This has not been a good week for Wisconsin football. Last Saturday, top Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus announced via Twitter that he was taking a leave of absence for, at the time, unspecified legal reasons. On Monday, authorities charged him with second- and third-degree sexual assault, both felonies. (At which point Cephus was suspended from the team, per written policy). Also discussed in the criminal complaint against Cephus was also-going-to-be important WR Danny Davis, who has been suspended from the team for at least two games. This is an ugly situation that is only beginning, and there’s no doubt you will hear about it throughout the season.
You’re going to hear a LOT of good things about Wisconsin this year too. Best O Line in the country, top RB in the B1G, more players on preseason All-American teams than almost anyone, poops out pro lineman, etc... Without spoiling the rest of the article, here’s why you should believe, feel, and WANT Wisconsin to win a conference-leading third championship game:
I. The Opening
A. Case History
Last season was pretty...pretty good. Coming off of a 2016 campaign that included three Top 10 wins (at the time lolz), a conference title game appearance, and the first of many wins over PJ Fleck, Wisconsin looked at their schedule and came up with a novel approach: let’s try to win all of these games. And so they did. 12 up and 12 down, starting with a cathartic release of some residual resentment of Gary Andersen by proxy against Utah State and ending with the second of many wins over PJ Fleck for 14x Axe bliss. Therewasaconferencetitlegame and then Wisconsin headed to the Orange Bowl for a de facto home game against Miami in, well, Miami. This game was a clash of cultures, largely because there is no greater antithesis to Miami, both the city and the football program, than Paul Chryst. Miami and Chryst don’t even share any common letters. At this game, Chryst almost let the temptations and inhibitions of the Miami vibe get to him as he cussed for the first time in his life, but he quickly regrouped, covering his mouth for the bad words like a good dad does. I’m not kidding:
Chryst reportedly pocketed an extra orange or two after the Orange Bowl win, mumbling something about Vitamin C. The “Graduation” singer could not be reached for comment.
B. Opening Statement
Good people Okay people Savages of OTE, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Wisconsin will be good. How good? Media predictions indicate the Badgers are a semi-trendy playoff pick, and they opened the preseason #4 in the AP poll with one first-place vote. Let’s take a half-step back.
The offense will be borderline great. In fact, we here in the deep-fried curd wing of OTE think it could be the best offense ever assembled at Wisconsin that doesn’t have the luxury of Russell Wilson. The offensive line? Remember back in 2015 when the Badgers were forced to play four freshman on the OL because Gary Andersen spent the previous years thinking a group of small, nimble linemen would be something that Wisconsin would be interested in? Well, those guys are seniors now, completing Paul Chryst’s rebuild of that position. Three NFL-ready linemen opted to return for their final season, two earned preseason All-American honors, and several media types are touting this as the top OL unit in the country.
Running back? Wisconsin returns sophomore Jonathan Taylor, who broke the nation’s freshman rushing record and finished 6th in Heisman voting (2nd among returning college athletes). Taylor is a punishing back with deceptive top-end speed; if your defense can’t stop the run, you may find that Saturday better-suited for yard work and light screaming. The receiving corps is talented, albeit a bit green. AJ Taylor’s build/skillset is prime for both the slot and token RB snaps, but he has proven to be more versatile and can create matchup problems on the outside as well. He had an impressive Orange Bowl with over 100 yards and a circus TD catch. Kendric Pryor is a talented WR that has been the victim of a deep roster in recent seasons but looks to carry more weight in 2018. One new name to look out for is Aron Cruickshank. The lightning-fast true freshman has been turning heads in camp and may see early action as a returner and/or with a couple packages in the offense.
And then of course there’s Alex Hornibrook at QB. Hornibrook has generally been solid; he moves a sophisticated offense down the field well and is an improvement from Joel Stave and Bart Houston as far as being able to read the whole field versus key in on one trusted receiver. His Orange Bowl was incredible, earning MVP honors after throwing for over 250 yards and 4 TDs en route to MVP honors. He hasn’t had the strongest arm though, and he is prone to making 1-2 bad reads in a game that often get picked off. If he continues playing similar to his Orange Bowl performance, look out. If he keeps up his interception rate from last year there will be some nerve-wracking close games.
The defense is where most of the question marks lie. Expect the linebackers to maintain their excellence and Olive Sagapolu to remain a force at nose tackle. After that, this defense is largely turning over a new leaf. With Garrett Rand out for the year due to injury and Isaiahh Loudermilk missing at least the first few games as well, both DEs will be unexpected starters to begin the season. The secondary is talented but very green, with freshmen Caesar Williams and Scott Nelson as well as sophomore Dontye Carriere-Williams expected to join stalwart D’Cota Dixon. This defense should be able to maintain its effectiveness creating pressure and negative plays, but expect a few more explosive plays surrendered or broken plays in the secondary. Whether that results in a couple L’s on the record, of course, remains to be seen.
Fat Kicker is currently injured but figures to return for his 19th season.
C. Let’s go through this, step by step
|at Penn State
So for starters, the home slate appears to have been meticulously engineered by a Minnesota grad that wants no entertainment options in Madison whatsoever. Or was it a Wisconsin grad that likes setting video games on the easiest level and winning by 80? Either way expect a ton of methodical snuff films from America’s Dairyland this fall. The away games are fun though! Michigan, Iowa, and Penn State are true games to watch, Purdue is improved, and despite exorcising the Ryan Field demons two years ago Northwestern can still be a tough out on the road.
