The 2017 Wisconsin Badgers football team kicks off their season in just seven days, as the Badgers take on Utah State in a rare Friday night matchup at Camp Randall.

For the next week, we will be counting down to kickoff in typical Wisconsin fashion. It was quite clear that Wisconsin had a difficult schedule last year, but this year should be manageable for the nation’s ninth-ranked squad. In this edition of countdown to kickoff, we will be ranking the seven top teams that the Badgers will face on the field this year.

7. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota is going to be playing under new head coach P.J. Fleck this year and should show drastic improvements from last season. The Gophers are deep at the linebacker position, but thin at nearly every other spot on the field. Minnesota will be better this year, but still not enough to take away Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

6. Indiana Hoosiers. The Indiana Hoosiers are also playing under a new head coach this season. After the dismissal of former head coach Kevin Wilson, defensive coordinator Tim Allen took over. Being the former coordinator, Allen has his defense in lockdown mode, especially with a developing secondary.

5. BYU Cougars. The Cougars are the first road game that the Badgers will play in and possibly their first real test. Their defense makes up for whatever their offense lacks. However, their offense is missing a deep threat, an elusive running back, and a wide receiver who is able to break tackles.

4. Iowa Hawkeyes. For the Hawkeyes, they are a tale of two sides of the ball. Their defense is stout, which is nothing new under head coach Kirk Ferentz. But their offense is extremely weak. They lost their quarterback to the NFL (C.J. Beathard is the proud third string quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers). They also lost most of their receiving corps, which will make moving the ball difficult against a stout Badgers defense.

3. Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Cornhuskers lost nearly all of their starters from last year, and have no projected starting seniors on their roster. But still, the Cornhuskers have an elite group of defensive backs that will be able to create turnovers and short field opportunities for their inexperienced offense.

2. Northwestern Wildcats. Have you heard the name Justin Jackson (not the former UNC basketball star of the same name) by now? Well, you should probably get familiar with it. This Justin Jackson is Northwestern’s star running back who has over 1,000 rushing yards in each of his seasons with the Wildcats. With him and returning quarterback Clayton Thorson standing behind a decent offensive line, Northwestern could be set to have a good year. The problem area for Northwestern- defensive line.

1. Michigan Wolverines. The biggest game on Wisconsin’s schedule comes to town on November 18th. Under coach Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines have only lost six games in the last three seasons. And with continued recruiting success, their losses on defense (Jabrill Peppers and Taco Charlton to name a few) won’t be as brutal to the Wolverines roster. However, they will need a reliable signal-caller to step up if they are to reach the next level.

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