With a week until the Badgers play their first game, expectations are sky high—with a relatively easy schedule, it’s within reason that the Badgers are in this season’s playoff hunt, but that only comes by beating a powerhouse out of the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship, something that Wisconsin has struggled with over the past few seasons. Here’s a game-by-game prediction of this year’s schedule.
Week 1: vs. Utah State
The Badgers open their season exactly a week from today against the Aggies of Utah State on national TV, in one of six Big Ten games that will be played on a Friday this season. Whether or not Friday games will bring a positive reaction from fans remains to be seen, but no matter what day it is, opening day at Camp Randall will be rockin’—the historic Wisconsin stadium is celebrating 100 years this season, and that is bad news for an Aggie team that went 3-9 last season. This one won’t be close.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45-13
Week 2: vs. Florida Atlantic
This game boasts few headlines, but it will be interesting to see how Florida Atlantic comes out with former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin at the helm—of course, the talent on the Crimson Tide far outweighs that of the Owls, but Kiffin is regarded as one of the best in the business and will certainly fire up his team in its biggest game since 2014, when the Owls played none other than Alabama. Florida Atlantic’s biggest strength is its running game, with two backs reaching double digit touchdowns last season—unfortunately for the Owls, Wisconsin’s strength is run defense. Mark it down as another Badger win.
Prediction: Wisconsin 38-10
Week 3: @ BYU
This will be the first big test for the Badgers, as they travel to Provo, Utah to take on the Cougars. Taysom Hill is gone (and I love him on the Packers already), but they have a QB who may be even better—as a freshman, Tanner Magnum stepped in for Hill, threw for 23 touchdowns and led the Cougars to a 9-4 record. This matchup will be closer for Wisconsin than the previous two, but I like Hornibrook to have his first breakout game here, and the Badgers get it done in a tight one.
Prediction: Wisconsin 28-24
Week 4: Bye
A big week for the Badgers to regroup before conference play.
Week 5: vs. Northwestern
The past two seasons, the Badgers have lost coming off their bye week—as much as I hope that trend is corrected, I also believe that three is a magic number, and it will happen for the third year in a row. The Wildcats always give the Badgers fits, and this season will favor the Wildcats once again. Running back Justin Jackson is a dark-horse Heisman candidate, and Clayton Thorson has emerged as one of the best QBs in the Big Ten. The forecast is cloudy skies and rain for Week 5 in Madison.
Prediction: Northwestern 21-17
Week 6: @ Nebraska
Revenge week for the Cornhuskers—they were oh-so-close to knocking off the Badgers in Madison last season, and now they have a shot to do it on their home turf. But this is a completely different Cornhusker team—according to SBnation, Nebraska ranks 122 out of 129 in returning production from last season, and only 26% of their offensive production returning. Under normal circumstances, this would be a trap game for the Badgers, but with so much uncertainty in Lincoln, Wisconsin comes out with a win.
Prediction: Wisconsin 28-17
Week 7: vs. Purdue
Week 7 begins a stretch for the Badgers in which they face the bottom-dwellers of the Big Ten. The Boilermakers finished 3-9 last season, and 1-8 in the Big Ten. Though they’ve shown promise on offense, their defense was abysmal last season, giving up 39.5 points per game, 117th in the nation. Wisconsin’s offense is not going to put up 50 points in a normal game, but they will if you let them.
Prediction: Wisconsin 52-20
Week 8: vs. Maryland
The Terrapins have one of the toughest schedules in the Big Ten this season—after a challenging year last year, they are rewarded with games against Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, and Northwestern. When the Terps come to Madison, the Badgers will certainly look to get after the quarterback with their hellacious defense. Maryland gave up 49 sacks last season, one of the worst in the country. I see 5 sacks this game and a Badgers win.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31-7
Week 9: @ Illinois
I can still remember when Rashard Mendenhall ran over the Badgers 10 years ago and took down the number 5 team in the country at the time—Wisconsin hasn’t lost to Illinois since. The Badgers did the running over last season, beating the Illini 48-3 at Camp Randall. Not much has changed since last season, look for another Badger blowout.
Prediction: Wisconsin 45-10
Week 10: @ Indiana
Highlight this one as a trap game for the Badgers—after a few yawners, Wisconsin travels to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers, who should be much improved this season. Indiana should see most of the improvement on the defensive side, led by second-team All-American linebacker Tegray Scales. This game will be closer than most people expect, but the Badgers will pull through in the end.
Prediction: Wisconsin 24-13
Week 11: vs. Iowa
I absolutely love when the Badgers and the Hawkeyes square off—every matchup seems to turn into a barnburner. This year should be no different—expect another low-scoring defensive battle. Not only is this a critical battle for the West division, but a pride game to prove who has the best linebackers in the Big Ten. Iowa sports a Big Three in First-Team All-American Josey Jewell, Bo Bauer, and Ben Niemann, while the Badgers boast depth, led by T.J. Edwards and Chris Orr. The loss of C.J. Beathard is the difference in this game.
Prediction: Wisconsin 20-16
Week 12: vs. Michigan
Easily the biggest game of the Badger’s relatively weak schedule, Camp Randall will be sold out and absolutely wild. It will be the night game, College Gameday will find its way to Madison, Michigan will enter this game undefeated, and both teams will be in the top ten. The Wolverines bested the Badgers last season in Ann Arbor—there is no way the Badger seniors are going out with a loss on senior night.
Prediction: Wisconsin 17-14
Week 13: @ Minnesota
This is finally the year that the Badgers take the lead in the Battle for the Axe series (currently tied 59-59-8). They are going to have to send someone down to where the axe is held to dust it off because it has been sitting there for the past 13 years. The Golden Gophers had a very respectable season last year, but is expected to regress this season. Wisconsin will finish off the season strong.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31-18
After another solid metaphorical season, the Badgers finish the season 11-1 overall, 7-1 in the Big Ten and win the Big Ten West. If the season does play out this way, its up to Wisconsin to finish the job this year and win the Big Ten, leaving nothing to chance.