A. What we’ve written about Wisconsin this offseason
B. Here’s a cool jif
III. Emotional Plea
College football has some time-tested rules for success. Our little football community has some time-tested rules, and some time-tested “rules,” for predicting success or determining rooting interests. Wisconsin follows the college football rules, and you, each and every one of you members of the Off Tackle Empire readership, “read”ership, and commentariat, should follow the other rules.
If you want to be a good college football team, you build from the trenches outward. Everyone knows this, and Wisconsin does this. The 2018 Wisconsin Badgers will have the best offensive line in college football, including three players who will go in the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL draft and who, in various ways, were selected for national and B1G All-American teams. They all eat giant meals together at...Red Robin? Among the five of them, they use every letter in the alphabet to spell their names. Talented, lovable, hard to spell—why wouldn’t you think highly of this most-important of position groups? Believe in Wisconsin.
On the other side of the trench (lol using war metaphors for a sport) you get a Nose Tackle who can eat up two-to-four blocks by himself, opens up lanes for blitzers to get through, and can do standing backflips. Also he’s got a great name and can’t stop talking about his days as a high school cheerleader. The other guys and gals want to draw your attention to the youth at the DE positions, but in Wisconsin’s defense, you just need some dudes to eat up blocks and let the linebackers steal the glory. Toss a couple of Wisconsin’s yearly-elite linebackers along the D Line, and you can see why Wisconsin has had so much success the last few years. Believe in Wisconsin.
Establish the run. If you want to be a good football team from 2010 and before, you HAVE to establish the run. As you, fellow sports enthusiasts, are well aware, given Wisconsin’s O Line, you could stick that white RB from Varsity Blues who vultured all the TDs from the actually-good black RB behind Wisconsin’s line and get 1,000 yards without breaking a sweat. Instead of a fictional high school RB, though, Wisconsin will trot out the 2nd or 3rd best RB in the country, fresh off of setting the all-time freshman record for rushing yards. Jonathan Taylor (Thomas) is going to run the ball exactly when and where you’d expect, and there’s nothing you can do to stop him. So why believe in and root for this setup if you’re not already a Wisconsin fan? Because it’ll be fun to watch, good football is good football, and you have the ready-made “Taylor isn’t that good he’s just got an elite line” excuse in your pocket. Believe in Wisconsin, root for Wisconsin.
Earlier in this trial we promised that by the end of today, beyond believing in Wisconsin, you would feel like Wisconsin is going to win the conference this year. Take everything we’ve laid out for why Wisconsin is going to be good, and let’s add some ingredients.
First, the immutable rule of OTE applies perfectly to Wisconsin—The players on my favorite team get better every offseason, while the players on all the other teams stay the same or get worse. EVERYBODY on Wisconsin is better than last year and, at best, everyone on the other teams in the West is still at the level they were when Wisconsin rolled through the division last year. The same goes for Michigan (who Wisconsin plays again this year, and who Wisconsin beat last year), and Ohio State (who Wisconsin barely lost to last year and who, stagnant as they were in the offseason, will be worse this year). The only unknown is Penn State, but Wisconsin can lose that game and still win the division by two games. You can’t argue with this OTE rule or the logical application of it this season: Wisconsin is going to win the CCG and you should feel the same way.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, there’s the rule of coin flips. Wisconsin has lost the CCG the last three times. Three times in the past four years, Wisconsin has flipped a coin and watched it come up heads. The chances of that coin landing on heads again this year are miniscule, and you, lightly-educated and lacking-in-common-sense fellow B1G fans, understand how unlikely it is for the coin to land on heads FOUR TIMES IN A ROW. Put more simply, Wisconsin is due. Wisconsin is going to win the CCG and you should feel the same way.
Finally, MCClappyHandz and Beez promised that you would want Wisconsin to win the conference this year. There are a couple clear-cut reasons why. The most likely CCG opponents are, in order, OSU, PSU, UM, and MSU. Wisconsin is all that stands between you and the fans of one of those four teams being uber annoying all bowl season and offseason. There is no OTE or life rule more rock solid than “anybody but Ohio State,” except maybe the “anyone but Michigan.” As we’ve discussed and agreed all throughout this argument, we all want to follow the rules. That leaves Penn State and Michigan State. There is nobody, other than the fans of Penn State, Iowa, and Minnesota (and the Northwestern writers) (and SpartanHT) who would rather seen Penn f-ing State win the conference than Wisconsin. Same goes for Michigan State, although that’s a closer call (but then lol, MSU is losing four games this season).
The possibilities for 2018 B1G Conference Champion are Wisconsin, OSU, PSU, UM, and MSU. Four of those teams you absolutely DON’T want to win the CCG. Wisconsin...well, Wisconsin you can at least live with. Wisconsin is going to win the CCG and you are going to want them to win it.
In summation, all the rules of College Football and OTE and life point to Wisconsin as this year’s B1G Champ. And if that’s not enough, let us lay this on you: Fat Kicker CCG-winning field goal.
Everyone who took the time to make Wisconsin predictions had them at 3-0 in the non-conference schedule. Here’s what people predicted for Wisconsin’s 2018 B1G record (pre-Wisconsin losing its #1 and maybe #2/3 receivers):
How’s Wisconsin doing during B1G play?
How many regular season Wisconsin losses?
This poll is closed
That’s all ya get, suckas