Wisconsin Football: Handicapping the Badgers Listed on Preseason Watch Lists
It's new coach, same expectations for the Wisconsin Badgers football program in 2013.
Or is it? The expectations don't exactly seem to be through the roof for Wisconsin next season. According to the folks over at 5Dimes.com, the Badgers season win total betting line is set at 8.5, tying them for the fifth-highest number in the Big Ten.
All things considered, that's probably a pretty fair number for Wisconsin. Back in early June, we set an over/under total at nine victories for the Badgers, and just over 86 percent of you believed they would win at least nine ball games in 2013, so we know where the money lies there.
While we're on the topic of handicapping, the Badgers have six players—seven if you include David Gilbert (we're not)—on preseason college football watch lists, some of whom are up for multiple honors.
Considering Gilbert is still listed as a Badger, just how much stock we should put in these watch lists is up for debate. But why not set the odds for each player winning their respective award(s)?
We still await the watch list for the Walter Camp Award, which is handed out to the nation's most outstanding player, but we already know those odds will be slim to none for any Badger potentially nominated. So let's get to it and handicap each Badger's chance of taking home some hardware.
WR: Jared Abbrederis
Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Award: Biletnikoff (Most outstanding receiver)
One of 75 FBS wide receivers to be named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, Jared Abbrederis has arguably been Wisconsin's top receiver over the past two seasons. What Abbrederis was able to accomplish last season considering the revolving door at quarterback and the lack of threats around him was nothing short of spectacular.
This year, the Badgers figure to have much more stability at quarterback and every receiver/tight end is another year older. There's no doubt that a majority of the attention will be devoted to Abbrederis in the secondary, but that was the case last year, and he still managed to rack up 837 yards.
The first question, however, is if Abbrederis is even the best receiver in his own conference. Penn State's Allen Robinson, Nebraska's Kenny Bell, Ohio State's Corey Brown, Michigan's Jeremy Gallon and Indiana's Cody Latimer are all very talented, No. 1 receivers.
Even assuming Abbrederis can beat out the in-conference competition, Marqise Lee, who happened to win the Biletnikoff last season, is back for USC. Abbrederis will have to break the 1,000-yard plateau and crack double digits in touchdowns—he only had five in 2012—to have a legitimate shot at the award.
LB: Chris Borland
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Awards: Bednarik (Defensive player of the year), Buktus (Most outstanding linebacker), Lombardi (Lineman of the year)
Odds: Bednarik (100-to-1), Buktus (25-to-1), Lombardi (100-to-1)
It still feels strange that a linebacker should be up for an award that crowns the top lineman, either defensive or offensive, but Borland happens to be one of 31 linebackers up for the honor.
There are then 51 players on the Buktus watch list and 27 linebackers up for the Bednarik Award, so that helps to show how Borland compares to his fellow linebackers. However, Borland did fail to crack the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is given to the most outstanding defensive player.
What may help Borland is the switch to a 3-4 defense. He could have more opportunities to roam around, and with a more aggressive approach in the works, Borland may blitz more and have a chance to build on his 4.5 sacks from a season ago.
Frankly, as long as there is a guy named Jadeveon Clowney playing defensive end for South Carolina, there isn't anyone else who has much of a shot at taking home either the Bednarik or Lombardi. That's not to mention the amount of talent returning at linebacker, including Ryan Shazier and Max Bullough from the Big Ten, three players from Iowa, Alabama's C.J. Mosley and the fellas over at Stanford.
RB: Melvin Gordon
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Award: Doak Walker (Premier running back)
What an honor it is for Melvin Gordon to be named to the Doak Walker watch list as a sophomore who wasn't even on the radar last season. In fact, Gordon's name was relatively unknown before he broke out for over 200 yards in the B1G Championship Game.
For as excited as fans are about Gordon and what he could bring to the table next season, his mention on this watch list is merely a nice little shout-out. Gordon already has enough competition within his own team, as senior James White is expected to begin the season as the starting tailback.
Still, Gordon figures to be on this watch list once again next season, and it will be then that we can take him seriously as a contender for the Doak Walker Award. After all, it was Montee Ball who took home the honor last season.
OL: Ryan Groy
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Award: Outland Trophy (Most outstanding interior lineman), Lombardi
Odds: Outland (200-to-1), Lombardi (150-to-1)
Perhaps a Wisconsin Badger was placed on this watch list simply off of reputation, because the general feeling is that Ryan Groy won't even play an interior line position next season.
Groy, a senior, entered the spring as the starting left guard for the Badgers, but because of his experience and versatility, head coach Gary Andersen feels more comfortable with a returning starter rather than an incumbent in Dallas Lewallen at left tackle.
That probably takes Groy out of the running for the Outland Trophy, but hey, the recognition is nice. Plus there's always the chance that he returns to his roots at left tackle, or even center if things go awry with redshirt freshman Dan Voltz, as Groy has started at center in the past for Wisconsin.
As far as the Lombardi Award goes, once again, that Clowney guy might make things a little difficult.
TE: Jacob Pedersen
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Award: Mackey (Most outstanding tight end)
Here we go—the Badger with the best odds to bring home a trophy at the end of the season by our calculations, is Jacob Pedersen.
Were Pedersen's numbers all that impressive last season? Not really, as the senior caught 27 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns. But as with Abbrederis, we have to consider the circumstances, as Pedersen had three different quarterbacks throwing to him and was a top priority of opposing defenses.
Pedersen is thought to be one of the top tight end prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft, and as far as his competition for the Mackey Award is concerned, Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins should be the stiffest. From inside the B1G, Penn State's Kyle Carter, Michigan's Devin Funchess and Indiana's Ted Bolser are also names to keep an eye on.
Watch for Pedersen to make a run at this thing and noticeably improve his numbers from a season ago.
RB: James White
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Awards: Maxwell, Doak Walker
Odds: Maxwell (75-to-1), Doak Walker (25-to-1)
Finally, it's James White's time to shine in Madison.
After three years of primarily being a backup running back, White will assuredly begin the 2013 season as Wisconsin's starting tailback, but he should expect to share carries with the aforementioned Melvin Gordon.
White can probably expect to see his name on the watch list for the Walter Camp Award as well before it's all said and done. Taking home the Maxwell may be a longshot for White, but considering how he will be the starting running back at Wisconsin, he automatically has to be considered.
It will be tough to top names like Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater for the Maxwell, but his odds get better when we move to the Doak Walker. Without question are there plenty of compelling names on the list (see: Ka'Deem Carey, De'Anthony Thomas, T.J. Yeldon), but few, if any, have accomplished what White has throughout their college careers.
Just how much time White is forced to split with Gordon will play a big role in White's bid for the Doak Walker Award, but he should still be able to put up big numbers and be there near the end after the list is whittled down.