2008 CFN Wisconsin Badger Preview
Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum
Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum
Posted May 20, 2008

Wisconsin has the talent to get to the BCS, and the schedule to have a puncher's chance of playing for the national title, but there's an injury problem with the entire D line, both starting corners, and TE Travis Beckum all banged up. Check out the CFN preview of the loaded, but flawed, Badgers.

Wisconsin Badgers

Preview 2008

By Pete Fiutak

- 2008 CFN Wisconsin Preview | 2008 Wisconsin Offense
- 2008 Wisconsin Defense
| 2008 Wisconsin Depth Chart
- 2007 Wisconsin Preview
| 2006 CFN Wisconsin Preview 

There's a theory in the college basketball world about the NCAA tournament. All you can do is show up with a good team year in and year out, and eventually things will go the right way and the magical run will come. Be consistently good, and the breaks will take care of themselves.

Wisconsin has been consistently good, very good, and it's overdue to get over the BCS mountain and back in the fave five of bowl games for the first time since 2000.

It's not like the team plays in the WAC or the Mountain West, and no matter what you think of the Big Ten, coming up with 40 wins in four years in a BCS league is impressive. Dog the rest of the Big Ten if you want, but the Badgers, and all their close calls, have been validated by good performances in four straight New Year's Day games against SEC teams going 2-2 against the most respected of leagues with the two losses (Tennessee in the 2008 Outback and Georgia in the 2005 Outback) coming by a total of seven points. This is a program that has proven it can play with the biggest of boys, at least in the bowl games.

Head coach: Bret Bielema
3rd year: 21-5
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 23, ST 0
Lettermen Lost: 24
Ten Best Badger Players
1. TE Travis Beckum, Sr.
2. RB P.J. Hill, Jr.
3. LB Jonathan Casillas, Sr.
4. FS Shane Carter, Jr.
5. DE Matt Shaughnessy, Sr.
6. DT Jason Chapman, Sr.
7. OG Kraig Urbik, Sr.
8. RB Zach Brown, Soph.
9. OT Gabe Carimi, Soph.
10. LB DeAndre Levy, Sr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30 Akron
Sept. 6 Marshall
Sept. 13 at Fresno State
Sept. 20 OPEN DATE 
Sept. 27 at Michigan
Oct. 4 Ohio State
Oct. 11 Penn State
Oct. 18 at Iowa
Oct. 25 Illinois
Nov. 1 at Michigan State
Nov. 8 at Indiana
Nov. 15 Minnesota
Nov. 22 Cal Poly

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 Wash State W 42-21
Sept. 8 at UNLV W 20-13
Sept. 15 The Citadel W 45-31
Sept. 22 Iowa W 17-13
Sept. 29 Michigan State W 37-34
Oct. 6 at Illinois L 31-26
Oct. 13 at Penn State L 38-7
Oct. 20 Northern Illinois W 44-3
Oct. 27 Indiana W 33-3
Nov. 3 at Ohio State L 38-17
Nov. 10
Michigan W 37-21
Nov. 17 at Minnesota W 41-34
Outback Bowl
Jan. 1 Tennessee L 21-17

So why is it that a team this good and a program that's been just this close to being a regular in the BCS rotation over the past several seasons struggles so much against the mediocre? The Badgers survived a home game shootout against Michigan State, struggled to put away Citadel, and should've lost to UNLV. While injuries became a huge, screaming problem, the team was relatively healthy early when all those close calls came. Even so, in an era of Appalachian State beating Michigan and UL Monroe beating Alabama, wins are wins.

This isn't the Barry Alvarez era of pounding the ball and getting four yards a crack over and over again, Wisconsin has figured out to throw the forward pass, but the formula for success doesn't lend itself to generating a ton of national excitement.

Basically, the Badgers bend but don't break on defense, works on balancing the attack early and pounding with the running game late, and then hope to win in a war of attrition. It might not always be pretty, but again, 40 wins in four years.

