5 reasons Wisconsin can win the B1G
This is the first in a series of quick profiles on teams favored to win the Big Ten entering the 2018 season. Keep clicking on Saturday Tradition (saturdaytradition.com) all week for more teams.
We kick off with the overwhelming favorite to win the B1G West and play in the league’s championship game for the sixth time in eight seasons: Wisconsin.
Here are five reasons the Badgers can win the B1G:
That offensive line
So what else is new? This is perhaps the most veteran group of maulers in the country, and they are plenty good. Both Athlon‘s and Phil Steele rate the Badgers as the best O-line in the country. All five starters return including right tackle David Edwards, named a first-team preseason All-American. Guard Beau Benzschawel and Michael Deiter, who is slated to slide from left tackle back to left guard, are also among the nation’s best.
If Wisconsin’s offense is going to be as good as projected, it all starts with their star running back. Taylor, coming off of a sensation freshman campaign when he rushed for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns, might be even better in 2018. He had 10 100-yard games in 14 tries in 2017 and showed both speed and toughness. Just watch the clip above if you forgot how good Taylor looked last season.
Veterans leading each level on defense
One of the big concerns for Bucky Badger and Co. entering the 2018 season is the experience on defense, where only three starters return. However, each of the three levels has one veteran returning, and all have experienced back-to-back New Year’s Day Six bowl victories. Defensive tackle Olive Sagapolu is back along with two second-team preseason All-America selections: Linebacker T.J. Edwards and safety D’Cota Dixon. All three are seniors and can guide the youngsters to meet standard expectations surrounding this program.
Chryst settling in
Entering his fourth season as the head coach in Madison, Paul Chryst has the red-and-white machine humming nicely. But there’s more to this story than just his sterling 34-7 record (.829 winning percentage) at Wisconsin. This is literally the job Chryst was born for — he’s the son of a coach, born in Madison, grew up in Wisconsin, played for the Badgers and was a UW assistant coach. He’s just 52, and his contract runs through Jan. 31, 2013. One can easily see Chryst staying on the job as long as Barry Alvarez did, and that kind of stability is elusive in college football these days.
No consistent West threat
Yes, Iowa won the West Division in 2016 and made a College Football Playoff bid along the way. But basically, since the league split into divisions starting with the 2011 season, Wisconsin has been a perennial threat to at least go to the B1G title game. It’s fair to point out that the Badgers have lost their past three appearances. But if you’re good enough to get to Indianapolis year after year, you’re good enough to win it all. And though Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern provide strong competition, no program has yet challenged Wisconsin’s divisional supremacy.