The Wisconsin Badgers entered the 2018 season with hopes of competing for a national championship. In the first two weeks of the season, Wisconsin has done nothing but prove that all the preseason hype was warranted. The team is currently ranked sixth in the AP Poll and possess a 2-0 record after back-to-back dominations against Western Kentucky and New Mexico. However, the Badgers will now have to face a tougher opponent in BYU, who’ve started the season with hopes of bouncing back to relevancy after going 4-9 last season.
Last week, the Badgers exploded in the second half against New Mexico on their way to a 45-14 victory. The team outscored the Lobos by 28 points in the second half thanks in large part to its powerful rushing attack. Wisconsin’s star running back Jonathan Taylor proved why he was a Heisman favorite entering the season as he ran for 253 yards and three touchdowns on 33 touches. As a whole, the Badgers ran for 417 yards and four touchdowns thanks to fullback Alec Ingold’s touchdown scamper in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Although the mainstream media will always give the credit to the skill position players, enough cannot be said about how well the offensive line played last week. After allowing three sacks to Western Kentucky in week one, Wisconsin’s offensive line took out some of their frustrations on the Lobos and dominated the line of scrimmage for the entirety of the game. If they can play like they did last week for the rest of the season, Taylor’s name might be on that Heisman Trophy by season’s end.
Surprisingly, quarterback Alex Hornibrook only completed eight out of 11 passes last week for 148 yards and a touchdown. This was somewhat of a shock considering how well he played in his last two games against Miami FL and Western Kentucky. Hornibrook was coming off consecutive games with over 250 passing yards and no turnovers before last week’s performance. With the running game averaging 7.1 yards per carry, Hornibrook had no reason to throw the ball more than 11 times. Hornibrook did throw an interception last week but should be expected to step up when needed against BYU this Saturday.
Hornibrook’s job might get a little bit easier this week with star receiver Danny Davis returning to the team after serving a two game suspension. Last season, Davis was a key cog in the passing game as he caught 26 passes for 418 yards and five touchdowns. His return could not have come at a better time considering the ineptitude of Wisconsin’s receiving corps over the first two games. With the exception of A.J. Taylor, no Wisconsin receiver has more than five catches. Although Taylor is averaging over 100 receiving yards per game so far this season, he needs some help. Teams will most likely start double-teaming him late in games if no other receiver steps up. Davis has the ability to be that guy and should make meaningful contributions to this team moving forward.
BYU started out its 2018 campaign with an impressive road victory against Arizona. However, the team fell to California at home in a nail biting 21-18 defeat. With the Cougars now sitting at 1-1, BYU could use a monstrous road win for its resume as the team hopes to erase last year’s debacle from memory. It will be a tough task playing in Camp Randall against a Badgers team that currently own a 41-game win streak in non-conference home games.
BYU will be led by star quarterback Tanner Mangum who is looking to rebound from an awful junior season. This season, Mangum has looked alright as he has thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions in the team’s first two games. However, despite his average college career to this point, he still has the talent to be an elite quarterback which he showcased throughout his high school career.
In high school, Mangum was named a special recognition MVP of the Under Armour All-America Game and he was also the Co-MVP of Elite 11 Camp along with future NFL first overall draft pick Jameis Winston. Mangum now faces a Wisconsin defensive front that has only averaged one sack per game this season. If Mangum is given enough time in the pocket, he definitely has the talent to begin picking apart this elite defense.
Overall, Wisconsin should win this game due to its elite offensive line and its elite defense. BYU might keep it close but I expect Taylor to run for a few more touchdowns as he looks to become a frontrunner for this year’s Heisman Trophy. Wisconsin does have the tendency to start games slowly in the first have but I expect the Badgers to wear down the Cougars in the second half thanks to that offensive line of theirs.
Prediction: Wisconsin 30, BYU 17