Who will be the Badgers' break-out player in 2015?
Neal Olson: I'm going to pin my hopes to redshirt freshman T.J. Edwards. Despite limited defensive experience in high school, Edwards has impressed the coaches with his playmaking ability at inside linebacker. Edwards has the athleticism to cover sideline to sideline and has logged hours in the film room. Those factors combined with the history of inside linebackers racking up tackles in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's defense and I would not be surprised if Edwards was the leading tackler on this team.
Curtis Hogg: STOP MAKING ME CHOOSE JUST ONE PLAYER. I'm going to go with redshirt sophomore Troy Fumagalli at tight end. Last season, he was good for one completion a game at a freakishly consistent rate. The 6'6, 247-pound redshirt sophomore presents a big, athletic frame for quarterback Joel Stave and could be the pivotal figure in the passing game.
Jim Dayton: In the last question, I said the passing game was my biggest concern because of Joel Stave's accuracy problems and the lack of another receiving threat besides redshirt freshman wide receiver Alex Erickson. But I think Wisconsin will overcome these issues thanks to junior Robert Wheelwright. The former three-star recruit out of Columbus, Ohio, has disappointed thus far in his first two seasons, with only three catches total. However, his lone reception last year was the game-clinching touchdown against Minnesota and he's coming off a strong spring. At 6'3 and 202 pounds, Wheelwright has the size and skill to become a legitimate weapon for the Badgers.
Drew Hamm: YAY JIM! ROB WHEELWRIGHT IS THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION FOREVER AND ALWAYS! #yearofWheelwright As a bonus pick, I like redshirt freshman Jeremy Patterson a lot and I could see him stealing some snaps at nose guard as the season progresses.
What are your season predictions (wins/losses) for the 2015 Badgers?
Week 1 Reads
Roundtable: Previewing the 2015 Badgers
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Week 1 Reads
Neal: As noted by the cautiously optimistic approach above, I think the Badgers are in a position to have a very good season. They return a senior, three-year starter at quarterback, have a proven offensive weapon at running back and four All-Big Ten players on defense. That experience combined with the easiest power five schedule (after the Alabama game) should make anything short of 10-2 and a New Year's Day bowl game a disappointment.
Curt: I really want to pick Wisconsin over Alabama. I mean really want to, but I'm not to that point yet. After that, the Badgers shouldn't lose more than one conference game -- although going 6-2 wouldn't be catastrophic. I'll go 10-2 with a Big Ten Championship game appearance.
Jim: 10-2. A moral victory in the season opener means not getting steamrolled by the Tide, but that obviously means nothing for the win column. Assuming a loss there, expect Wisconsin to win the rest of its non-conference schedule. The Big Ten West division is kind of a mess, and while many are labeling the Badgers as the division favorite, the gap doesn't seem large enough for Wisconsin to finish its conference slate unscathed. Road match-ups against Nebraska and Minnesota are the most likely candidates for a loss, but as we saw last year, head-scratching losses like the one to Northwestern can pop up at any time. The Badgers will lose one Big Ten game in there somewhere, but I still think they win the West and get stuck with Ohio State in Indy.
Drew: Anything less than nine wins with this schedule should be considered catastrophic. The Badgers should also probably win their division -- and if they beat Alabama, they can claim the SEC West title too. It's not that far fetched, Indiana was the SEC East champ last year.
Dallas. Bama. Jerry's World. Being realistic, can Wisconsin pull off the upset, and if so -- how?
Neal: Make no mistake, beating Bama will require a monumental effort as well as some fortunate bounces. The formula for an upset is effectively the same game plan Ohio State used to defeat Bama in the Sugar Bowl; turnovers and big plays. If the defense can find a way to force a few errors and Stave and connect on a few long passes, the Badgers have a chance to open the season with a bang.
Curt: I never thought you would ask! Yes, as surely as sophomore kicker Rafael Gaglianone can grow that mustache, the Badgers have a realistic chance at winning this game. It will take some sort of effort from Stave, given the Crimson Tide's front seven. Wisconsin surely isn't lacking in any confidence, either. Let's have Wisconsin roll the tide and watch for Drew Hamm running wild on the field to celebrate with the team (ed. note -- I cannot bail Drew out of jail when covering the game in Dallas).
Jim: The only way Wisconsin pulls the upset is for its defense to already be in midseason form. The Badgers are facing their fair share of questions on offense, so it's unrealistic to expect Stave and junior running back Corey Clement to lead the charge over the vaunted Bama defense. However, the Tide are facing a few questions of their own on offense, most notably involving the departure of quarterback Blake Sims and wide receiver Amari Cooper. The Badgers had a very good defense last year, and it's paramount that unit immediately continues its dominance if Wisconsin is to pull the upset. It's not impossible, but it's a lot to ask for the first game.
Drew: Alabama has questions at quarterback (they have 1,424,532 listed as co-starters by my count) and have a guy named "Hootie" on their depth chart at free safety. That being said, I'll be pleased if Wisconsin covers the spread. Also, if you're going to the game hit me up on Twitter dot com and come tailgate with me and my idiot friends. We'll be in the RV lot and I just bought a huge flag pole that will have a USA flag, a Wisconsin flag and a pirate flag on it. I'll be the drunk guy manning the grill.