Wisconsin football opens up the 2020 season at home against Illinois. Let’s preview the Badger’s first game of the season.
We all know what happened last year, almost a year to-the-date when the undefeated Wisconsin football team went to Illinois last year and lost on a last-second field goal. Now, Wisconsin will have a chance to start the season off on the right foot and get some revenge on them when they open their season with Illinois coming to town.
There has been a lot of turnover for this Wisconsin football team. They lost a pair of big playmakers on the defensive side of the ball in Zack Baun and Chris Orr. They also lost the two-time Doak Walker award winner Jonathan Taylor to the NFL and starting quarterback Jack Coan to injury on the offensive side of the ball.
But this is nothing new for the Badgers. They’ve always had the “next man up” mentality, and have been successful in replacing former stars. I wouldn’t expect anything different this season.
The Graham Mertz era will begin this Friday for the Wisconsin football program. The highly-touted recruit spent last season in a backup role and eventually took a redshirt. Even though Mertz is making his first collegiate start, the Badgers aren’t expected to skip a beat. According to Bovada, the Badgers are 19.5-point favorites over the Fighting Illini.
I expect the Badgers to rotate running backs. They don’t have a proven bell-cow back as they did with Jonathan Taylor last season. I’d look for Nakia Watson to get the start and the bulk of the carries, but others will contribute as well. Garrett Groshek is going to be the primary third-down back. I would also expect to see Isaac Guerendo get some snaps in there and maybe even freshmen Jaylen Berger and Julius Davis. This Wisconsin football team has a whole stable of backs at their disposal.
We took a look at the receiver position a few weeks ago, and not much has changed. Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor will be the primary receivers alongside tight end Jake Ferguson. I think one player to keep an eye out for would be Chimere Dike, especially if this game gets out of hand early.
The offensive line will need to replace center Tyler Biadasz. Kayden Lyles is slotted to be his replacement. Otherwise, the offensive line remains mostly intact. They will return Cole Van Lanen at left tackle, which is huge. This should still be a great offensive line, like always.
The defense, led by defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, comes into this game with a veteran defensive line and secondary. The only big players they really need to replace are Orr and Baun. Luckily, linebacker depth is at a premium for the Badgers. Leo Chenal will step in and join Jack Sanborn as the other inside linebacker. Noah Burks and Izayah Green-May will have first dibs at filling in for Baun, but freshmen Spencer Lytle and Nick Herbig will be rotating in as well.
This defensive unit should be ready to roll. This defensive line is a veteran group. They will benefit from Keanu Benton, who broke out as a freshman last season, but they are also getting Bryson Williams back too. This will be a tough group to run on.
The secondary will also be a veteran group. Caesar Williams and Rachad Wildgoose will lock things down on the outside. At safety, they will have Eric Burrell and Scott Nelson/Collin Wilder. Nelson was injured last season, which opened the door for Reggie Pearson, who isn’t playing this season, so Nelson will be able to step back in and reclaim his starting position.
This Wisconsin football defense will look to be one of the top defenses in the NCAA yet again.