said. “[If you do] your job, everything else will be fine.”

The versatile Michael Deiter, Alex Hornibrook works with Peyton Manning and a practice in Milwaukee

MADISON — What appeared to be a move out of necessity in the spring has turned into a legitimate possibility for the University of Wisconsin.

When the Badgers open fall camp on Saturday, junior Michael Deiter, who has started a total of 27 games at left guard and center the last two years, will be lining up at left tackle with the first-team offense. The Curtice, Ohio native saw time at the position near the end of spring when sophomore David Edwards went down with an ankle injury, but it was unclear if the move would be long-term. While things can certainly change before Wisconsin opens the season on Sept. 1 against Utah State, Deiter is penciled in as the replacement for All-American Ryan Ramczyk.

“I was more comfortable than I expected,” Deiter said of the move on Friday afternoon at Wisconsin’s local media day. “The transition wasn’t as intense as I thought it was going to be. It was pretty natural. I’m really excited to see what I can do at the start of camp out there.”

Edwards will open camp back at right tackle, which is where he started the final seven games of the 2016 season. He’s expected to battle redshirt freshman Patrick Kasl for that job.

LISTEN: OC Joe Rudolph on what Michael Deiter’s versatility could mean for him in the NFL

Wisconsin, especially during coach Paul Chryst’s tenure, has been focused on trying to get its best five players on the field along the line no matter the positions the guys are playing. By having Deiter at left tackle, and Edwards back on the right side, the coaching staff thinks, at least at this point, this is the best way to do it.

The move of Deiter could not be possible without the emergence of redshirt freshman Tyler Biadasz. Though he had never played center before coming to Wisconsin, the 6-foot-3, 316-pound, Biadasz took right to the position and the staff almost used him a year ago when injuries cropped up. In the spring, with several players sitting out, the Amherst, Wis., product took almost all of the first-team reps at center to put himself in the mix.

“Tyler wants it. You feel that, and the players feel that throughout the room,” offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph said Friday. “He’s tough. He worked from day one. He wants the stress of making the right calls and executing. That’s why he’s got a right — and a great opportunity — to start at center.”

Practice in Milwaukee

Wisconsin will take fall camp on the road this year, with the school announcing Friday it will hold a practice in Milwaukee that will be open to the public. The team will then take in a Milwaukee Brewers game.

“I’ve always felt it would be great for Wisconsin to go to Milwaukee,” Chryst said. “You appreciate all the fans from the Milwaukee area that come here all the time.”

The practice will take place on Aug. 10 at Custer Stadium and should help to break up the monotony that takes hold during fall camp.

“I thought it’d be a good day for us,” Chryst said. “And then to be able to tie in something that would be a good experience for our players, go the Brewer game, I thought it’d be a good day.”

Alex Hornibrook with Peyton Manning

Named Wisconsin’s starting quarterback before spring practice, Alex Hornibrook continued his push to improve this offseason. The redshirt sophomore was among more than 40 college quarterbacks invited to take part in the Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana in late June.

Started by former NFL quarterback Archie Manning in 1996, the camp is described as the premier offensive football skills camp in the nation for QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs. Two of Manning’s sons that went on to star in the NFL as quarterbacks — Peyton and Eli — are a part of it, which made it special for Hornibrook.

“The coolest thing was probably just being around Peyton and Eli,” Hornibrook said. “Those are two guys I’ve looked up to my whole life. Peyton is still my all-time favorite quarterback. To be able to be there and learn from him was an awesome experience.”

LISTEN: Alex Hornibrook talks about how he came to be a Peyton Manning fan.

Scholarship players missing

The Badgers can carry 105 players on their fall camp roster, so scholarship guys rarely get left off. But that will be the case this fall for a few of them.

Four guys — right tackle Jake Maxwell, linebacker Mason Stokke, cornerback Faion Hicks and running back Sam Broadner — were not on the roster distributed to the media on Friday due to injuries. Maxwell had offseason shoulder surgery and missed spring practice. Stokke sustained a knee injury and Chryst said during Big Ten media days in Chicago that he suffered a setback this summer. Hicks, an early enrollee, underwent shoulder surgery midway through spring practice. And Broadner suffered a knee injury in the spring game.

It’s unclear when, or if, any of the four will be able to join the team at any point during fall camp.

A fifth player, junior nose guard Jeremy Patterson, was also not included on the roster. A 3-star recruit out of Georgia, the 6-foot-3, 351-pound Patterson has been unable to get on the field for any meaningful snaps in his career and had been passed by some younger players in the spring.

Quote of the day

“Center, two guards, two tackles.”

— Rudolph when asked by a reporter what his lineup along the offensive line would be if they had a game tomorrow.

