Crystal Ball Gazing: A Look at The Wisconsin Badgers' Home Stretch

Steve RoelandCorrespondent IOctober 31, 2008

After starting their Big Ten schedule a disappointing 0-4, the Wisconsin Badgers football team got back on track last week with a 27-17 victory over the Illinois Fighting Illini.

With the Badgers' overall record at 4-4, a trip to a bowl game is far from out of the question. Still, Bucky has a long road ahead if they hope to see some postseason playing time.

Here's a look at the remaining games on UW's schedule and a prediction for how each game will turn out.

Week 10 - @ No. 22 Michigan State (7-2 overall, 4-1 Big Ten)

The Badgers must focus on limiting the MSU rushing attack, specifically the play of Javon Ringer.

Granted, not many teams have been able to shut down the Spartans' ground game. Ringer, who has nearly 80% of MSU's carries, has rushed for 1,371 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. He will be the main concern for the Wisconsin defense, as the Spartans rank a mediocre 41st in the nation in passing.

But MSU is vulnerable on defense (91st in total yards allowed in the country) and the Badgers proved they can stop the run, holding Illinois to just 88 yards rushing last week. Wisconsin has to play with more urgency than the Spartans do, which could just help them pull out an upset. Still, Ringer is the closest thing to unstoppable as you can get and, on his legs alone, the Spartans will sneak by.

Prediction: Michigan State 28, Wisconsin 23


Week 11 - @ Indiana (3-5, 1-4)

The Hoosiers are also in search of their second win in conference, after defeating the Northwestern Wildcats last week 21-19.

Indiana relies on their quarterback Kellen Lewis for most of their offense, as he leads the team in passing yards, passing touchdowns and rushing yards. The problem for the Hoosiers is that Lewis and his backup, Ben Chappell are both banged up and have missed time in the last few games.

Indiana also has injury problems at tight end, safety and offensive tackle.

The Badgers should pick up a solid win in Bloomington against the injury-plagued Hoosiers.

Prediction: Wisconsin 35, Indiana 13


Week 12 – No. 20 Minnesota (7-1, 3-1)

The Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe is sure to have more on the line this year than just bragging rights. The oldest rivalry in FBS football could have conference title implications for the Golden Gophers, while it could determine UW’s bowl eligibility.

The Gophers’ only loss this year came to Ohio State in Columbus. But the defeat at the hands of the Buckeyes was the only game in which Minnesota faced a ranked opponent.

Being a hotly-contested rivalry nearly every season, Minnesota-Wisconsin is always a fun game to watch. With more than just the axe on the line, this could be the defining moment of the victor’s 2008 campaign.

Home field advantage rules in this one, and Wisconsin pulls out the win.

Prediction: Wisconsin 27, Minnesota 21


Week 13 – No. 3 (FCS) Cal Poly (5-1, 2-1 Great West Conference)

Playing the possible role of Appalachian State this season, the Cal Poly Mustangs travel to Madison to close out the year. And just like the ASU Mountaineers of 2007, Cal Poly is a highly-ranked FCS team that is not to be taken lightly.

The Mustangs lead the Football Championship Subdivision in points per game and are fourth in the nation is total yards. They team posted more than 40 points four times and hung 69 on the scoreboard against Southern Utah last week.

The Mustangs will give the Badgers fits and may have the most dangerous offense the Badgers face all year, but Camp Randall is a tough place to play for even FBS teams.

It’ll be closer than most people would assume, but Wisconsin finishes the season with a win.

Prediction: Wisconsin 34, Cal Poly 31


Bottom Line: Wisconsin finishes 7-5 and earns a trip to the Motor City Bowl


After a rough start to the Big Ten season, the Badgers should bounce back and finish the year in a bowl game. Sure, Detroit isn’t the destination that UW had in mind for their 13th contest, but given how Bucky’s conference schedule started, Bret Bielema and his team should be satisfied with the outcome.