2019 Wisconsin Badgers Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
That crashing sound you heard early last season was the wheels falling off in Madison. The Badgers were ranked fourth in the country last year, had a schedule widely viewed as favorable, and were serious playoff contenders. Hopes were very high, and Paul Chryst was at 34-7 at Wisconsin entering the year and looking like a genius. But when all was said and done, they had lost five times to falling stunningly short of expectations. Injuries happened as they do for any team, but what was striking was how often the problem was just sloppy, brain dead play. They had the top rushing attack in the country anchored by the phenomenal Jonathan Taylor, but too many turnovers, horrible penalties and nightmarish quarterback play got in the way of that ground success far, far too often. It was ugly. And it may not be an easy fix.
No one is touting this team as a contender of any kind this year, and they need to prove that they can fix whatever went wrong. Chryst stuck with the same coaching staff, which is interesting - when things go that badly a coaching shakeup is often the first thing that a head coach tries. So, can they do the same things and get a different result?
2018 in a Nutshell
They dominated Western Kentucky and New Mexico out of the gate to make us think that that preseason ranking was warranted. But then they lost at home to BYU. BYU - a team that later lost to Northern Illinois at home. They bounced back to beat Iowa and Nebraska but then were totally humiliated at Michigan - the game that before the season seemed like the one that would define their playoff chances. They beat Illinois, but then they lost by two touchdowns at Northwestern. A win against Rutgers was about as meaningful as the Illinois win, and it was again followed by a loss - this time at Penn State. They won at Purdue in overtime, but then got smoked at home by Minnesota to close out the season. A team that was supposed to threaten for a national title lost to two bad teams at home. Ugh. They beat up on Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl, but that game was three days before Mark Richt resigned, and the Hurricane players clearly didn't show up. So, how excited can you get about beating up on a broken program? That only got them to 8-5, which is a long way from what a fourth-ranked team should wind up with.
Key Additions and Departures
The team lost four players to the draft - two linebackers and two offensive linemen. They also lost three more guys as undrafted free agents, including another offensive lineman and another linebacker. Only the center is back from among the starting offensive lineman, though left tackle Cole Van Lanen played and is clearly talented. They will be breaking in a new line for the most part this year, which isn't exactly ideal when you have just one more year of the best running back in college football. They also will be making a change at quarterback after Alex Hornibrook left as a grad transfer. He was a long way from effective last year and lost his job at times to Jack Coan, a sophomore who could start this year. But true freshman Graham Mertz, a blue-chip QB ranked as the third best pro style QB in the country, will put pressure on. Putting him in behind a raw line may not be ideal, though, so Chryst may show some patience.
The recruiting class ranked 28th nationally, which is a big step up from 44th the year before. The team landed a rare five-star in OT Logan Brown, but we aren't likely to see him this year unless things really go poorly. Another tackle, Joe Tippmann, was the second and final four-star in the class along with Mertz. Unless Mertz grabs the QB job, we aren't likely to see a lot of significant early impact from the class.
Biggest Area of Concern
The Wisconsin defense is built around the inside linebackers, and they had two good ones who are both gone. There are questions there and pretty much everywhere else on defense - especially in the secondary, where they tried all sorts of things last year without finding much that really worked. The defense was pretty mediocre last year and will struggle to be that good this year. Of course, we could mention the offense, too, as Taylor can't do it all alone, and who he will be working with is a series of questions. In short, the biggest area of concern is basically much of the roster.
Wisconsin Badgers Schedule Analysis
This is not a great schedule for a team with a crisis of self-confidence and a whole lot of holes to fill. They get to ease into things by playing at South Florida and against Central Michigan, but then home games against Michigan and Northwestern are going to be very stiff tests. Kent State is another soft game, but Michigan State could be tough. A trip to Illinois should be easy, but one to Ohio State most definitely will not be. A home game against Iowa and a road game at Nebraska don't offer much relief, either. Purdue can be feisty, too, before a trip to Minnesota to close things out. If the team hasn't fixed their issues of last year and don't have guys step up early on in key positions, then this is a schedule that could cause a whole lot of problems.
2019-20 Wisconsin Badgers Betting Odds and Trends
Wisconsin is at +6600 to win the national title at BetOnline, which puts them behind 16 teams and tied with Penn State and Miami. That would be a horrible bet to make at that price - just throwing money away. Bovada has them as the sixth choice to win the conference at +1450. That's right behind Michigan State at +1400, but miles back of Ohio State at +115 and Michigan at +225. Jonathan Taylor will be asked to do a whole lot, and Heisman bettors could take note - and take pity on him. At +1200, he is the sixth choice in the race, and the first non-quarterback.
2019-20 Wisconsin Badgers Predictions and College Football Picks
I am very bearish on this team this year. For those that get confused by what that means compared to bullish, it means that I really hate them. There are too many questions, and I don't trust that the same coaching staff can fix the problems that were created last year. I don't see good things for this team at all. Frankly, while a bowl is still likely, I don't think that eligibility is an absolute lock with this squad. This could be a rough season.
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