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12 Wisconsin

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OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

They're really, really good up front on both sides of the ball. There's going to be a change on defense, with new coordinator Jim Leonhard taking over after a year as the defensive backs coach. He played at Wisconsin and has been through the NFL, so there will be a couple tweaks to the defense, but I don't think there's going to be a lot of change. They've done a good job defensively, and they have a lot of guys back. Up front there are four that have started and played a lot. Inside linebackers [6'2", 233-pound senior] JACK CICHY and [6'1", 246-pound junior] T.J. Edwards are good players. And inside linebacker Chris Orr [a 6-foot, 226-pound junior] was hurt a year ago. I think they'll be good at outside linebacker, but not as good without Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt [both drafted].

On O, they're always going to run the football. In the passing game they're going to try to get some big plays down the field. They've got a new quarterback in [6'4", 213-pound sophomore] Alex Hornibrook, and he's been in the mold of some of their previous guys—he's a game manager who can run and throw some. Watching them toward the end of last year, they had some guys outside that could make some big plays.

And most of the time, the well-coached, fundamental teams are good at special teams. Wisconsin fits that mold.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % (27TH)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT (37TH)

COMPLETION % (21ST)

YARDS PER CARRY (71ST)

SACKS ALLOWED (41ST)

TURNOVERS LOST (19TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE (12TH)

YARDS PER PLAY (77TH)

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % ALLOWED (3RD)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT ALLOWED (18TH)

COMPLETION % ALLOWED (11TH)

YARDS PER CARRY ALLOWED (9TH)

SACKS (33RD)

TURNOVERS GAINED (14TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE ALLOWED (4TH)

YARDS PER PLAY ALLOWED (14TH)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RATING

42

Wisconsin has the personnel—especially on D—to win the Big Ten West. A season-ending trip to Minnesota (11/25) will be a challenge, as will a trip to Nebraska (10/7). Even if the Badgers lose to Michigan (11/18) in a crossover showdown, a win in the Big Ten title tilt could catapult them into the playoff.

THE PLAYER TO KNOW

Wisconsin's running game rebounded in a big way in 2016 behind star back Corey Clement, but now he's off to the NFL, and the Badgers will have to replace his production. Enter Pittsburgh transfer CHRIS JAMES, a 5'11", 216-pound junior and former four-star recruit. In 2014, James had an impressive freshman season under current Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst with the Panthers, finishing with 437 yards and averaging 5.0 per carry. He lost playing time as a sophomore before transferring. He'll share the job with 6'1", 220-pound sophomore Bradrick Shaw, but after a year practicing in the Badgers' system, James should be ready for big reps come fall.