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Year of the Badger: Football

In the fifth edition of “Year of the Badger”, we focus in on second-year coach Gary Andersen and the Wisconsin Badgers football team.

Upon being named the new head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers football team in December 2012, Gary Andersen almost immediately endeared himself to Badgers fans everywhere.

The personable Andersen was a breath of fresh air for many around the Badger State, as his predecessor, Bret Bielema, had a much more uptight, strict demeanor. Andersen gave off a very positive vibe and his players all seemed to really take to him almost instantaneously.

But in the end, what matters most to UW fans is how a coach gets his team to perform on the gridiron, which Andersen did a pretty solid job of in 2013.

The Badgers went 9-4 in his first season with the team, but the only really disappointing defeat was an upset loss to Penn State at home in their regular season finale. Two of the other losses came at the hands of a couple of excellent teams (Ohio State, South Carolina) and the other came in extremely controversial fashion against Arizona State.

However, Wisconsin is losing several key players from the 2013 team, including wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, tight end Jacob Pedersen, linebacker Chris Borland, running back James White, defensive tackle Beau Allen and safety Dezmen Southward.

This leaves the team with questions in their receiving core and an inexperienced secondary, which would seem to suggest that 2014 could be a bit bumpy for the Badgers, especially since they kick off the season against perennial SEC powerhouse, LSU.

But luckily for Andersen and his team, their schedule sets up extremely well; in fact, no team has an easier path through the Big Ten than the Badgers. Conference realignment definitely helped UW in 2014, as they will play conference newcomers Maryland and Rutgers, while avoiding Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan from the Big Ten East.

While their schedule will certainly play to their advantage, how good the Badgers can be lies heavily on the shoulders of junior running back Melvin Gordon.

Gordon, a preseason Heisman Trophy contender, rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. He’ll be counted on to anchor the Wisconsin offense in 2014, especially since the Badgers don’t have a proven go-to receiver and the quarterback battle between Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy still hasn’t been settled.

Depending on how well Gordon performs and how Andersen’s young team develops over the course of the season, Wisconsin could be a legitimate contender in the Big Ten this year. Along with Iowa and Nebraska, the Badgers are one of the favorites to win the Big Ten West and earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.

If they are able to grab the Big Ten West crown and pick up a victory in the conference championship game, the Badgers will find themselves playing in yet another major bowl game come late December or early January.

And if things really go well for Andersen’s team in 2014, maybe we’ll even see them taking part in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

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Tags: Gary Andersen Melvin Gordon Wisconsin Badgers

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