After two weeks of uninspiring, unimpressive performances the Wisconsin Badgers were knocked off 24-21 by the BYU Cougars at Camp Randall.
Wisconsin entered Saturday with a non-conference home winning streak dating back to 2003 and hopes of an undefeated season and left the field with neither of those things still intact. Wisconsin is a more talented team than BYU, in the opinion of most, but that certainly did not show on this sundrenched Saturday afternoon.
Don’t get things twisted, Wisconsin deserved this. The Badgers opened up the season at No. 4 in the AP Top 25 before dropping one spot in after each of the first two games. The sixth-ranked squad wasn’t impressive in either of their 31-point victories over Western Kentucky and New Mexico and they certainly weren’t in this loss.
BYU came into Saturday’s game as 22.5-point underdogs by the oddsmakers in Las Vegas. The Cougars weren’t supposed to be able to give Wisconsin a close game, much less knock them from the ranks of the unbeaten.
It’s easy to point at the missed field goal by Rafael Gaglianone with under one minute remaining that would’ve tied the game as the reason for Wisconsin’s loss, but it’s deeper than that.
Wisconsin wasn’t just beat on Saturday. The Badgers were beat at their own game. BYU came into Camp Randall and was the more physical team, seemed to out scheme the Badgers, and looked more prepared. The Cougars used tons of misdirection offensively – including a multitude of jet sweeps and end arounds, which is a Wisconsin staple – to keep Jim Leonhard’s unit off balance.
BYU even scored on a trick play, and it was very similar to one that the Badgers had seen before, just not by BYU. In Week 1, Western Kentucky ran a very similar double-pass to the one that the Cougars used to take a 14-7 lead over Wisconsin in the second quarter.
Offensively, Wisconsin’s highly touted offensive line struggled against a physical front. BYU’s linebackers had little trouble navigating blockers throughout the day as they held Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor to a season-low 117 yards on the ground.
BYU’s three starting linebackers were all among the game’s five leading tacklers. Sione Takitaki led the way with 13 total stops on the day. It seemed as if he was around the ball on every play.
Maybe Wisconsin was caught looking ahead to next weekend’s showdown under the lights on the road against Iowa. Maybe Wisconsin hasn’t fully moved on from the success that was the 2017 season. But right now, the Badgers don’t look like the force, or playoff contender, that many expected them to be.
Those dreams aren’t dead, but the Badgers have some soul searching to do because another performance like the one against BYU will be enough to put the nail in Wisconsin’s coffin.
“I think all of our goals that we want to achieve are still right in front of us,” linebacker T.J. Edwards said after the loss. “It starts with beating Iowa and winning the West which is never an easy thing to do. We have a big opponent next week and you don’t really think big picture, you just go week-to-week. That’s something we do really well.”
Edwards is right, if Wisconsin finishes out the season with 10 consecutive wins, there is still a chance they find themselves in the College Football Playoff. That’s entirely possible, especially with trips to Penn State and Michigan as resume boosters.
The problem for Wisconsin, however, is that this team has shown little to inspire the confidence to believe that’s a realistic possibility.
The game is set for November 7, 2020, and will be the first football game at Wrigley Field since Northwestern lost to the University of Illinois 48-27 back in 2010.
While the game is a Northwestern home game, this marks the second game on the schedule for the Badgers in the 2020 season that will take place at a non-traditional college stadium. The Badgers will also be taking on the University of Notre Dame at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on October 3, 2020.
When Jack Cichy was in high school, he had just one major goal when it came to the game of football, and it wasn’t playing in the NFL.
“I wanted to walk-on and play big-time college football,” Cichy said Friday when he joined “The Joe and Ebo Show” on the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network. “When you’re in a position like I was, the NFL really isn’t in your mindset. I wasn’t even thinking that far ahead.”
The thought of playing in the NFL is no longer considered too far ahead. It’s actually the former Wisconsin linebacker’s only focus. Well, that and rehabbing from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that cost him his senior season. But the two are very much intertwined and have been almost since the day Cichy let out a scream that reverberated throughout a mostly empty Camp Randall Stadium last August as he crumpled to the ground holding his knee. It was in that moment, and in the following days, that he started to realize he’d played his last game for the Badgers.
