Wisconsin Football #17 in Schlabach’s Post-Spring Top 25


Following the spring sessions, ESPN analyst Mark Schlabach has released another installment of his “too early top 25” series — this one focusing on life after spring practice — and he’s got the Wisconsin football team listed as the #17 squad in the country heading into the 2015 season.

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The ranking is one spot lower than his last “too early top 25,” when Schlabach had the Badgers sitting at No. 16.

Wisconsin closed out the 2015 season by winning the Big Ten West, falling horribly short in the Big Ten Championship Game to eventual National Champion Ohio State, and earning a thrilling Outback Bowl victory over Auburn.

The Badgers headed into the offseason No. 13 in the final AP poll, but the roster took some big hits.

Most notably, Wisconsin will head into the 2015 season without Melvin Gordon, who now wears blue and white for the San Diego Chargers. Rob Havenstein is a St. Louis Ram, and Warren Herring signed as an UDFA with the Atlanta Falcons.

Gone also are tight end Sam Arneson, offensive linemen Kyle Costigan and Dallas Lewallen, linebackers Derek Landisch and Marcus Trotter, wide receiver Kenzel Doe, and many more seniors who contributed in big ways to the successes Wisconsin enjoyed on the field last year.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

The Badgers are headed in a new direction on offense with Paul Chryst taking over for Gary Anderson. Dave Aranda is in his third year turning the defense into one of the better units in college football.

As Schlabach noted, several factors should allow the Badgers to have a very successful year in 2015, the schedule playing a big role:

"“New Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst inherited a pretty talented roster (minus departed tailback Melvin Gordon) and a favorable schedule in 2015. The Badgers open the season against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, which won’t be easy, but they don’t play Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State or Penn State during the regular season. Sophomore Corey Clement looks to be Wisconsin’s next star tailback, but he’ll need more help from the passing game.”"

The Badgers head to Alabama to open the season, but after that, it’s somewhat smooth sailing. Wisconsin’s toughest games are road contests against Nebraska and Minnesota. Wisconsin’s toughest home contest might be when Iowa heads to town in the first week of the conference schedule.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

The Badgers avoid the big hitters in the Big Ten East again this year, and the schedule has them set up for a chance to play in the Big Ten Championship Game once again this season.

Beyond the schedule, Wisconsin has big holes to fill in its roster, but seems to be cobbling together capable replacements.

Corey Clement will have his chance to shine, the offensive line will churn out another group of maulers in the trenches, and some up-and-coming tight ends and defensive backs will be given opportunities to make plays.

The biggest question mark is at inside linebacker, but the Badgers have a few options in new recruit Nick Thomas and former outside backer T.J. Edwards.

The No. 17 ranking feels about right for a team that had little-to-no passing game in 2014 and loses its best offensive player.

Other Big Ten teams in Schlabach’s “too early top 25” — with his comments about the season ahead —include:

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1. Ohio State: “In three seasons, Urban Meyer has built Ohio State into the country’s hottest program, going 38-3 overall, 24-0 in Big Ten regular-season games and winning the inaugural College Football Playoff. The scariest part: Meyer might only be getting warmed up. With multiple star quarterbacks, the country’s best tailback and a menacing defensive line, the Buckeyes are the team to beat in 2015.”

8. Michigan State: “Talk about consistency: The Spartans have won 11 games or more in four of the past five seasons. Their only two losses in 2014 came against Oregon and Ohio State, which played for the national championship. With quarterback Connor Cook coming back, MSU might be the second-best team in the Big Ten. Without tailback Jeremy Langford, it’s probably not good enough to unseat Ohio State.”

The Badgers open the season September 5 against Alabama in Arlington, Texas.

Next: Top 5 Badgers Games to Watch in 2015