Wisconsin Football: The Badgers' Best-Case Scenario for 2013

Dave Radcliffe@DaveRadcliffe_Contributor IIIAugust 13, 2013

Wisconsin Football: The Badgers' Best-Case Scenario for 2013

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    We've nearly reached the time of the year where fewer than 126 FBS programs will realize they no longer have a chance at taking home a BCS National Championship. Nevertheless, every team is analyzing its schedule, trying to figure out where the breaks are and where the challenges will arise.

    In doing so, teams need to set realistic expectations for themselves and understand what the best-case scenario might be. Are they in rebuild mode? Are they contending for a conference title? Or better yet, is a run at a national title a possibility?

    The Wisconsin Badgers underwent a coaching change and have several obstacles to overcome not only during fall practice, but on the schedule. Still, it's a schedule the Badgers can capitalize on, so let's find out what Wisconsin's best-case scenario is for the 2013 season.


Aug. 31: Home vs. Massachusetts

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    Best-Case Scenario: Easy Win

    The University of Massachusetts is entering its second season at the FBS level as a member of the MAC, and it is coming off of a 1-11 season. Things aren't about to get any easier for the Minutemen as they must travel to Madison to kick off the 2013 season.

    It should be a breeze for the Badgers, who can use this game as an opportunity to experiment and grow comfortable with some of the changes head coach Gary Andersen has implemented. Don't expect this game to be in doubt for very long.

Sept. 7: Home vs. Tennessee Tech

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    Best-Case Scenario: Easy Win

    Week 2 features another home game for Wisconsin against another subpar opponent, this time from the FCS level. It will be Tennessee Tech walking into the lion's den of Camp Randall Stadium, but it could very well be one of the last times Wisconsin faces an FCS school anytime soon.

    Not only are the Golden Eagles out of the FCS, but they only managed to go 3-8 last season. If the Badgers' Week 1 matchup against UMass is expected to be a breeze, consider this one to be a cakewalk and another chance for the Badgers to grow accustomed to new gimmicks and philosophies.

Sept. 14: Away vs. Arizona State

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    Best-Case Scenario: Hard-Fought Win

    Two games against cupcakes to get the 2013 season started doesn't exactly help prepare Wisconsin for its trip to Tempe, Ariz. to face the Arizona State Sun Devils in Week 3. While those two contests should help the Badgers sort out some positions of question and get their feet under them, there is quite a jump in the level of competition.

    The defense will have to be on its toes, as Arizona State features an up-tempo offense and a stellar quarterback in Taylor Kelly. It's also a night game, giving the Sun Devils a little more of a home-field advantage than usual.

    Last season, Arizona State finished 8-5, and it is looking to take the next step in 2013. In no way will this be an easy victory for the Badgers, but a victory certainly isn't impossible.

    If Wisconsin's stingy defense can keep Arizona State from what it wants to do and the offense can take advantage of a defense that allowed 172 rushing yards a game last season, the Badgers have a great chance to pull out a win.

Sept. 21: Home vs. Purdue

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    Best-Case Scenario: Easy Win

    Big Ten Conference play opens up in Week 4 on Sept. 21 when the Badgers return home to play the Purdue Boilermakers, a team Wisconsin handled last season, winning 38-14 on Purdue's home soil.

    The Boilermakers gave some teams fits last season, but Wisconsin wasn't one of them as it ran all over Purdue. Certainly, things change from year to year, but the Badgers will continue to be a team that pounds the rock, which is bad news for a Purdue squad that allowed just under 180 yards on the ground per contest in 2012.

    Sure, this game could give the Badgers more fits than they bargained for, but even if we aren't talking best-case scenario here, Wisconsin is expected to start the conference season 1-0.

Sept. 28: Away vs. Ohio State

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    Best-Case Scenario: Hard-Fought Defeat

    We saw the Badgers come oh-so-close to ending Ohio State's run at an undefeated season in 2012. Just about everyone expected the Buckeyes to take care of business, but Wisconsin gave them quite a fight.

    No longer is Ohio State ineligible for postseason play, so the path to a Big Ten title game becomes much more difficult for the Badgers. Not only that, but this time Wisconsin must travel to Columbus, and the Buckeyes could very well be better than the team that went 12-0 last season.

    The Badgers also hope to be better coming off of a disappointing 7-5 regular-season record, but they will be heavy underdogs at The Horseshoe. Ohio State features more talent, a better recruiting class and a home-field advantage—the best Wisconsin can hope for is to lose with dignity and keep it respectable. 

Oct. 12: Home vs. Northwestern

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    Best-Case Scenario: Win Going Away

    Three years ago, the Badgers dropped 70 on Northwestern at Camp Randall, but the Wildcats were absent from Wisconsin's schedule in 2011 and 2012. During that time, Northwestern has improved as a football program and managed to win 10 games last season.

