Wisconsin Scouting Report
After winning eight consecutive games to win the Big Ten East over Ohio State and Michigan, Penn State will face off against the Big Ten West champions Wisconsin Badgers for the conference crown this Saturday. Wisconsin, like Penn State, has overcome many obstacles to reach the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. Both teams overcame uncertainty to have a chance to become Big Ten champions and secure a spot in the College Football Playoff.
There were a lot of doubters surrounding Wisconsin as the season approached. With a schedule that featured expected powerhouses LSU, Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska; Wisconsin certainly was not expected to reach this point.
But Wisconsin would have none of that.
The Badgers opened the season with an upset victory over LSU at Lambeau Field. The team then continued its success to a 4–0 record after a victory over then-No. 8 Michigan State. Wisconsin may have started the season unranked, but by then it had made it all the way to No. 8 in the AP Poll.
However, the Badgers were left deflated after back-to-back losses to No. 4 Michigan and No. 2 Ohio State. Wisconsin lost to the Wolverines 14–7 and dropped their game to the Buckeyes 30–23 in overtime. The losses left the Badgers at 1–2 in the Big Ten.
They haven’t lost a game since.
Wisconsin battled back with a hard-fought 17–9 victory over Iowa. Yet, its key victory of the season was the following week against then-No. 7 Nebraska. Wisconsin won 23–17 in overtime and finished the difficult part of the schedule with a 6–2 record and pushed to a winning record within the Big Ten. The Badgers have dominated since with easy victories over Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota.
Head Coach Paul Chryst was named Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year after posting a 10-2 record, 7-2 in the Big Ten and winning the Big Ten West.
Offensively, Wisconsin boasts running back Corey Clement, who ran for 1,140 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. The Badgers play two quarterbacks, Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston; both combined for 2,155 passing yards and 13 touchdowns. Still, Wisconsin only ranks 69th in scoring with 28.5 points per game and 106th in passing yards per game at 179.6.
The Badgers are carried by a defense that is ranked third in scoring, surrendering only 13.7 points per game; only Alabama and Michigan allowed fewer. The secondary was arguably the best in the nation with senior safety Leo Musso, junior safety D’Cota Dixon and senior cornerback Sojourn Shelton leading the way. Wisconsin currently leads the nation with 21 interceptions. Junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt joins them in forming one of the very best defenses in the country. Shelton and Watt are considered two of the best players in the country as both recently made the All-Big Ten First Team on defense.
Wisconsin’s defensive prowess is even more impressive considering the amount of injuries it has suffered on that side of the ball. Linebacker T.J. Edwards suffered a broken bone in the offseason, meanwhile linebackers Jack Cichy and Chris Orr suffered season ending injuries.
Many are left wondering what will happen to the Big Ten champion when it comes to the playoff. The odds may be against both Wisconsin and Penn State regardless who wins, however, both teams have defied the odds all season.
Ryan Leonardo is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.