The Big Ten has received a lot of hype this year as it has 4 legitimate teams with a shot at the CFB. Ohio State and Urban Meyer have been under the microscope as of late after the loss to Oklahoma at home. Penn State is off to a hot start and the Saquon Barkley for Heisman train has left the station. Michigan’s defense has been making headlines early this year as they carry the offense while Coach Harbaugh is off making a podcast. But then there is the other team… the team in the West. Almost no one is talking about them and yet they have just as good of a shot as any. Wisconsin is 3-0 and off to the start they needed. They have a talented, young team led by an outstanding trio on offense. Hornibrook has been extremely efficient this season completing 70% of his passes and throwing 8 TD’s to just 1 INT. Jonathon Taylor is the next in line of great running backs at Wisconsin as the freshman has already been compared to the likes of Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball. He is averaging over 8 yards a carry and has added 5 touchdowns. To complete the trio, Troy Fumagalli is the Hornibrook’s favorite target. This 6’5, senior tight end leads the team in catches, yards and TD’s. Fumagalli will be in the discussion at the end of the year for the John Mackey Award. Couple those three playmakers with one of the best offensive lines in the country led by Beau Benzschawel, you have an offense that will be able to put up plenty of points.
The thing that will put Wisconsin over the edge and get them to the playoff is their defense. Wisconsin has consistently had one of the best defenses in the country over the last decade and this year is no different. They returned 7 of 11 starters on a team that held 12 of 14 teams under 20 points last year. This year, they have held all three opponents under 15 points and give up an average of 10 points a game. The defense is led in the middle by linebacker T.J. Edwards, who has led the team in tackles his first two seasons. He has recorded 14 tackles, 2 INT’s and a sack in the first 3 games this year. IN addition, they have a strong group up front and have found replacements for Pittsburgh Steeler T.J. Watt and injured Jack Cichy in Leon Jacobs and Garret Dooley. Their best group on the defensive side of the ball, however, is the defensive backs. They boast one of the best cornerback tandems in the country in Nick Nelson and Derrick Tindal. They are both extremely skilled in coverage and have plenty of experience. Behind them, they have one of the best safeties in the country in D’Cota Dixon. Last season he had 60 tackles and 4 INT’s and returns as one of the cornerstones of that defense. The only achilles heel of the defense is the pass rush, which we saw last season in the Big Ten championship as McSorely had all day to throw and was able to find open receivers. With a better secondary, that problem won’t be as worrisome. However, Wisconsin will need to dial up some pressure in order to take the pressure off their defensive backs.
Wisconsin boasts one of the easier schedules in the Big Ten and only has to play Michigan at home in the regular season. They avoid Ohio State and Penn State, at least until a possible Big Ten Championship matchup. I think that people should start giving Wisconsin a little more respect as they have the best chance to enter the Big Ten Championship undefeated.