No. 11 Wisconsin

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Wisconsin is good.

Wait, what, I need to write more than that?

Let me think. Ok, let’s add “solid” and “well-coached.”

Penning this preview reminds me of staring at a “Blue Book” in college on a mid-term exam: “Wheat and its overall impact on Western Culture.”

There just isn’t that much to say, beyond the obvious, about Wisconsin.

The Badgers went 11-3 last year and play football the way it should be played: with a tight end and a fullback.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Wisconsin lost three games last year by 21 total points. Jim Murray once wrote that UCLA coach John Wooden was so square he was “divisible by four.”

And that sort of sums up the Wisconsin brand.

The Badgers only become interesting when you add an outside agent to the water, like, say Notre Dame.

Notre Dame made Wisconsin bigger news in two ways.

First, for a while, it looked like former Irish quarterback Malik Zaire might come to Madison in a big-splash transfer. In the end, though, Zaire checked Wisconsin’s annual average temperature in January and opted for Florida.

The bigger news came more recently when it was announced Wisconsin and Notre Dame would meet in a two-game, neutral site series.

The schools will play at Lambeau Field in 2020 and at Soldier Field in 2021. It marks the first meeting since 1964.

Ok, back to this season. Tick…tick…tick.

Did we mention Wisconsin is going to be good?

Well, it’s true, and now we just have to see how it plays out.

“What’s great about this season is you have to go play it,” Coach Paul Chryst said. “And all the talk doesn’t really matter.”

Right, right...all that talk.

Can’t wait for that big showdown this year between Wisconsin and Ohio State?

Too bad, the schools won’t meet unless it’s for the Big Ten title.

What else?

The Badgers got some terrible news when it was learned walk-on linebacker Jack Cichy, the heart and soul of last year’s No. 4 scoring defense, will be lost for the year with a torn ACL.

Cichy will be tough to replace, but if any defense can recover it might be this one. At least the schedule is easier than last year’s slog that included Louisiana State and Ohio State.

The Badgers open at home against Utah State and Florida Atlantic, followed by a trip to Brigham Young. At Nebraska on Oct. 7 might be tough and Wisconsin closes the Big Ten schedule at Minnesota. But the Badgers get Northwestern, Iowa and Michigan at home.

“Losing” Zaire to Florida may not be a big deal, either. Alex Hornibrook showed promise in nine starts last year as a freshman. Anyway, the quarterback’s job at Wisconsin is less demanding than it is at, say, Louisville. The Badgers are a power-oriented offense built around the running game and offensive line. Wisconsin won 11 games last year averaging 5.5 yards per play. That was the worst ranking of any team that won at least 10 games.

And, yet, the Badgers still beat “row the boat” Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl.

Everyone’s expecting Wisconsin to win the West and wait for the bloodied winner of the East among Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.

Lather, rinse, 11-3 repeat.

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