College Football: Wisconsin Badgers Season Preview

Dave Radcliffe@DaveRadcliffe_Contributor IIIAugust 15, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03:  Montee Ball #28 of the Wisconsin Badgers scores his second 6-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter against Isaiah Lewis #9 of the Michigan State Spartans during the Big 10 Conference Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Is it just me, or is college football getting swept under the rug?

Don't get me wrong—college football is very popular, but in comparison to the NFL, it doesn't seem to be getting the publicity it deserves being just a few weeks away from its opening night.

All the super conference talk and the NCAA continuing to screw up this whole postseason thing (death to the BCS!) can't possibly be helping, but nevertheless, the product on the field hasn't changed.

It's time to take a look ahead at what we can expect from the Wisconsin Badgers in 2012—and hopefully in early 2013.

The last time we saw the Badgers, Russell Wilson failed to spike a football to stop the time from running out, and Bucky dropped its second straight Rose Bowl, this time 45-38 to the Oregon Ducks.

But that's in the past, and Wilson is now a Seattle Seahawk. However, Wisconsin brought in another transfer quarterback in former Maryland Terrapin Danny O'Brien, and like Wilson is eligible to play right away.

But unlike Wilson, O'Brien has two years of eligibility remaining since he graduated in three years and already used his redshirt. The excitement surrounding O'Brien is nowhere near the amount that swirled around Wilson's transfer, and rightfully so.

O'Brien didn't exactly put up eye-popping numbers last season at Maryland, but it's not like he'll have to in Madison. Why?

Montee Ball.

A Heisman Trophy finalist last season, Ball hasn't been making headlines for the best reasons this offseason, but it's nothing like a certain Heisman finalist from LSU.

These headlines are nothing to worry about, and everyone should just be thankful he'll be OK heading into the season opener against Northern Iowa. 

Getting back to my point, Ball's ability to run the ball behind Wisconsin's monster offensive line will keep a lot of the pressure off O'Brien, who should only have to be called upon a handful of times per game to throw the football.

O'Brien appears to have a pretty good lock on the starting job according to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal, but to whom will he be throwing the pigskin? He has a couple of options, and his best one is Jared Abbrederis.

The junior wide-out actually led the team in receiving last season—not Nick Toon—totaling 933 yards on 55 catches while tacking on eight touchdowns, including three 100-plus yard receiving games.

After Abbrecadabra comes tight end Jacob Pedersen. Tight ends are notorious producers in Wisconsin's offense, but with offensive coordinator Paul Chryst gone to Pitt, Matt Canada is the new guy calling the shots on offense.

Still, the offensive philosophy appears relatively unchanged, including for tight ends, which should come as a relief to Pedersen and company.

Look for the Badgers offense to move the chains often this season in an effort to keep their porous defense off the field.

Other Badgers who could play a key role in offense: RB Melvin Gordon, WR Jordan Fredrick, WR Reggie Love

Unfortunately for the Badgers, they have to turn around and play defense once Montee Ball eventually marches in for six.

There's no question the team's defense cost them the Rose Bowl—at least—last season, and now they'll have to somehow scrap together a defensive unit with more speed and skill than from a year ago.

Of course, the Badgers will still have stud linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, but they can only rely so heavily on the two probable All-Conference performers.

It will look for help from defensive tackle Beau Allen up front with Jordan Kohout forced to cut his playing career short. Defensive end David Gilbert will be returning from injury and should also be heavily relied on to produce in the trenches.

And then comes the secondary, which seems to be the Badgers' Achilles heel year after year.

This year appears to be no different, although the team's best cornerback, Devin Smith, is back after only playing two games last season due to a leg injury. He will play alongside Marcus Cromartie, who doesn't quite live up to the billing of his cousin.

From that point on, it doesn't look good. Depth is a big concern, especially on the defensive line, and it's going to take some inspired efforts from the secondary for the Badgers defense to improve at all from a season ago.

Other Badgers who could play a key role on defense: DT Brendan Kelly, S Dez Southward

In the end, the Badgers should joyride their way to the Big Ten Leaders division crown, but I don't think they have what it takes to reach the Rose Bowl because of a drop in offensive production and uncertainty on defense.

Prediction: 10-3 (6-2), Loss vs. Michigan in Big Ten Championship Game (Outback Bowl)