For as much success as Wisconsin enjoyed during the Bret Bielema era in Madison, the Badgers have just two bowl victories to fall back on despite winning the Big Ten conference three times. Bielema helped Wisconsin continue with the winning formula built by Barry Alvarez but the Badgers have yet to get over the next hump to becoming a nationally respected powerhouse program that can compete for a BCS or national title. That is not to say it can’t happen, but it will be difficult to take that next step in 2013.
Wisconsin should be a strong contender in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division this fall with a solid defense that never gets its due anchored by one of the top linebackers in the Big Ten and maybe country (Chris Borland) and an offense that should be serviceable with one of the top wide receivers in the conference (Jared Abbrederis). The pieces are in place in Madison for new head coach Gary Andersen to take over and enjoy immediate success. The former Utah State head coach was tasked with turning around a desolate program at Utah State, going from a three-win program to an 11-team program in a span of four years capped with the second bowl victory in program history last season. If any team is going to capitalize on any stumbles by the Ohio State Buckeyes, it will be the Badgers.
So, where dod I have the Badgers finishing the 2013 regular season? I have made it well-known at this point that I am all in on Ohio State in the Big Ten, which means Wisconsin will have to sit out of their first Big Ten Championship Game after playing in the first two the past two years. A road game at Arizona State should not be easy to get out of town with a victory in hand. Big Ten teams generally do not play well out west, although Wisconsin has gone against the grain before. Arizona State though should be pretty good in the Pac 12 South this season, so I’m not nearly confident enough to say they should win that game. And I’m going on record now calling for an upset alert when Wisconsin travels to Iowa, who I think has to be better this season. But other than tat, Wisconsin should be in a favorable position on the rest of the schedule. Nine wins feels right for Wisconsin.
Check out how my picks compared to members of the Athlon Sports team as well as Big Ten Network blogger Brent Yarina. How many wins are you predicting for Penn State in 2013?