College football is back and Wisconsin kicks off their season Friday in hot, and humid South Florida.
Wisconsin opens the season outside of Wisconsin for the first time since 2015 in which they opened against Alabama. You would have to go back even further to 2010 for the last time the Badgers opened the year with a true road game.
Both South Florida the team, and location will face a unique challenge for Wisconsin. At the time of kickoff, the forecast calls for 83 degrees and a real feel of 91 with a 40% chance of thunderstorms and 75% humidity, which is far different than the usual football weather in Madison.
South Florida the football team will be a different test than usual as Wisconsin will not be opening the year against a team in which they are favored by 30+ points, but instead will be facing a talented team that started out their 2018 season going 7-0.
The Bulls brought in a new offensive coordinator, Kerwin Bell, who was the former head coach of Division II Valdosta State who he led to a national championship, an undefeated record and an explosive offensive attack that led the nation in scoring and set division II record for points scored in a season.
At Valdosta State, he ran a spread attack which is very quarterback friendly and can really let returning starter Blake Barnett loose. At USF, Bell will have a talented offense that will feature their leading rusher and receiver from 2018 and a talented TE who had 43 catches and 540 yards. Jim Leonhard’s defense will look to bounce back from a down 2018 campaign but won’t have an easy first game to start the year.
Wisconsin will look to take 2018 out of their minds and return to the team they were in 2017 that had playoff aspirations. They start a new era with Jack Coan under center who emphasized how much the offense is looking to have a more balanced attack this year. The team is also welcoming back dynamic receiver Quintez Cephus who last saw the field in early November at Indiana and had racked up over 500 yards to that point before suffering a right leg injury.
Throughout the offseason, there was a lot of talk of who will be the signal caller after Hornibrook transferred but junior Jack Coan took the lead. The batte carried throughout camp and mostly became a battle between true freshman quarterback Graham Mertz and Junior quarterback Jack Coan.
Coan began to separate himself at the end of spring ball and in fall camp. On the last practice that was open to the media, Coan really played well connecting on three deep balls to senior receiver A.J. Taylor and continued to look strong into the fall as the playbook expanded. As the playbook expanded, consequently Mertz struggled a bit which is expected for freshman.
As Junior receiver Kendric Pryor put it when asked about Coan: “he just felt different. His confidence, his maturity, the leadership role he took on this summer. Him just being more confident in his game and taking control of situations.”
Going into the opener at USF, UW will have confidence in Jack Coan but the gameplan will be no different. Heisman hopeful, Jonathan Taylor will be the focus and there will be an opportunity for him to be great.
When you think of Wisconsin football, you think of a ground and pound attack led by star back Jonathan Taylor. This Friday it should be no different. USF allowed nearly 250 yards per game on the ground and Wisconsin should take full advantage of that.
The Badgers are excited to get back to playing real football. As Junior wide receiver kendric Pryor put it, “it’s great that we finally get a chance to go against someone else” after a spring and fall of competing against teammates.