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2021 Wisconsin Badgers: Should be the Best in the West

2021 Wisconsin Badgers: Should be the Best in the West

The Covid-19 outbreak might have affected Wisconsin as much as any other program in the country. They managed to play 7 games including the bowl game and ended up with a 4-3 record. The 2021 edition looks to get back to challenging for the Big Ten championship and maybe more. The offense struggled and had a three game stretch where they scored 7, 6, and 7 points and that makes it pretty hard to win. The Badgers return most of the starters from last year but that might not be a good thing as much improvement is needed. On the other hand, the defense played great last year and are in a position to be very good again. The schedule is kind and almost all of the tough conference games are at Camp Randall Stadium.

Offense: Graham Martz is back for season two as the Badger QB. His stats weren’t bad last year (1,238 yards with nine TDs and five interceptions) and he has some weapons around him. Senior WRs Danny Davis and Kendrick Pryor came back for a sixth year and have 166 career receptions for 2,013 yards and 16 TDs between them. All-Big Ten tight end Jake Ferguson (99 career catches for 1,168 yards and 10 touchdowns) is another reliable target. Four starters on the offensive line return which has always been the identity of the Badger offense. RB Jalen Berger is back to run behind that line. With all these players, the offense should be on the rise again.

Defense: In 2020, the defense was among the best in the Big Ten and 8 starters are back. The defensive line has to replace two experienced senior ends but return nose guard Keenau Benton who coaches are raving about. All four of the linebackers are back from last season with Jack Sanborn leading the way. The Badgers led the conference and were 5th in the nation in rushing defense allowing only 96 yards per game. They should be stout again. Three of the four secondary starters have experience and talented. There are a lot of reasons to like this defense.

Non-Conference Schedule:

9/11 Eastern Michigan

9/25 Notre Dame (at Chicago)

10/16 Army

This is a reasonable schedule for a team that expects to contend for championships. There is one easy win (Eastern Michigan), one challenge but should be a win (Army) and one that will grab national attention (Notre Dame). The Badgers are capable of beating the Irish and this could propel them into the Top 10 or even higher in the polls.

Conference Schedule:

9/4 Penn State

10/2 Michigan

10/9 at Illinois

10/23 at Purdue

10/30 Iowa

11/6 at Rutgers

11/13 Northwestern

11/20 Nebraska

11/27 at Minnesota

The conference schedule has some tough games but almost all of them will be played in Madison. The season opener against Penn St. is huge and will tell us a lot about both teams. They have Michigan, Iowa, Northwestern, and Nebraska at home and all of those will be difficult but they would be a lot worse if they were on the road. The road schedule has must wins at Purdue, Rutgers, and Illinois. The season ender with Minnesota is a toughie and the Badgers may need to win that one to claim the West Division title.

Summary: It looks like Wisconsin is primed and ready to get back to the top of the division. If QB Graham Martz reaches his potential the offense should be much improved. The defense is always good and could be great. And the schedule, while difficult, has the toughest games at home and the Badgers don’t play Ohio State until maybe the Big 10 championship game.

Predicted Finish: 1st Place in the West Division

Overall Record: 10-2

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