Wisconsin Preview 2006

Posted Aug 1, 2006

Can we finally all admit that Wisconsin football isn't that bad?

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Almost 15 years since the Badger program started to become a player on the national scene, there's still a sense that this is nothing more than an overachiever that isn't nearly as good as its record. It's thought of as slow, pounding, and tough, but it's not considered flashy or all that talented. That might have been the case ten years ago, but now, nothing is further from the truth.

Which team has cranked out more NFL draft weekend picks over the last six years: USC, Texas, LSU, Oklahoma, Michigan, Auburn, or Wisconsin?

Yup, the Badgers lead the list with 31 players selected. That's one more than USC, two more than LSU, three more than Oklahoma, nine more than Texas, six more than Michigan, and 12 more than Auburn, who was supposed to be head-and-shoulders faster and more athletic than the Badgers in the Capital One Bowl.

Fine, so going by NFL draft picks is hardly the be-all-end-all-measure to judge how good a program is, but it does show that Wisconsin gets athletic players who can run, jump, hit, and do all the other things the players at other top programs do.

Head coach: Bret Bielema
1st year
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 18, Def. 29, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 18
Ten Best Badger Players
1. OT Joe Thomas, Sr.
LB Mark Zalewski, Sr.
OG Kraig Urbik, Soph.
P Ken DeBauche, Jr.
DT Nick Hayden, Jr.
6. DE Matt Shaughnessy, Soph.
7. SS Joe Stellmacher, Sr.
8. QB John Stocco, Sr.
9. OG Andy Kemp, Soph.
10. DT Jason Chapman, Soph.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-3

9/2 at Bowling Green
9/9 Western Illinois
9/16 San Diego State
9/23 at Michigan
9/30 at Indiana
10/7 Northwestern
10/14 Minnesota
10/21 at Purdue
10/28 Illinois
11/4 Penn State
11/11 at Iowa
11/18 Buffalo

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 Bowling Green  W 56-42
9/10 Temple W 65-0
9/17 at No Carolina  W 16-5
9/24 Michigan W 23-20
10/1 Indiana  W 41-24
10/8 at Northwestern L 51-48
10/15 at Minnesota W 38-34
10/22 Purdue  W 31-20
10/29 at Illinois   W 41-24
11/5 at Penn State L 35-14
11/12 Iowa L 20-10
11/26 at Hawaii W 41-24
1/2 Capital One Bowl
Auburn W 24-10

Instead of thinking of Wisconsin as a little engine that could, it's time to raise the expectations for a program with nine winning seasons in the last ten and 35 wins over the last four years. It's time to start demanding more big wins, BCS expectations, and more respect on a national scale even though the torch has been passed from Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema.

Many will once again underestimate the Badgers with only three starters returning on an offense that loses the top seven pass catchers along with touchdown machine Brian Calhoun, but the team is at a point where it can reload. The new starting receivers could be among UW's fastest ever, there are more than enough huge, pounding running backs to carry the workload, and the line should be better with three legitimate All-Big Ten candidates returning.

The defense struggled last season finishing 92nd in the nation, but that was mostly because of a young line that never got healthy. Now there are eight fantastic prospects up front, speed at outside linebacker and corner, and steady All-Big Ten caliber players at safety and middle linebacker.   

So don't just look past Wisconsin in the Big Ten race and don't just assume it can't play among the big boys. It is one of the big boys.

The Schedule: If you want a schedule to make a sleeper run for the national title, this is it if you believe Michigan isn't all that great and if the Badgers can solve their recent problems against Iowa. There's no Ohio State and no Michigan State, which is a good thing this season. The non-conference schedule is a joke playing at Bowling Green and with home games against Western Illinois, San Diego State and Buffalo. Penn State and Minnesota have to come to Madison, and two of the four conference road games are at Indiana and Purdue. That means it might be a three-game schedule for a truly huge season: at Michigan on September 23rd, at home against Penn State on November 4th, and at Iowa on November 11th.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OT Joe Thomas. He likely would've been the second tackle taken in the 2006 NFL Draft behind Virginia's D'Brickashaw Ferguson, but he suffered a torn ACL helping out on defense against Auburn in the Capital One Bowl. He's expected to be back and ready to roll later this summer and an All-America lock.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Mark Zalewski. Most Big Ten fans have no clue who he is, but they will. He's a tackling machine with phenomenal range, and now he should be an all-star with more help up front to take some of the pressure off.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB John Stocco. Back for his third season as the starter, he has to be razor-sharp from day one with a brand new receiving corps and backfield to work with. He was better than he got credit for last year, but he also have 2006 NFL draft picks Brian Calhoun, Brandon Williams, Jonathan Orr, Owen Daniels and Jason Pociask to throw to.

The season will be a success if ... Wisconsin wins at least a share of the Big Ten title. There are way too many question marks to ask for an unbeaten season, but the talent is there to go 10-2 and the schedule is nice enough to reasonably shoot for a Big Ten title and a BCS spot.

Key game: September 23rd at Michigan. The Badgers beat the Wolverines for the first time since 1994 in a classic 23-20 battle in Madison. Barring an upset, a win in Ann Arbor would likely mean a 9-0 start before facing Penn State at home.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Opponents 95 for 833 yards - Wisconsin 71 for 613 yards
- Rushing touchdowns: Wisconsin 31 - Opponents 13
- Tackles for loss: Opponents 98 for 370 yards - Wisconsin 72 for 326 yards

The Last Time Wisconsin…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Capital One Bowl vs. Auburn)
…missed a bowl game…2001
…pitched a shutout…2005 (Temple)
…was shutout…1997 (Syracuse)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Temple)   
…went undefeated…1912
…won a conference title…1999 (Big Ten)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Brian Calhoun)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Brandon Williams)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (DE Erasmus James)


Related Stories
Wisconsin Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 1, 2006
Wisconsin 2006 Preview - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 1, 2006
Wisconsin Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 1, 2006

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