The Wisconsin Badgers are coming off of a disappointing 2008 campaign. They finished a miserable seventh in the Big Ten, with a 3-5 conference record and 7-6 overall.
The season was highlighted by Florida State's shellacking of the Badgers in their Bowl game.
But, in the immortal words of the poet, "Hope springs eternal..."
The Badgers look to turn around an anemic passing game to help strengthen the always consistent run game.
Pundits are not giving the Badgers much of a chance this year. The preseason magazines have the Badgers picked to finish sixth (Lindy's) or seventh (Sporting News and Athlon).
But we all know those magazines are pretty much worthless anyway.
The Badgers should be better this year on offense. The departure of P.J Hill is not a huge loss as 6'2" 247 pound halfback John Clay steps in ready to pummel opponents as the Badgers' next crushing back.
Clay rushed for 884 yards on 155 attempts, averaging about 5.7 ypc, in the 2008 season.
He also had nine rushing touchdowns last season as Hill's back up. Expect Clay to have a monster season, and to challenge for the All Big Ten Team, especially if the passing game is even semi-efficient.
Behind Clay is Zach Brown, a great change of pace from Clay. Brown is a Junior who rushed for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2008.
The combination of these two will keep defenses worn out as Clay pounds it out between the tackles and Brown goes outside to try and stretch the defense with his speed.
Another strength of the Badgers offense this season will be the tight end position.
Senior Garret Graham made the 2008 All Big Ten team after leading the Badgers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Graham has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the country. He has very consistent hands and is a good blocker.
The rest of the Badgers' receiving corps is experienced and very quick. David Gilreath is returning, as well as Kyle Jefferson and Nick Toon. All of these guys have shown themselves at least capable of catching the ball, Aye, but there's the rub!
No one knows who will throw it to them. The Badgers quarterback position is still in the air.
The current front runner, Dustin Sherer has the most experience, playing in eleven games in '08.
Sherer completed 104 of 191 attempts, for a 54% completion percentage. He threw for only 6 tds, and 5 interceptions.
As you can see, experience is about all that he has going for him. He is a fifth-year senior, and should be throwing the ball better, with fewer mistakes, at this point in his career.
The quarterback who will challenge Sherer for the starting job is red-shirt freshman, Curt Phillips.
Phillips was impressive in the spring game, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for one more, while Sherer was throwing one touchdown to the defense, and one two the offense.
Phillips seems like a more reasonable choice, as the Badgers would then have two threats two run in the backfield, a legitimate passer, and the possibility of incorporating some type of option into their offense.
Phillips could also be the quarterback of the future, and if he did not pan out this season, Jon Budmayr is a good option. The rest of the options at QB are unproven and even more untested than the first two.
Regardless of who plays quarterback, he will need some protection. The Badgers seem to always just reload along the offensive line.
Left tackle Gabe Carimi has 24 career starts, and center John Moffit has 19, the rest of the Badgers projected starters, Jake Bscherer, Bill Nagy, and Josh Oglesby, have very limited experience.
However, the Badgers always seem to have good luck on the o-line. It couldn't possibly be the coaching, could it?
Overall, I think the Badgers' offense will be improved over last season. If Phillips starts at quarterback, we may see some surprise wins, and I think Clay is an upgrade over Hill.
Only 75 days until we find out.