Best Case/Worst Case: 3-time reigning champ UW

The Badgers have become the bellwether for the Big Ten, advancing to the last three Rose Bowls. Their quest to make it four in a row is complicated by Leaders Division rival Ohio State being eligible to win the Big Ten and play in a bowl after being on probation last season.

Another potential hurdle: Wisconsin must adapt to a new coach in Gary Andersen. Still, there is a lot to like about this team. Here is my best- and worst-case scenarios for the Badgers in 2013.

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Best-case: The Badgers cruise to a 2-0 start with lay-up games at home vs. UMass and FCS Tennessee Tech (Tennessee Tech?). The heat of Tempe and talent of Arizona State cooks Wisconsin, but a visit from Purdue the next week is just what the doctor ordered. That sets up the Badgers for a de facto Leaders Division title game at Ohio State—which they lose. The Buckeyes have won five of the last six meetings. There are just two—TWO—games in October. And Wisconsin wins both, taking a home game vs. Northwestern before prevailing at Illinois. The Badgers take a 5-2 mark into a pivotal November, which features five games. And, Wisconsin wins them all (at Iowa; vs. BYU; vs. Indiana; at Minnesota; vs. Penn State). The Badgers are especially motivated to beat the Nittany Lions after losing in overtime last year in State College. With a 10-2 mark (7-1 Big Ten), the Badgers may be Leaders Division champs with a shot at the Rose Bowl–again. At the least, those marks put Wisconsin in contention for an at-large BCS bowl berth.

Aug. 31: UMass – W
Sept. 7: Tennessee Tech – W
Sept. 14: at Arizona State – L
Sept. 21: Purdue – W
Sept. 28: at Ohio State – L
Oct. 12: Northwestern – W
Oct. 19: at Illinois – W
Nov. 2: at Iowa – W
Nov. 9: BYU – W
Nov. 16: Indiana – W
Nov. 23: at Minnesota – W
Nov. 30: Penn State – W
10-2 overall; 7-1 Big Ten

Worst-case: Pencil in a 2-0 start. There is no earthly way the Badgers lose to either UMass or Tennessee Tech (Tennessee Tech?). The game at Arizona State has “bad news” written all over it. In fact, the Badgers get run out of Sun Devil Stadium by Todd Graham’s up-tempo attack. Next up: a visit from Purdue. The Badgers haven’t just beaten Purdue in recent years; they have absolutely clobbered it, winning seven in a row. And every Badger win but one has been by double-digits. But any fat-and-happy feeling the Badgers have from whipping the Boilermakers fades in a loss at Ohio State. Oh-oh: Next up is a visit from Northwestern, maybe the top team in the Legends. The schools haven’t met since 2010. Wisconsin won the last meeting, 70-23. I bet Pat Fitzgerald hasn’t forgotten. Loss. A trip to Illinois will be an elixir for the two-game losing skid. But Wisconsin opens its busy November with a loss at Iowa, which is yearning for a signature win in this pivotal season. This is the rivals’ first meeting since 2010. The Badgers come home and get better with wins over BYU and Indiana. A trip to Minnesota in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe is poorly timed, as the Gophers are fighting for their bowl life. Minnesota has lost nine in a row to Wisconsin. The streak is over. But Wisconsin comes home to finish on an up note with a payback victory vs. Penn State. At 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten, the Badgers limp off to a “Who Cares?” Bowl that pales compared to the last three junkets to Pasadena.

Aug. 31: UMass – W
Sept. 7: Tennessee Tech – W
Sept. 14: at Arizona State – L
Sept. 21: Purdue – W
Sept. 28: at Ohio State – L
Oct. 12: Northwestern – L
Oct. 19: at Illinois – W
Nov. 2: at Iowa – L
Nov. 9: BYU – W
Nov. 16: Indiana – W
Nov. 23: at Minnesota – L
Nov. 30: Penn State – W
7-5 overall; 4-4 Big Ten

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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3 Comments

Your Opinion?
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Bert Saladbar on 7/22/2013 @ 2:19pm EDT Said:

i think if you are going to go crazy and put our worst case scenario with a loss to Minnesota you have to go and readjust your best case scenario. 10-2 with losses to OSU and ASU is highly attainable.

Tim Brewster on 7/22/2013 @ 3:28pm EDT Said:

Wisconsin will not lose to Minnesota, not this year, and possibly never again!

Nate on 7/31/2013 @ 10:11am EDT Said:

Home losses to BYU and PSU are far more likely than @Minn, considering the relative quality of those programs. 6-6 is thus not unthinkable, but neither is 12-0, and here is why:

UW is OSU’s conference opener, and they are replacing 6 of the front 7 starters on defense. In the first three conference games last year OSU gave up 407 ypg and 34.3 ppg as the defense gelled. In contrast, Wisconsin returns 5 of the front 7 starters (12 of 14 on the two-deep) and these guys shut down Miller last year. That, and a legitimate deep passing threat (can’t see Phillips winning the starting job), push the Badgers over the top in Columbus.

ASU has a nice overall defense, but their run D ranked 10th in the PAC, and 83rd in the country, only a couple spots higher than Nebraska’s. They gave up 200+ on 5 games and 406 to Oregon at home (Stanford held Oregon to 198 and only allowed one team beside Wisconsin over 200 rush yards). The rushing defenses that beat UW last year were #5 Stanford, #8 MSU, #14 OSU, #24 PSU, and #28 Oregon St, and #13 Utah St. came close. Wisconsin is an exceptionally hard team to beat if you can’t stop their run.