    It returns its top two quarterbacks as well as running back Venric Mark, so the Wildcats aren't ready to fall back into mediocrity just yet—they're looking to make a run at a Big Ten title. 

    These two teams were nearly identical statistically on both offense and defense last season, so it should be a matter of which team has improved more during the offseason and in the early portion of the schedule.

    It should be a hotly contested ballgame, but the home-field advantage and an extra week of preparation is what gives Wisconsin the edge.

Oct. 19: Away vs. Illinois

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    Best-Case Scenario: Easy Win

    In last season's matchup with Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers let the Fighting Illini hang around far longer than they would've preferred, but a win is a win, and that's what Wisconsin came away with against the Big Ten's worst team.

    In 2013, Wisconsin will have to turn around and travel to Champaign, but Illinois is years away from becoming competitive once again in the Big Ten. Away games are rarely a sure thing in college football, but the Badgers will be heavy favorites come this Week 8 showdown and should easily take care of Illinois.

Nov. 2: Away vs. Iowa

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    Best-Case Scenario: Difficult Win

    Wisconsin always has its work cut out when it travels to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes, and that's exactly what the Badgers will have to do following a two-week break from action. Three years ago, Wisconsin escaped with a dramatic victory at Kinnick Stadium on the way to its first of three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances.

    Iowa isn't the team it was back in 2010—it is coming off of a 4-8 (2-6) record, and head coach Kirk Ferentz is on the hot seat despite being under contract through the 2020 season. That 4-8 record can be credited to its stagnant offense, which the Badgers could relate to on multiple occasions last season.

    While Kinnick Stadium provides an excellent home-field advantage, it won't be enough for the Hawkeyes to conquer the Badgers. Wisconsin is just an all-around better football team, and it should be smooth sailing by this point of the season for Bucky.

Nov. 9: Home vs. Brigham Young

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    Best-Case Scenario: Hard-Fought Victory

    The schedule is going to have a different vibe than Andersen is used to from back in his days with Utah State, but there will be one familiar opponent—the BYU Cougars.

    It's a rare midseason nonconference clash for the Badgers, who typically get all of their nonconference games out of the way in September. Last season, BYU got the best of Andersen's Aggies, pulling out a 6-3 victory in what could accurately be described as an offensive struggle.

    This game has all the makings of a repeat performance, except this time Andersen will be sporting red and white. At Wisconsin, he will have more talent and ability to work with than at Utah State. By no means will this be a surefire win for the Badgers, but they should be able to tooth and claw their way to victory.

Nov. 16: Home vs. Indiana

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    Best-Case Scenario: Easy Win

    This has the chance to be Wisconsin's easiest conference game of 2013, not only because it's against an opponent the Badgers have historically handled with ease, but because it's at home.

    Indiana likes to spread it out on offense and had decent success moving the football last season, but it's the defensive aspect that always haunts the Hoosiers, particularly when it comes to stopping the run. Turns out that's what Wisconsin does best.

    This one, as always, has the potential to get ugly.

Nov. 23: Away vs. Minnesota

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    Best-Case Scenario: Easy Win

    In order for a rivalry to exist, there needs to be some give and take between two teams. In recent years, Wisconsin has been doing all of the taking while Minnesota has slowly faded—the Golden Gophers haven't possessed Paul Bunyan's Axe for an entire decade.

    It hasn't even been close over the past three years since Minnesota lost the services of Eric Decker, but it is hoping sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson can help turn around the program. While the Golden Gophers did reach a bowl game last season, that turnaround won't happen overnight. 

    This game will take place at TCF Bank Stadium, perhaps making the road to victory a little bumpier for the Badgers. Even with that in mind, Wisconsin isn't ready to relinquish the Axe—it will make it 10 straight over Minnesota in late November with relative ease.


Nov. 30: Home vs. Penn State

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    Best-Case Scenario: Hard-Fought Victory

    One of the Badgers' three overtime losses last season came in Happy Valley at the hands of Penn State after Wisconsin failed to score for nearly three quarters. It was those long stretches of incompetence on offense that were all too familiar for Wisconsin last season.

    It was an inspired 8-4 season for the Nittany Lions in their first year of being ineligible for the postseason. But it's the next few years when that ban could really begin to hurt Penn State because of a reduction in scholarships.

    The Badgers will have the home crowd on their side, but Penn State has some weapons in the passing game, and the secondary could be the weakest area on Wisconsin's roster. It'll be a tall task for the Badgerswho might be playing for a division title in the final week of the seasonbut a task they can certainly accomplish nonetheless.