2011 Non-Conference Preview: Wisconsin vs. UNLV


Wisconsin at a glance...

Head Coach Bret Bielema
Record 11-2
Bowl Game 21-19 loss to TCU

2010 Preview 

 

Wisconsin had one of its best seasons in recent memory last year, upsetting then-number-one Ohio State at home, gaining a Top-5 ranking, and taking a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. Their only two losses came to Michigan State and TCU, who both finished the season ranked in the Top 15. While last season may have been great, Wisconsin will have a tough time replicating that outcome in 2011.

Following Wisconsin's outstanding 2011 season, the Badgers will have to replace a lot of talent in a lot of key positions. Wisconsin only returns 5 starters on the offensive side of the ball, and three of those are along the offensive line where Wisconsin dominated most teams last season. The other two are wide receiver Nick Toon and tight end Jake Byrne, although don't be fooled by the absence of a returning running back. While John Clay was considered the starter, he shared equal time with James White and Montee Ball during last season, so that position should definitely be a strength for the Badgers this season.

Where the problems will most likely come is at the quarterback and wide receiver positions. Wisconsin loses Scott Tolzien, and with him a ton of experience in managing the offense. His replacement, Jon Budmayr, has only had 10 passing attempts in his career, so inexperience will definitely be a factor early on. The Badgers also lose some reliable receivers in David Gilreath and Isaac Anderson which means that teams should be able to double up on Nick Toon or throw more blitzes at their inexperienced QB.

Wisconsin's offense may have lost some key players, but by no means does that mean that the defense will be just fine. They lose a lot in the secondary and linebacker positions, including MLB Culmer St. Jean. He basically ran the defense, so the loss of him will definitely hurt the defense from a leadership aspect. Along with him, the secondary loses some NFL level talent in cornerback Niles Brinkley and strong safety Jay Valai. Both were veterans with a ton of talent and will be dearly missed.

Other than that, the Defensive Line only loses one starter and the linebacking core is further depleted by the loss of Blake Sorensen. The Defensive Line will have a lot of experience with seniors Louis Nzegwu and Patrick Butrym returning, so no worries there. With Blake Sorensen also leaving, that means that there will be only one returning starter at linebacker, but that doesn't mean there will be a lack of starting experience. Chris Borland, who is expected to take over for Sorensen, has already seen plenty of time at the starting position which means that there won't be much of a dropoff.

Wisconsin's average score from last season (41-21) may fool you when it comes to the style of Wisconsin's game. Those numbers suggest that Wisconsin plays a shootout style, but in reality, it is just the opposite. The only reason their average is so high is because of three games in which Wisconsin ran up the score against inferior opponents - a 70-3 win over Austin Peay, 83-20 victory over Indiana, and a 70-23 pounding of Northwestern are all proof of that. 

The Badgers will run the ball down your throat and have in the past. This will be exemplified even more this season now that an inexperienced QB is under center and two backs who were key parts to Wisconsin's success on the ground last season. Expect to see somewhere between 40-60 rushing attempts per game.

As far as an early prediction of the outcome, I think Wisconsin will win, but it won' be a blowout. The combination of the loss of talent at key positions for Wisconsin and the newfound size and strength in the trenches for UNLV will keep it much closer than it was this past season. I'll say somewhere around a two touchdown win - 31-17.

2011 Wisconsin Badgers Football Schedule


Badgers Football Schedule

UNLV Thu 09/01 5:00 PM PDT
Oregon St. Sat 09/10 TBA
Northern Illinois Sat 09/17 TBA
South Dakota Coyotes Sat 09/24 TBA
South Dakota Coyotes Sat 09/24 TBA
Nebraska Sat 10/01 5:00 PM PDT
Indiana Sat 10/15 9:00 AM PDT
@ Michigan St. Sat 10/22 5:00 PM PDT
@ Ohio St. Sat 10/29 5:00 PM PDT
Purdue Sat 11/05 TBA
@ Minnesota Sat 11/12 TBA
@ Illinois Sat 11/19 TBA
Penn St. Sat 11/26 TBA

 

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