Wisconsin Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Badgers' 2012 Season
After more than six months of wallowing in despair due to the tragedy of the Badger's second straight Rose Bowl loss, it is time to get ready for the upcoming season. Many questions surround Bret Bielema and what should be a a very good Badger squad. Questions like, will Danny O'Brien be capable of replacing Russel Wilson? Can the Badger's make the leap from good college program to elite college program? Can Minnesota still be considered a rival when they cannot keep in state three-star recruits from decommitting?
Nothing is certain, except of course the constant over-hyping of Michigan football. With this in mind, here are 5 bold predictions for the Badger's 2012 season.
5. Montee Ball Wins the Heisman
Montee Ball is a beast. No one should begrudge RGIII's win, but Montee Ball's 2011 was definitely Heisman worthy. On 307 attempts Ball compiled close to 2,000 yards while also tying Barry Sanders all-time single-season FBS touchdown record.
Do not expect him to slow down in 2012 either. The Badgers are breaking in a new quarterback which might give Montee more touches while he continues running behind arguably the best offensive line in the nation.
Throw in the added advantage of his already being a Heisman finalist and the lack of any real challenger besides USC's Matt Barkley, and Montee's path to the trophy seems pretty easy.
4. Michigan State vs. Wisconsin Will Be Best Game of the Year
Sorry Ohio State-Michigan, but this is the new best rivalry in the Big Ten. This game is going to be an old-fashioned, Big Ten, impose-your-will, gridiron brawl.
Michigan State will be looking for revenge from last year's Big Ten Championship Game, while returning Badgers still have a nasty taste in their mouths over last year's regular season loss due to a controversial Hail Mary call.
The origins of this rivalry only date back a couple of years. The programs seemed to rise out of the shadows of more traditional Big Ten powers around the same time and have given us some great games. Big Ten scheduling ensures that no matter how ferocious this rivalry is, it is doomed to be short-lived.
In the meantime, any meeting between these two teams is must-watch football. Both teams will be snarling at each other from across the line of scrimmage and missing this game would be like missing a steel-cage match between Trotsky and Stalin.
3. Jeff Duckworth Will Have a Monster Year
Jeff Duckworth could gain 600 pounds, drop everything thrown his way, and break Danny O'Brien's leg and still be a hero in Madison. After his majestic grab to bail the Badgers out of the Big Ten Championship game, he will always have a special place in the hearts of the Wisconsin faithful.
This season however, Duckworth will further ingratiate himself to Badger fans by putting up amazing numbers. Jared Abbrederis will continue to be Wisconsin's, and possibly the Big Ten's, best receiver but with defenses cheating up on the run and Abbrederis potentially facing double coverage, expect great things from number 15.
2. Beaver Scare
Wisconsin usually opens up the season with a bunch of cupcake games in front of the always-raucous crowd at Camp Randall. This year, however, will be a little different. For the second game of the year Wisconsin will be traveling to Corvallis to take on the Oregon State Beavers, in accordance with a home-and-home agreement signed between the two schools.
Oregon State is by no means a power program coming off a fairly dreadful 3-9 season. The Beavers however, do come from a fairly strong conference in the PAC-12 and are attempting to regain relevancy after spending the last few years in Oregon's shadow. A signature win over the Badgers is exactly the kick start this program is looking for and therefore they should not be overlooked.
Given the novelty of tougher, highly motivated early season competition, combined with the Badgers historic road woes, do not be surprised to see Wisconsin stumble a bit in this game.
Superior talent will eventually allow the Badgers pull out a victory, but do not be surprised to see a score that makes the folks in Madison a little queasy, something along the lines of a 28-24 win. The nervous grumbling from the Badgers' faithful following this game, will by season's end, be recalled with amusement because....
1. BCS Breakthrough
Wisconsin will finish 2012 the winner of a BCS bowl game. Just like the Oregon Ducks last year, the third time will be the charm for the Badgers. They are the class of the Big Ten, and will feature a very good defense anchored by linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, a decent passing game with Danny O'Brien under center, and a dominant rushing attack led by future Heisman winner Montee Ball.
The 2012 schedule seems to favor the Badgers, with all their toughest opponents, besides Nebraska, forced to deal with the pandemonium that is Camp Randall. While it is possible for this team to run the table and end up in the BCS championship game, it is more likely that the team will stumble in one game and for the third straight year end up in the Rose Bowl.
No matter what BCS game this squad plays itself into, this team, so familiar with the agony of losing in Pasadena, will play with a tenacity that ensures they taste the sweet nectar of a BCS bowl victory.