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Roundtable: A talented Wisconsin team faces daunting schedule in 2016

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Our second year-end discussion revolves around who was the team MVP and what the future holds in 2016.

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Team MVP for the 2015 season?

Drew Hamm: You can make an argument that Corey Clement was the MVP, since it's not too big of a leap to say that with Clement in the lineup Wisconsin beats Northwestern and Iowa, but let's talk about people that played more than parts of four games this season. Since I'm filling this out last, I'll pick someone that no one else has (but Neal is right, Joe Schobert is the MVP)...Tanner McEvoy. He had an amazing season and played on both sides of the ball. 132 rushing yards on 17 attempts (7.8 YPC) and two touchdowns running the ball out of the TannerCat package as well as 10 catches for 109 yards were great numbers for the underutilized Swiss Army Knife on offense. McEvoy helped anchor the deep part of the field as a safety, snagging six picks and defended six passes. He also had 42 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery, and I think he'll make some team very happy in the NFL Draft.

Kyle Vos: There are some great options, and I am sure the panel will touch on a few of them, but my choice is Alex Erickson. His season was not the most impressive statistically with 77 catches for 978 yards and three touchdowns, but his importance to the team cannot be understated. He was the stabilizing factor in the offense, almost always pulling the ball in and frequently making third down receptions. Erickson was very consistent, logging over 73 yards in nine games and being held under 50 in only two. Thinking about what the offense would have looked like without him makes me shutter.

Jon Arens: For me, it has to be Joel Stave. You could make the argument that without Stave, this team doesn't even get to a bowl game. Much has been written about his legacy and impact on the program, and rightfully so. The former walk on had three head coaches, one of which spent most of his tenure desperately attempting to replace him, and still ended up setting the program record for victories as a quarterback. When you inevitably buy a hard bound book of Wisconsin football for your in laws in a desperate holiday moment sometime in the future, one of those chapters will be called "‘Joel Stave" and another one of those chapters might, might, be called "John Stocco". The difference between the two is simple: Stocco was a game manager who only completed 169, 197, and 158 (!) passes in his three years at the helm (Stave completed 208 and 225 in his two full seasons). Stocco rarely was the reason Wisconsin won games, a designation Stave absolutely has. Obviously, quarterback play is often correlated with losses, but Wisconsin has had very few players at that position that actually *won* games for the team. Stave had the unfortunate timing of following the two best quarterbacks in program history, but completed his tenure as unquestionably the third best. And that's good enough for MVP of 2015.

Neal Olson: Like Kyle said, there are plenty of worthy candidates, but for my money Joe Schobert was the best Badger players this year. Another former walk on, Schobert had an All-American season and finished tied for fourth in the country in tackles for a lose with 19.5. Schobert was a disruptive presence every down and was the main cog in Dave Aranda's pressure-heavy, attaching defense. With the offense battling inconsistency, the Badger defense was the constant force that kept the team in games and Schobert was on the forefront of those efforts. If that is not MVP material, I am uncertain was else is.

What are your very, way-too-early impressions of the 2016 Wisconsin Badgers?

Drew: Better team and worse record. No one denies this. More importantly, we need to focus on the opening game of the season against LSU. I'm hoping to plan a joint tailgate with fellow Chicagoan Dan Davis of And The Valley Shook, SB Nation's wonderful LSU blog, at Lambeau Field. I don't know if you're allowed to put bratwurst in gumbo but BY GOD WE'RE GOING TO FIND OUT COME SEPTEMBER 3RD! Beating Minnesota is integral to the success of the 2016 season because there will probably have been a number of losses before that game. Also meeting Todd Orlando would be cool. CALL ME, TODD!

Kyle: My first impression of the 2016 Badgers is that it will be better on the field than it was in 2015. The front seven looks dominant and will immensely help a promising defensive backfield that needs to gain experience. The offensive line should only be improved despite the loss of left tackle Tyler Marz. That, in addition to a healthy Clement, will bolster the run game and aid a passing attack that will have a lot to figure out. That might not translate to the win column given Wisconsin's killer of a schedule, but it should keep the program pointed in the right direction.

Jon: Oof. The only good thing about the schedule is that it features several killer road trips for Team Arens. LSU is likely a loss, but by gawd will that tailgate be something. All of the road games in conference are awesome places to go watch football. I highly recommend going to Ann Arbor, the closest thing to Madison in the Big Ten. Purdue's breakfast club is the most criminally underrated game day tradition in America, so I hope to be there as well. Basically, I want to go to all the games, which surely will get shot down by the second road trip. It would be nice to get a win in Evanston for the first time in 35 years. I am saying 8-4 will be the record, but this will be a much better team. Splitting the Michigan road trip would be a huge success, as would a split of the LSU and OSU games, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Neal: The 2016 schedule is a killer. After opening tilt with LSU at Lambeau field, the Badgers open the Big Ten schedule at Michigan State, at Michigan, home for Ohio State, then at Iowa. There is a very real possibility the Badgers will be a much better team and have a significantly worse record.

Offensively, the Badgers should be more dynamic pending the health of Clement. For all the lumps taken with a young offensive line this year, next season should see Wisconsin return to form in dominant line play. It remains to be seen who wins the starting quarterback job, but whoever it is will have solid targets in Rob Wheelwright, Jazz Peavy and Troy Fumagalli.

Obviously, the biggest question for the defense will be who replaces Dave Aranda on the sidelines as coordinator. The defense will still be formidable thanks to in large part to a dynamic linebacker group even after losing Schobert to graduation.The Badgers defense has been one of the best in the country during the three years under Aranda and will hopefully continue to remain stout regardless of who takes over.