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Not only will Wisconsin win the Legends Division, but it will go undefeated in the process and potentially have a BCS Championship Game berth on the line when it goes to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," you're probably saying. "Wisconsin was better last year, and those Badgers lost twice in the conference." Correct. But looking at this team and this schedule, there shouldn't be a single game where the Badgers aren't favorites in the 2012 regular season.
First of all, Montee Ball is back, and one has to assume that he'll be ready to go by the time Week 1 rolls around. Even if he's not, though—even if it takes him something ridiculous like eight weeks to recover from the recent late-night assault and concussion—Wisconsin still has James White and Melvin Gordon in the backfield to take them through a cakewalk of a non-conference schedule.
Second, Wisconsin appears to be having a legitimate quarterback battle with Curt Phillips challenging Danny O'Brien for the top spot, and it's because of Phillips' emergence. Even if O'Brien wins out, the competition can only help him and the team.
Third, that defense isn't going to win awards on its own, but it's also going to help Wisconsin outscore everyone it faces. The line is tantalizing when healthy, but that's fleeting. Defensive tackle Ethan Hemer and DE Brendan Kelly are returning starters, and they're legit. If DE David Gilbert is fully recovered from a season-ending foot injury, Wisconsin has the presence on the edge it needs to keep quarterbacks nervous.
Meanwhile, Chris Borland and Mike Taylor are the best one-two punch at linebacker in the nation, as the two combined for almost 300 (not a typo) tackles in 2011 alone. The secondary's also solid, especially with CB Devin Smith returning from a broken foot.
It takes a lot of factors for even the most talented of teams to go undefeated, factors that just don't show up on paper. It takes luck, perseverance, luck, leadership, luck, a favorable schedule and more luck for it to happen. The two Hail Marys that doomed the Badgers last year showed what happens when that luck's not on your side.
But UW absolutely has the talent and opportunity to run the table this year. And that schedule is embarrassingly easy—maybe even too easy. So let's see if they make the magic happen this time around.
Projected wins: Northern Iowa, at Oregon State, Utah State, UTEP, at Nebraska, Illinois, at Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State, at Indiana, Ohio State, at Penn State.
Projected losses: None