Wisconsin to play at Wrigley Field in 2020

When the University of Wisconsin Badgers take on Northwestern in the 2020 football season it won’t be in Evanston, Ill. at Ryan Field. According to the Chicago Tribune, the game will be played at Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs.

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.

Rehab continues for former Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy as he sets his sights on a new goal

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.”

Report: Wisconsin linebackers coach to become Oregon State defensive coordinator

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).

Wisconsin graduate assistant named East Central University head coach

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.

Wisconsin’s sum is greater than the individual pieces

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.

Big Ten Championship; Three keys to Wisconsin winning

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.

Wisconsin 24-21

Jonathan Taylor named Big Ten Freshman of the Year

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.

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)

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor wins Big Ten Freshman of the Week award

MADISON – Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor was honored as the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the eighth time this season, the conference announced Monday.

Taylor’s eighth Big Ten Freshman of the Week award gives him most all-time in the Big Ten. He was tied with Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, who won the award seven times in 2014. Taylor has now won the honor four weeks in a row and seven of the last eight weeks. The sole week during that stretch he did not win the award was against Illinois when he only played in the first half due to an ankle injury.

Taylor earned this award with 149 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries against Minnesota. It was the ninth time he has crossed the 100-yard mark in a game this season. He currently leads the Big Ten in rushing yards with 1,806 through 12 games. Taylor also has 13 rushing touchdowns for Wisconsin.

His mark of 1,806 yards is also the third most in FBS history for a freshman He sits behind only Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma, 2004) who had 1,925 yards and Wisconsin great Ron Dayne who finished with 2,109 yards in 1996.

The Badgers will travel to Indianapolis to take on Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night at 7PM.

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.