Eventually, all the positive breaks should go Wisconsin's way, everyone will stay healthy, and it'll get into the BCS again. This could be the year, but there are a ton of injuries to overcome, a quarterback situation to settle, and a kicking game in need of an overhaul. Even so, this will be another good Wisconsin team, and it might be its turn.

What to watch for on offense: The quarterback situation. The running backs go four deep with tremendous talent, the receiving corps is young, but should break out, and the tight end tandem of Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham might be the best in America. Now someone needs to get everyone the ball. Allan Evridge has been waiting his turn and is the likely option to take over, but he didn't show anything this off-season to get anyone fired up. Dustin Sherer is a long-time veteran in the system, but he hasn't seen much of the field. The issue needs to be settled right away later this summer.

What to watch for on defense: A daily injury report watch. All four starting projected starting defensive linemen are hurt, and the top corners, Allen Langford and Aaron Henry are coming off torn ACLs. Everything else is in place from a great linebacking corps to a promising, talented group of safeties, but the defense needs DE Matt Shaughnessy to get over his broken leg, DT Jason Chapman to come back quickly from a torn ACL, and everyone to be healthy for new defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to look great in his first year.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line starts to protect the passer. Last year's starting quarterback, Tyler Donovan, almost got killed behind a line that was great for the running game, but struggled way too often with its consistency. Basically, the Badger lines have been getting by on reputation over the past few years. If this year's line is great, and it could be with four starters returning, the offense should explode.

The Schedule: As insane as this might sound, considering Michigan might be down and the Badgers get two weeks to prepare for the trip to Ann Arbor (as do the Wolverines), the real early problem could be the September 13th trip to face a fired up and very good Fresno State. It's not like Bucky gets a chance to take a breath after Michigan with make-or-break showdowns against Ohio State and Penn State in Camp Randall. Illinois also has to come to Madison, but that's the one home game in a stretch of three road trips in four weeks. On the plus side, going to Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana isn't that bad. Closing out against Minnesota and Cal Poly (yes, Cal Poly) will help the record. Northwestern and Purdue are off the Big Ten schedule.

Best Offensive Player: Senior TE Travis Beckum. Hurt late last year, one of the nation's best tight ends became a little bit of a question mark as a pro prospect. He's not all that huge at 223 pounds, and he might not be an elite blocker, but he's a dangerous target with great route running ability and fantastic hands. Throw the ball remotely close to him and he'll get it.    

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Jonathan Casillas. The unquestioned leader of the defense, Casillas led the team in tackles last year and has 189 over the course of his career. The 220-pounder flies all over the field and is always around the ball, and if he can stay healthy, he should make around 100 tackles and be a near-lock for All-Big Ten honors.

Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Allan Evridge. Let's cut to the chase here. For all the talk of a quarterback controversy and all the discussion of the job being open this fall, the coaching staff isn't going to trust a loaded team (and it will be loaded if everyone is healthy) to Sherer and it sure as heck isn't going to bank a possible Big Ten championship season to true freshman Curt Phillips. Evridge will be the guy when all is said and done, and while doesn't have to be flashy, he has to be consistent. The former Kansas State Wildcat has to make the most of his final shot in a long and strange career.

The season will be a success if ... Wisconsin wins the Big Ten title. There's only one game, Ohio State, that the Badgers are almost certain to be underdogs. Wisconsin is better than Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana, the teams to deal with in the four league road games, and Penn State and Illinois, along with the Buckeyes, have to come to Camp Randall. Injuries can't be used as an excuse this year; the depth is developed enough all across the board to step in and produce.

Key game: Sept. 13 at Fresno State. Of course the October 4 game against Ohio State is the biggest and most important on the schedule, but the early trip to Fresno is the type of beartrap that the Badgers could very easily lose, but could gain a world of confidence if they win. With an off-week to follow, a loss could be devastating to the Big Ten's reputation, and is the last thing UW needs before getting ready for a trip to Michigan.

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Third quarter scoring: Wisconsin 77 - Opponents 44
- Time of possession: Wisconsin 33:43 - Opponents 26:16
- Wisconsin passing yards per game - 208. Wisconsin rushing yards per game - 200.8