Ranking Big Ten Opening Week Games-ELITE Tier

6 of 6

1. WISCONSIN VS ALABAMA (Sept. 5, 7 p.m. CT) ABC

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers are doing as much as they can to garner more attention to the program, starting the 2015 season with their second of three season-opening games against the SEC. They failed to close out LSU a year ago and Alabama will be a very tough test for newly-hired Paul Chryst and his squad.

Wisconsin Badgers
Wisconsin Badgers /

Wisconsin Badgers

Wisconsin has a huge void to fill in Heisman Trophy runner-up Melvin Gordon. But Corey Clement should fill in nicely and the (hopefully) improved play of Joel Stave should help aleviate some pressure off the running game. Two big question marks loom for this offense however. How quickly can the young offensive line gel and who will step up at the receiver position to provide a threat on the outside? Alex Erickson returns as the team’s leading receiver from a year ago, hauling in 55 receptions for 772 yards and three touchdowns. If he can develop more into a reliable receiver, coupled with Rob Wheelwright staying healthy, Stave can gain confidence in finding someone reliable to throw to. The defensive side of things, I’m not worried about. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda did a remarkable job last season in turning a bunch of young players into one of the best defenses in college football. This season should be no different. I like linebacker T.J. Edwards and I think he will emerge as a star this season. Behind him in the secondary Michael Caputo returns after leading the team in tackles and cornerback Sojourn Shelton looks to bounce back from a down sophomore season.

Alabama on the other hand is still, well, Alabama. Nick Saban year in and year out continues to bring top-notch athletes to the program and the Tide continue to be in the running for a national championship. So why should this year be any different? The Tide have a big question mark at the quarterback position right now. Many thought Jake Coker was the man to take the starting job last year, but all he did was get beat out by Blake Sims and watch from the bench as Sims led the Tide all the way to the College Football Playoff. With Sims now gone, Coker is the leader in the clubhouse but not the clear cut favorite. Right behind him is redshirt freshman David Cornwell, who has a shot at overtaking Coker for the starting position. As for the defense, Kirby Smart did a magnificent job (sans Ohio State game) leading his squad to the 12th best total defense in the country. Linebacker Reggie Ragland, second on the team in tackles last season, is the Tide’s top player returning from a year ago and will be one of the best linebackers in the country.

By far this is the biggest game in the conference to open the 2015 season. It’s a very important game not only for Wisconsin, but for the Big Ten in general to show the country that they can play with the big boys. Alabama is an overwhelming favorite in this game (-10) and rightfully so. Not many will give Wisconsin a shot in this game but I think playing the Tide at the start of the season with a big question mark looming over their quarterback situation is a positive for the Badgers. A win for the Badgers here could give propel them into the College Football Playoff discussion as the Big Ten season gets into full swing. In the game of football, anything can happen on any given day.

Next: Week One — LEGENDS Tier

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