Former Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy joins “The Joe & Ebo Show”
The feeling wasn’t unfamiliar as a torn pectoral muscle had brought his junior season to end after just seven games the previous October. That was excruciating for Cichy, who might have been playing the best of anyone on the Badgers’ defense at the time. So good, in fact, that he said if he had played the entire year, he might have considered leaving early for the NFL.
But the devastating injury last fall had a feeling of finality to it. A fifth-year senior, Cichy could have applied for another year of eligibility, though the chances of the NCAA actually granting it were slim. Instead, he turned his attention to something that seemed unfathomable when he arrived in Madison four and a half years earlier as a nondescript walk-on from Somerset, Wis., — playing in the NFL.
“My thought process [was], I need all my eggs in one basket, and I can’t have that if I’m stuck waiting for that decision,” Cichy said of a potential appeal to the NCAA. “At that point in my life, with the rollercoaster of emotions I’d gone through and was going through, I needed something concrete. I chose what I thought was the most concrete route.”
After a season of essentially rehabbing and serving as an extra defensive coach for the Badgers as they repeated as Big Ten West champions and won the Orange Bowl, that route has brought Cichy to Arizona and the EXOS training facility. It’s where NFL hopefuls like Cichy go to get themselves in the best shape for the annual NFL combine held in late February and early March.
Cichy got a coveted invite to the combine based largely on his outstanding production late in the 2015 season and what he put on tape early in 2016. He started just 11 games during that stretch but was off the charts productive, averaging 8.5 tackles per game, while racking up 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. It’s even more impressive when you consider he missed large stretches in three of those games thanks to being ejected from one, forced to miss the first half of another and getting injured in a third.
Those glimpses of excellent play has teams intrigued and they want to see more. But unlike his roommate and Wisconsin teammate Troy Fumagalli, who is also at EXOS and working on his 40-yard dash, vertical leap and every other on-field test NFL personnel will put players through at the combine, Cichy is still very much in rehab mode.
“At the combine, I’ll be able to bench and I’ll be able to go through all the medical evals,” said Cichy, who is right around six months clear from surgery. “I’ll keep working towards coming back fully and not rushing it.”
The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Cichy admits he’s not quite sure how the next few months will play out. That’s a change from his time at Wisconsin, where the calendar was structured and he always knew what was coming next. The hope, at least in his mind, is he’ll be able to show how far along he is in his rehab at Wisconsin’s pro day in March and in any private workouts with individual teams in the weeks that follow.
“As we get closer to the draft, hopefully my recovery process [remains] on schedule … and there are no hiccups along the way,” Cichy said. “And [then] come the end of April, [I] hear my name called in some way, shape or form. Be able to have another chance to earn a spot.”
Wisconsin outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar will become the defensive coordinator at Oregon State, as Rivals.com first reported on Sunday.
Oregon State underwent a coaching change midseason when former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen abruptly resigned. The Beavers hired Jonathan Smith as his replacement on Nov. 29. Smith was previously the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Washington.
Tibesar has been the outside linebackers coach for the Badgers for the past three seasons. He also was named the defensive run game coordinator prior to the 2017 season.
The defensive coordinator position at Wisconsin came open twice during his time in Madison, and he applied both times. The first came after the 2015 season when Dave Aranda left for LSU and the second came last January when Justin Wilcox was hired as the head coach at California. He was passed over both times.
In his time at Wisconsin, Tibesar has seen three of his players selected in the NFL draft in Joe Schobert (Cleveland Browns), T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh Steelers), and Vince Biegel (Green Bay Packers). Outside linebackers Garrett Dooley and Leon Jacobs may hear their names called this spring in the draft.
This will be Tibesar’s fifth defensive coordinator position. He has previously held the position for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League (2011), as well as in the collegiate ranks at Purdue (2012), North Dakota (2004-05), and Kansas (2006-07).
MADISON — Wisconsin graduate assistant Al Johnson has been named the head coach at East Central University, the school has announced.
Johnson was in his second year as a graduate assistant at Wisconsin during the 2017 season. He helped out offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph with offensive line duties during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Johnson was a stand-out offensive lineman for Wisconsin from 2000-2002. He was a three-year starter and was named All-Big Ten as an honorable mention for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team for the 2002 season. Johnson was then selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
East Central University is a Division II institution located in Ada, Okla.
INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio State’s football program is nationally regarded as one of the historic powers of the sport. The Buckeyes have won eight national championships, possess seven Heisman trophies, and have won the Big Ten 35 times in the program’s history. The program is filled with star power, both currently and traditionally. Head coach Urban Meyer is considered one of the best in the world at his profession, and the program is truly elite. The operation run in Columbus, Ohio is one that nearly every program in the country strives to be. Very few can boast more impressive historical resumes.
For as good as Wisconsin has been in recent memory, they don’t have the historical relevance that the Buckeyes do. That won’t matter on Saturday when the two teams square off in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis.
The Badgers aren’t trying to close the gap on Ohio State as a program, they’re trying to win one game and earn their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.
“It’s tough, obviously they have a lot of talent, but we have a lot of talent,” linebacker T.J. Edwards told the media. “The [recruiting] stars and stuff, it doesn’t mean much going into this game. We know we’re going to get their best and that’s not really something we’re focused on because we know we can match just about anything in the country.”
Since 2000, Wisconsin has had 38 recruits that have garnered either four or five stars, per 247. Ohio State has had 227 such players. The Buckeyes currently have more four and five-star players on their current roster than the Badgers have had in the past 17 years.
This isn’t something that’s new. Looking at the top eight in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, the Badgers are far behind the other seven teams. There are currently six players on Wisconsin’s roster that garnered a four-star rating out of high school, and none that were five stars. Ohio State has 62 such players rostered.
Ohio State is as successful of a program as they are in part due to the gaudy number of immensely talents players they’ve brought in. Wisconsin does things much differently. The Badgers develop kids and take an incredible amount of pride in their walk-on program. Very few, if any, other major college football programs have had this much success with that method.
The Buckeyes enter the game favored by nearly everyone. Despite their two losses this season, they get the benefit of the doubt. The Badgers are routinely criticized for going unbeaten through a primarily weak schedule, despite having two more wins against bowl-eligible teams than Ohio State does. Part of the reasoning for that is due to the amount of respect Ohio State gets natural talent the Buckeyes have, and possibly a little bit of disrespect of the way Wisconsin develops their talent.
The Buckeyes are going to continue to be in the national spotlight, and they’ve earned that. The Badgers shouldn’t be slept on, however. Wisconsin has been one of the best in the country over the past decade. They’ve won 100 games over the past 10 years, which is no small feat. In fact, only a few teams have won more games in that span, and Ohio State (110 wins) is one of them.
“I think it’s another great opportunity to prove that we are legit, that we are the team that we think we are,” tight end Troy Fumagalli, a former walk-on, said of the matchup with the Buckeyes. “I think it’s another great opportunity with another great team.”
The Buckeyes have an immense amount of talent. They’re one of the most talented in not only the Big Ten, but the country as well. At times, however, they haven’t shown up. There have been a number of occasions this season where Ohio State has failed to play up to their capabilities. Their 55-24 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes was the most drastic instance. On a weekly basis, the world can question as to which Ohio State team is going to show up.
The Badgers had moments where they didn’t play to their highest potential against lesser opponents, but still found a way to win. That’s the sign of a team that has things figured out despite not always being the most talented on the field.
Ohio State hasn’t had a game this season where they haven’t had the talent edge. Even in their two losses, the Buckeyes could make the argument that they had more individually talented pieces. In all of their wins, the Badgers have been able to say that the sum of their parts is greater than the individual pieces.
INDIANAPOLIS – Wisconsin heads into Saturday’s matchup with Ohio State searching for their first Big Ten Championship since 2012. The Badgers enter the game perfect on the season at 12-0, but haven’t faced a team quite as talented as the Buckeyes to date.
The Buckeyes come into the contest at 10-2 on the season. At times, they’ve looked like one of the best teams in the country, but on other occasions they’ve looked rather pedestrian.
Here are three keys to a Badger win on Saturday night:
1. Ohio State defensive lineman Nick Bosa was awarded as the Big Ten Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the year earlier this week. The matchup between Bosa and the Wisconsin offensive line will be a very interesting one to watch on Saturday. So far, this season Bosa has 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks and both of those marks pace the Buckeyes.
