I'm nothing more than a Wisconsin Badgers fan.
But I love to voice my opinion, and I hope that Bret Bielema will listen. I doubt he will, but whatever.
This right here is a recap of 2010, and what I expect to see in 2011.
Wisconsin kicked off the 2010 season with yet another relatively weak Non-conference schedule (not that I mind). They played their first game of the season in Vegas, taking down UNLV 41-21. I thought they should've won by much more, but a win is a win, and 20 points isn't too bad. They also should have beat San Jose State by more than 13. The 27-14 win wasn't flashy or anywhere near flawless, but it was another win.
Arizona State gave UW a scare in Camp Randall, but they held on thanks to some miraculous defensive plays and a touchdown-saving tackle at the end of the 1st half by Shelton Johnson. The 20-19 win had some fans (including me) scratching their heads, thinking "where is that high-powered offense?" Paul Chryst's group answered those questions that next week vs. Austin Peay. They opened up a can of whoop-ass on the Governors (70-3!). Scott Tolzien played flawless, the running game was amazing, and the defense was a brick wall. On Wisconsin.
On to Michigan State. Wisconsin would see their hopes of a perfect season die in East Lansing. The offense and defense could'nt overcome a special teams touchdown for Michigan State, and the Spartans took the game 34-24.
No perfect season, but a great season was still possible. The Badgers took a step in that direction with a 41-23 win vs Minnesota. That's the 7th straight victory against the Gophers. They stayed at home that week, preparing for a showdown against Ohio State. They prepared well, and shocked then-no. 1 OSU 31-18 at Camp Randall. Talk about a signature win.
Beating Ohio State is one thing. But beating the Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes back-to-back is another. Wisconsin went against the odds and won in Iowa 31-30. J.J. Watt was undoubtedly the MVP, blocking an XP and sacking Stanzi to halt what seemed like a possible GW-drive by the Hawkeyes. Great win. Won't forget this one.
Now in the top 10 and on the national spotlight, all UW had to do was take care of 4 more Big Ten opponents. These teams were Purdue, Indiana, Michigan, and Northwestern. Not bad teams, but not teams as good as UW.
Bielema and Co. did what they needed to and more, as they won all of these games by 20 points or more. The win that sparked national buzz was 83-20 vs Indiana. But that couldn't downplay the 70-23 win vs Northwestern. They won these games without John Clay, but Clay would be back for the postseason matchup in Pasedena.
Wisconsin's 11-1 record was good enough to earn them a share of the Big Ten title and a berth to the Rose Bowl. Their foe was decided to be TCU. I was thinking it would be Stanford but I didn't mind the matchup vs TCU. I didn't know what to think about the Frogs because I'd never watched them play before. I went into the game having no clue what would happen. I figured one of two things would occur...either Wisconsin would destroy the fake Horned Frogs, or TCU would show everyone how legit they were and win a very close game. It turned out to be the second one, as TCU took the game 21-19. It's tough to blame one guy or even one squad for this loss. The defense didn't play well enough over the course of the game, but the offense didn't get into the end zone when needed. It will take me more than a month to forget this game but I won't dwell on it for too long. Instead, I will look ahead to 2011.
The Badgers finalized their 2011 recruiting class only a few days ago. They didn't get any of the big-name players they were pursing at the end (Curt Maggitt, Jacoby Brissett, Spencer Region) but did get 20 guys who will look good in cardinal and white. Melvin Gordon, an ultra quick back, stood at the top of the class, along with OLB Jake Keefer and WR A.J. Jordan. You never know what type of contribution these guys will make as freshman because they may redshirt, or if they play they would be competing with Juniors and Seniors. But there is no question how these guys will contribute in 2 or 3 years. Almost every one of these guys will mold into a good player, even some of the walk-ons (Tyler Leonhard, bro of Jim Leonard).
The biggest questions heading into 2011 will be the quarterback. The starting job is really up in the air right now. I would think Curt Phillips would win it, but another ACL tear sets him back. Jon Budmayr and Joe Brennan are other top candidates. I like Budmayr's accuracy and poise, but he is really small (6'0 200) compared to Brennan (6'3 190) and Phillips (6'3 225). Budmayr could have alot of passes batted at the line, but if he can get a high release it may not be too big of a problem. Joe Brennan didn't play at all this season so It's tough to grade him. But my belief is that if he recovers well from his ACL tear, Curt Phillips will be the starting QB for Wisconsin in 2011.
3 who will have breakout seasons
3 players will come out of nowhere and have breakout seasons for Wisconsin. I purposely left out guys like James White, Montee Ball, Nick Toon, and Chris Borland because every Wisky fan has big expectations for those guys this season.
First is Jacob Pederson, a tight end who will be playing his sophmore season in 2011. Pederson saw some time when Kendricks was down with injuries and he looked like a natural reciever. He also hit some good blocks. What I saw from Pederson last season convinces me that he will take the starting TE spot and be a big factor is UW's passing and running games.
Second, we switch to defense and look to CB Devin Smith. Smith will be opposite Antonio Fenelus. Devin was good in nickel coverage as the 3rd corner this season and also made some plays on special teams. He showed alot of potential, and I have a feeling he will come through this season. Smith will lead the team in INTs and pass breakups, and collect tackles in run support.
Lastly, we stay on defense, but look to the line. David Gilbert will have a special Junior season. I believe he will outplay fellow DE Louis Nzegwu and be considered the primary pass-rusher for Wisconsin. I see him getting close to the double-digit mark in sacks, and getting close to the TFL total of J.J. Watt this past season. I loved Gilbert's game since he blocked a punt as a freshman and made numerous special teams plays. This is his year.
I personally think that the Badgers are losing too many players to have a chance of going undefeated, but another Rose Bowl berth is certainly possible. I expect the offense to once again be among the nation's best, but the defense has questions that are yet to be answered. Overall, this should be yet another good year for the Wisconsin Badgers under Bret Bielema.
Tell me what you think in the comment section below.