10 bold predictions for Wisconsin in 2020
I’m not sure this is the proper term for it, but what an “offseason” it has been. The B1G went from playing football to not playing football back to playing football. For the time being, the B1G is playing football.
Fitting for 2020, Wisconsin enters the season with uncertainty at quarterback and a mystery surrounding a would-be returning starter on defense who isn’t listed on the roster.
Perhaps things will start clearing up when the Badgers open at home on Oct. 24 looking to avenge last season’s brutal loss to Illinois. The Badgers finished 2019 at 10-4 overall and first in the B1G West. The season ended in disappointing fashion as Wisconsin lost leads to Ohio State in the conference title game and Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
What’s in store for the Badgers this year? I’ve had nine months to come up with these, so here are 10 bold predictions heading into Wisconsin’s season.
1. Graham Mertz and Jack Coan will both be needed
Okay, this is a little less bold now with the recent news. Last year’s starting quarterback Jack Coan injured his foot during practice on Saturday, and he is out indefinitely. At this point, we have no idea how many games, if any, Coan will miss. Either way, he and big-time recruit Graham Mertz, a redshirt freshman, will be needed at some point in 2020. Whether it’s a coronavirus or injury reason, depth has never been more important than this season, and the Badgers have it at quarterback.
2. Offense will struggle early
Many will point to the running back position wonder how the Badgers will try to replace Jonathan Taylor, who rushed for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns in three seasons. The Badgers will use a plethora of backs to try to replace that production, but the running game will not be an issue. The passing game should be more of a concern, because Wisconsin doesn’t have a clear go-to pass catcher with Quintez Cephus off to the NFL. Without Cephus in 2018, starting quarterbacks Coan and Alex Hornibrook combined to complete roughly 60 percent of their passes. With Cephus in 2019, Coan completed nearly 70 percent.
3. Pass defense will rank No. 1 in B1G
Starting safety Reggie Pearson, a redshirt sophomore, mysteriously did not appear on the fall roster. Cryptic tweets from he and his father shed little light on the situation, and his status remains unknown. Even so, the Badgers’ secondary is loaded heading into 2020, and it includes Scott Nelson, who is back at safety after missing all but one game last season. The Badgers will be tested early when they see Purdue and its dynamic receiving duo of Rondale Moore and David Bell in the third game of the season.
4. Jake Ferguson will lead the team in receptions
Cephus led all Wisconsin pass catchers with 59 receptions in 2019, but second on the list was tight end Jake Ferguson with 33. Maybe it’s not that bold of a prediction, but most teams don’t have a tight end lead the team in receptions. For the first time since 2017 when Troy Fumagalli accomplished the feat, a tight end will be the Badgers’ leading pass catcher.
5. Garrett Groshek won’t lead the team in rushing, but will lead it in yards from scrimmage
Who’s going to replace Taylor? It cannot be done by one person because what he did over a 3-year span is incredible. Groshek and Nakia Watson are likely to shoulder much of the load at running back. While Groshek will not finish first in rushing yards on the team, he will have the most combined receiving and rushing yards by the end of the season with his ability on third downs as a pass-catching threat.
6. Wisconsin will see a major scare at Northwestern
Wisconsin’s road game at Northwestern on Nov. 21 is about as big of a trap game as there is. This matchup is scheduled the week after a road game at Michigan and the week before before a home game against Minnesota. It’s fairly easy to overlook a Northwestern team that finished 3-9 in 2019. As of now, fans will not be allowed to attend B1G games this fall. As silly as this may sound, Northwestern should be the most equipped for playing home games in a silent stadium. Also, Wisconsin is 1-5 in its last six games in Evanston.
7. The Class of 2021 will be the highest ranked recruiting class in program history
Wisconsin finished with the highest ranked recruiting class in program history the last two classes and will do it again on National Signing Day, which is currently still scheduled for mid-December. The Badgers received a commitment from Nolan Rucci, a 5-star offensive tackle, last month and currently rank No. 16 according to the 247Sports team rankings.
8. Regular season finale will decide the B1G West
Wisconsin’s regular season will end with Iowa in 2020 instead of the usual end-of-season matchup with Minnesota. The Hawkeyes, Badgers and Gophers should be in the mix to win the B1G West, and all avoid Ohio State on the schedule. It very well could come down to the final weekend for all three.
9. The Badgers will go undefeated in the regular season
Wisconsin is going 8-0 heading into the Big Ten title game to match up with the challenger from the East. The Badgers will likely be favored going into every one of their 8 games with the possible exception of Michigan, but Wisconsin isn’t afraid of the Wolverines after it held a 35-0 lead in the third quarter of last year’s game.
10. Wisconsin will be a topic on Selection Sunday
While Wisconsin will be 8-0, it will be 8-1 heading into Selection Sunday when it loses to Ohio State in the B1G title game once again. Wisconsin probably doesn’t have the brand power to make the College Football Playoff, but it will be considered, especially with what we’ve seen around the country. The Pac-12 is playing seven games, the Big 12 only has one unbeaten team left (Oklahoma State) and the Group of 5’s best chance was UCF, which just lost to Tulsa.