“I think [Ohio State] and Michigan had some of the best edge rushers I’ve seen this year,” offensive lineman Michael Deiter said earlier this week. “One-hundred percent it will be my biggest challenge, especially on this stage, out there at tackle.”
Not only was Deiter speaking about Bosa, but also defensive end Sam Hubbard. Hubbard was a consensus second-team All-Big Ten this year and has 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks on the year. Things don’t end there for the Buckeye defensive line, Tyquan Lewis was also a consensus first-team selection, and Dre’mont Jones was named to the third-team by the media.
Wisconsin likely has the best offensive line that Ohio State has faced this season, but this will be a true battle of strengths. The Badgers must be able to open holes for freshman running back Jonathan Taylor to help keep quarterback Alex Hornibrook out of obvious passing situations. When the Badgers do fall into obvious throwing situations, the offensive line must keep Hornibrook upright.
2. Hornibrook’s favorite target this year has been senior tight end Troy Fumagalli. He leads the Badgers with 38 grabs on the season for 471 yards and four touchdowns despite missing some time due to injury. On the contrary, Ohio State has struggled defending tight ends in the play-action passing game at times this season.
Against Iowa, the Buckeyes allowed a combined nine catches for 125 yards and four touchdowns to tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant of the Hawkeyes. Those two aren’t necessarily mirror images of Fumagalli, but the area of weakness remains on the Buckeye defense. As recent as last week there were multiple instances of intermediate routes being open for Michigan’s offense. Wolverines’ quarterback John O’Korn was unable to find his teammates, however.
Hornibrook should be able to find Fumagalli in key situations, just as he has often attempted to do this year. That’s an area of weakness that the Badgers should look to exploit.
3. When Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was removed from the game against Michigan last week immediate uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position for the Buckeyes emerged. Backup Dwayne Haskins entered the game for Ohio State and helped them to win the game.
News broke during the week that Barrett had surgery on his knee on Sunday following the Michigan game but is expected to play against Wisconsin. His effectiveness is yet to be seen. Ohio State head coach told the media that Barrett had practiced throughout the week and is cleared to play, but never declared Barrett the starter.
Barrett is a quarterback that’s able to extend plays and escape the pocket when things break down around him. If his knee isn’t right and his running ability suffers because of that, Wisconsin’s already stout defense could be in even better position. The Badgers would be able to key on running backs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins in running situations and presumably be able to get to Barrett easier when the pocket collapses.
Barrett has been inconsistent throwing the ball, even when he’s been healthy. Wisconsin’s defense could take control of the game and force Barrett into mistakes and make things much more difficult than they normally do. Wisconsin’s chance at winning improves exponentially if those things happen.
Prediction: Early in the week I was leaning towards taking the Buckeyes, and I did go on record picking them before news of Barrett’s knee procedure broke. His health is my deciding factor, it takes an incredibly special athlete to be able to play in a football game six days after having surgery. While I commend Barrett for having the guts to try and suit up with his teammates, I don’t think he’ll play well enough for the Buckeyes to win.
MADISON – Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has been named the Big Ten Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, the conference announced. This is the first time a Badger has won the award since linebacker Chris Borland and running back James White won back-to-back awards in 2009 and 2010. In total, Taylor is the sixth Badger to take home this honor since the award was instituted in 1986.
This season Taylor set a new Big Ten record for the most Freshman of the Week honors given out by the conference. He earned the award eight times, breaking the previous record of seven set by Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett in 2014.
Taylor, a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, has accumulated 1,806 yards to date and 13 touchdowns. He has an opportunity to become the FBS leader in rushing yards by a freshman, needing 303 yards to pass Ron Dayne’s mark of 2,106 from 1996. Taylor currently sits in third place on the freshman list, Adrian Peterson had 1,925 in 2004 at Oklahoma.
He’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark in nine of Wisconsin’s 12 games, including going over the 150-yard mark five times, including three games of over 200 yards.
Taylor did not win the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year, nor the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year. Those awards went to Saquon Barkley of Penn State. This is the second consecutive year that Barkley has taken home each honor.