It’s hard to say Wisconsin wasn’t the big winner of Wednesday’s B1G schedule release. The Badgers could have seen teams like Ohio State or Penn State as their additional crossover game, but they will play a home game against Rutgers to close out the 2020 college football season.

Instead of potentially seeing possibly the best team in college football with Ohio State or the Buckeyes’ biggest challenger in the B1G with Penn State, Wisconsin is matched up with a Rutgers team that will very likely lose every game in year 1 of Greg Schiano’s return to the sideline.

It’s a schedule that sets up for what could be a special season and it’s up to the Badgers to take advantage of it.

Early slate

At first glance, the Badgers will be favored in at least 9 of their 10 games this season. Something really has to go terribly wrong if Wisconsin is an underdog in any of its first 7 with its lone challenge being a home game against Minnesota. Despite the Gophers’ breakout season, Wisconsin beat them easily on the road in 2019. This game became even easier for the Badgers after Minnesota’s projected 1st-round draft pick, wide receiver Rashod Bateman, decided to opt out for the NFL Draft.

A home game against Indiana before hitting the road against Northwestern and Nebraska could be somewhat difficult, but any loss in that 3-game stretch would be a disappointment for the Badgers.

Final stretch

Assuming Wisconsin gets past Minnesota, it should be 7-0 heading into a road matchup with Michigan in the Big House. Wisconsin overpowered the Wolverines at home last season with the Badger scoring the game’s first 35 points. It’s possible this is the game Wisconsin comes in as the underdog, but maybe not because the Badgers could not enter in a more favorable spot.

Before this matchup, Wisconsin has a bye week (Oct. 17) and Illinois at home (Oct. 24) in a game it better show up for after last year’s shocking loss as 31-point favorites. On the other side, Michigan will be coming off a pair of road games at Indiana and for the first time in at Ohio State. We’ve seen how demoralizing it’s been for the Wolverines when they are matched up with the Buckeyes and this one is in Columbus.

The Hawkeyes are the final test on the Badgers’ schedule. This is a road game after Wisconsin’s matchup with Michigan, but once again, the Badgers luck out on how the schedule sets up. The Badgers are unlikely to have a big game hangover heading into Iowa City with plenty of time to reset with their second bye week in between Michigan and Iowa.

Favorable schedule fallout

Looking around the rest of the B1G West, it’s highly likely this division will be won by Wisconsin or Minnesota. The Badgers and Gophers have the easiest schedule in the conference, avoiding the B1G’s 2 best teams Ohio State and Penn State. Iowa is in the same tier with Minnesota and Wisconsin, but the Hawkeyes play the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions.

Outside the B1G, it’s hard to say the Badgers do not benefit from a conference-only schedule. While it’s certainly disappointing for college football fans to not see Notre Dame play Wisconsin at Lambeau Field, it avoids a potential loss for the Badgers in a matchup that could have gone either way. Additionally, Wisconsin will avoid an Appalachian State team it probably didn’t expect to be Top-25 caliber when the game was scheduled.

The worst-case scenario situation for Wisconsin football in 2020 is probably 7-3 with losses to Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa. That would certainly be disappointing with the way the schedule is set up and a missed opportunity for the program to continue to be noticed on a national stage. Best-case scenario? Yes, it’s 10-0 and that wouldn’t be a major shock.

Going undefeated in a 10-game, conference-only schedule is as impressive as going 12-0 with the traditional 9-game conference schedule. For Wisconsin to accomplish this feat, it likely means the Badgers’ offense performed better than expectations. Wisconsin should have a defense that can compete with any in the country, but replacing star running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Quintez Cephus will be the biggest question mark heading into the season.

The B1G’s release of Wisconsin’s schedule should give fans a great deal of optimism heading into the 2020 season. Can the Badgers take advantage?