Expectations change but the message doesn’t, UW-ND at Lambeau, and a longer fall camp

CHICAGO — Some thought Wisconsin wouldn’t win more than six games in 2016. No way were the Badgers going to make it through an early season gauntlet that had them facing LSU, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska all within the first eight games of the season. But they did more than just make it through. They vastly exceeded expectations, going 4-2 against those teams on their way to earning a Big Ten West title and a victory in the Cotton Bowl against Western Michigan.

With 15 starters back on a team likely to start the year in the top-15 in the country, the script of questions at the start of Big Ten Media Days this week in Chicago had gone in the complete opposite direction from where they were a year ago. They were still still about the schedule, but instead of which games can the Badgers win, the questions were more focused on which games — or perhaps game — could trip them up?

There is no Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State or SEC team on this year’s slate, and that’s led oddsmakers to put their over/under win total at 9.5 games. If they don’t win north of that number with what many are calling an easy schedule, some fans may lose their minds over what would surely be a disappointment in their eyes.

“That’s just an outsiders view,” junior linebacker T.J. Edwards said Monday on ‘The Camp’. “At the end of the day, every team we play is going to be a good team. If we don’t come out ready to play, they’re going to let us know [how good they are] by beating us.”

Coach Paul Chryst seemed adamant about not allowing his guys to think like outsiders do, especially after they so often had to answer the negative questions last summer.

“It’s the same talking points. It’s just flipped,” he said. “If you were going to buy into that last year, and agree you can’t worry about what’s said, now you can’t all of a sudden start reading and saying, ‘This is right.’ They know better. We’ve got to make sure they do.”

While the Badgers are the favorites to win the Big Ten West — 31 of 38 voters in a preseason media poll picked them — they aren’t expected to end up as conference champions. Most think that’ll be Ohio State or someone else from the East Division, which is thought to be much stronger than the one Wisconsin resides in and has won twice in the last three years. But Chryst is consistent in his thoughts about that outside noise.

“[I] certainly have a ton of respect for Ohio State and Coach [Urban] Meyer and the players they have,” Chryst said. “[But] that’s what is great about this season. You have to go play it. And all the talk doesn’t really matter.”

Finally going to happen

It’s looking like Wisconsin will be playing in more professional football stadiums in the near future.

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday morning that the Badgers and Notre Dame were in talks to play a game at Soldier Field. Then, at the team’s annual shareholders meeting later in the morning, Green Bay Packers team president Mark Murphy told reporters they were getting close to a deal that would have the teams play at Lambeau Field, too.

“We’ve been working on that for a while, and I would hope very soon we’d be able to announce something soon,” Murphy said, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. “Obvious [that] a Notre Dame-Wisconsin would be pretty special.”

Until it is announced, we won’t know the exactly details, but it seems likely that it will look similar to the series the Badgers had with LSU, playing at NRG Stadium in Houston in 2014 and then at Lambeau Field in 2016.

Wisconsin and Notre Dame have long been mentioned as potential opponents, especially with former coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez’s time there as an assistant before he came to the Badgers in 1990. Former coach Bret Bielema had also been pushing for a game with the Irish.

“It means we’d play Notre Dame,” Chryst said with a laugh when asked what it would mean to play Notre Dame. “It was neat for our players to play in Lambeau. That was a good experience.

“I don’t know where all those [conversations] are at, but I think it could be pretty cool.”

The two teams haven’t played each other since 1964, and Notre Dame leads the series 8-6-2 all-time.

No two-a-days

Wisconsin will report to fall camp on Friday, with their first practice coming on Saturday, which more than a week earlier than they started last year. Why? Well, a new rule put in place by the NCAA has made it so you can no longer hold two-a-days — a name for when there are two practices in a single day.

The Badgers started camp in 2016 on Aug. 8, 26 days before they opened the season. With things getting underway on Saturday, they will have 34 days before they play Utah State on Sept. 1.

“You try to come up with a good plan and be ready to adjust it if you need to,” Chryst said of tackling a more drawn out preseason. “In my mind, how do you take what used to be fall camp, which was kind of fun — it was a grind — and now make it more fall practice? How do you space it out?”

The idea behind the change was made with player safety in mind, though no one has anyway of knowing whether limiting the number of practices per day will also limit injuries, especially because there will be an additional week of practice thrown in. It was also thought that most players would be in favor of it, and maybe they are. But one Wisconsin player says he’s not a fan.

“I think if you can have camp shorter, but get the same amount of practices in, I think it benefits the team,” Edwards said Monday on ‘The Camp.’ “Once you get camp over you can really stretch out the time and get guys rest.”

Still, Edwards admitted he wasn’t sure what would really change.

“It’s not a huge deal. It’s still going to be camp,” said Edwards, who has missed much of the last two summers due to injury. “It is what it is. You’ve got to attack it no matter what.”