Wisconsin Badgers College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season
Wisconsin Badgers Biggest Key: Offense
Easy answer … stop turning the ball over (but it’s more than that). Wisconsin’s defense stopped Northwestern dead cold, but five giveaways from the offense screwed that up. The team turned it over two times or more in three games, and those were the three losses. It went 4-0 when giving it away fewer than twice.
But it’s more than that. Part of the turnover problem – especially against Northwestern – was the offense’s need to press. Wisconsin has the passer in Graham Mertz, but everything works better when the ground game rolls.
Wisconsin ran for 341 yards against Michigan – with almost all of it seemingly happening on jet sweeps – but that was the only time the team ran for over 200 yards. The Badgers ran for 199 yards or more in nine of the 14 games in 1999 and in ten of the 13 games in 2018.
Wisconsin Badgers Biggest Key: Defense
Where’s the pass rush? The program of Watt, and the other Watt, and 51 sacks in 2019, and 42 in 2017, and constant pressure year after year generated just 11 sacks.
Of course, it was 2020 and the Badgers only played in seven games, but stretch that out over a 13-game season – 12 regular season and a bowl – and it’s still just over 20 sacks.
The D had no problems on third downs, it was great overall, and the success was there even without the pressure behind the line, but it came up with three sacks against Illinois and didn’t get more than two against anyone else.
By the way, the D made two or more sacks in 12 of the 14 games in 2019.
Wisconsin Badgers Key Player To A Successful Season
RB Jalen Berger, Soph.
Really? 301 yards and two scores for the Wisconsin leading rusher? Melvin Gordon got that without breathing hard against Nebraska.
Wisconsin sets a ridiculously unfair standard for running backs.
How does anyone – even someone as highly recruited as Berger – follow up what Jonathan Taylor did? The Indianapolis Colt star was on track to break Ron Dayne’s record and be the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher – even if that would’ve been derailed by 2020 being 2020 had he returned – coming off a 2,003-yard, 21-touchdown season.
Berger? He was fine. He averaged over five yards per carry, but he he only scored twice and didn’t hit the 100-yard mark in his four games of work.
Wisconsin Badgers Key Game To The 2021 Season
Penn State, Sept. 4
It’s not against a West team, and it’s not the showdown against Notre Dame at Soldier Field, but it’s a massive national thing of a season opener for two programs coming off wildly disappointing campaigns.
This is about as tone-setter as an opener gets. The Badgers can show they’re back to being the star of the West – or close to it – with a big performance, but if they lose, the home date with Michigan a few weeks later becomes a season-maker a week after dealing with the Irish in Chicago.
2020 Wisconsin Badgers Fun Stats
– 4th Down Conversions: Wisconsin 5-of-12 (42%) – Opponents 2-of-11 (18%)
– Time of Possession: Wisconsin 36:20 – Opponents 23:40
– Rushing TDs: Wisconsin 13 – Opponents 2