Wisconsin Badgers Must Take Advantage Of Schedule With Tough Road In 2016


The Wisconsin Badgers are once again blessed with another soft schedule in the Big Ten West, which they need to take advantage of, considering what lies ahead in the future.

READ ALSO: Wisconsin Football 2015 Season Predictions

Without the top teams in the conference on the slate again this year, Wisconsin has a golden opportunity for a real special season, which many expect to be another conference title game appearance, and it could be more than that.

The Badgers will not be so lucky next year with some big-time opponents along with new scheduling rules, but a number of key contributors will look to end their Badger careers on a high note in their final season in Madison. There is no time like the present for this year’s Wisconsin football team.

Soft 2015 schedule

Wisconsin is a 10.5-point underdog for Saturday night’s showdown with Alabama, but the Badgers may be favored to win every game the rest of the regular season with three easy contests at home leading up to the weak Big Ten schedule.

The Badgers will enjoy the same conference slate as they did in 2014, as they once again avoid Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State in the regular season.

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Wisconsin’s toughest Big Ten games will come on the road against Nebraska and Minnesota. The Badgers have enjoyed recent success against both division rivals with 11 straight wins versus the Gophers and two consecutive victories over the Cornhuskers.

Nebraska and Minnesota do not have quite the luxury in their conference schedules. The Cornhuskers play Michigan State in Lincoln, and Minnesota will host Michigan and play Ohio State in Columbus.

The road to the top of the West is a favorable one for the Badgers to return to Indianapolis and compete in the Big Ten Championship for the fourth time in the game’s five-year history.

Tough road lies ahead

Wisconsin’s 2016 schedule does not set up nearly as kindly, which is why the Badgers need to take advantage this year.

Wisconsin will kick off next year with a date at Lambeau Field against LSU and begin the conference season with road games against Michigan and Michigan State, followed by a home contest with Ohio State.

This will also be the final season before the conference implements its new scheduling criteria in 2016. Earlier this summer, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced every member will play nine league games a year, each teams’ nonconference schedule will require at least one Power Five conference opponent, and games against FCS schools will no longer be allowed.

Future lineup uncertainty

Another reason the Badgers need make this season count is because they will lose some key players on the roster, most notably in the passing game.

Wisconsin will likely deal with uncertainty at the quarterback position with Joel Stave out of the picture next year along with a few of his top wide receiver targets. The Badgers’ No. 1 wideout Alex Erickson will be gone, as well as the athletic 6-foot-6 Tanner McEvoy, who is the second receiver on the initial depth chart. Jordan Fredrick is known as a good run blocker but has recorded 40 catches in his career, the second most on the team. He is also in his final season.

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  • Wisconsin will also begin next year without left tackle Tyler Marz, who has played in 38 games, including 27 starts. The versatility of Derek Watt and Austin Traylor will need to be replaced as well.

    Looking to the defensive side of the ball in 2016, Wisconsin loses last year’s leading tackler safety Michael Caputo as well as shut-down cornerback Darius Hillary and outside linebacker Joe Schobert.

    The defense should be in good shape, especially with Dave Aranda in charge, but the passing game will need work with a whole new cast of characters in the starting lineup.

    This year’s Badgers are expected to represent the West in the Big Ten Championship Game, but could Wisconsin reach even greater heights in 2015?

    Wisconsin came relatively close to putting itself in contention for last season’s inaugural College Football Playoff with a similar schedule. If Melvin Gordon received more than two second-half carries in the season opener against LSU and Badgers’ quarterbacks threw less than four interceptions in a six-point loss to Northwestern, the Badgers would have been 12-0 heading to the conference title game. Would a 59-0 beating from Ohio State have taken Wisconsin out of the Playoff? Probably, but they would have at least been in the discussion with just the one loss.

    Wisconsin has another golden opportunity to make 2015 a magical season. If the Badgers take care of business against the teams they are expected to beat and pull off a victory against the Tide or in the conference championship game likely against Ohio State or Michigan State, Wisconsin has a legitimate shot at year two of the College Football Playoff. The time is now for the Badgers.

    Next: Wisconsin Football 2015 Depth Chart Unveiled

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