2016 football schedule analysis: Wisconsin Badgers

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2016 football schedule analysis: Wisconsin Badgers

B1G INTERVIEW - Mike Hall catches up with Paul Chryst to discuss Wisconsin's latest signing class.

The debut for Paul Chryst was a success, as Wisconsin posted a 10-win season capped by a nice bowl win vs. USC. But the Badgers failed to win the West despite playing a favorable Big Ten schedule. Now, the schedule flips on Wisconsin, which has one of the most challenging slates in the nation.

[ MORE: Dienhart: Wisconsin Badgers’ offseason to-do list ]

Can the Badgers overcome the myriad hurdles while breaking in a new quarterback and with a new defensive coordinator?

Here is a look at Wisconsin’s 2016 schedule.

Toughest non-conference game: vs. LSU, Sept. 3 (Lambeau Field). No Big Ten team has a more daunting season opener. These teams opened vs. each other in 2014, as the Tigers took a 28-24 win at Houston. LSU is 3-0 all-time vs. the Badgers. Adding spice to this opener: Former Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda is now running the Bayou Bengal defense.

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Toughest conference game: at Michigan State, Sept. 24. This is one of the most loaded schedules in the nation. Let’s go with the game at Michigan State, the Big Ten opener. Yes, MSU has some big holes to fill. Still, the Spartans are the defending league champs coming off a playoff appearance. These schools haven’t met since 2012, as Michigan State has won three of the last four. The Badgers’ lone win in that span was the 2011 Big Ten title game. Earlier in that 2011 season, the teams met in East Lansing with the Spartans winning 37-31 on a Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol.

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Who they don’t play: Rutgers, Maryland, Penn State and Indiana.

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Easiest game: vs. Georgia State, Sept. 17. There aren’t too many on this schedule. Let’s go with the visit from Georgia State in the third game of the season. These teams never have met.

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Toughest stretch: This is a doozy of a six-game run. In fact, it’s the most daunting stretch for any Big Ten squad in 2016. The league schedule opens on Sept. 24 with a game at Michigan State. That is followed by a trip to Michigan. UW is off the next week before welcoming Ohio State, going to Iowa, playing host to Nebraska and going to Northwestern. Wisconsin has lost three of four to Michigan State and hasn’t won in East Lansing since 2002. This will be the Badgers’ first tilt vs. Michigan since 2010 when they won in Ann Arbor; Wisconsin has won the last two and three of the last four. The Badgers have lost four in a row and seven of eight to the Buckeyes. Wisconsin lost to Iowa last year in Madison but won three in a row vs. Iowa—all in Kinnick Stadium–before that. The Badgers are 4-1 vs. Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. UW has pounded the Huskers in Madison, winning 48-17 in 2011 and 59-24 in 2014 and also took a 70-31 decision in the 2012 Big Ten title game. The Wildcats, fresh off a 10-win season, have beaten the Badgers the last two years and have won three of the last four in Madison.

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Best chance to be upset: vs. Minnesota, Nov. 26. Wisconsin needs to be careful when Minnesota visits in the season finale. The battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe has been a lopsided affair of late, as the Gophers have gone 2-17 vs. the Badgers since 1995. In fact, Minnesota has lost 12 in a row to Wisconsin. And the Gophers haven’t won in Madison since 1994.

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Best chance to pull an upset: at Iowa, Oct. 22. Wisconsin could walk into Iowa City and knock off the defending Big Ten West champs. The Badgers have had recent success in Kinnick, winning the last three games there. But UW lost to the Hawkeyes last year in Madison. Iowa has what the Badgers want—the division title. If Wisconsin wants it, the Badgers must beat the Hawkeyes.

Must win: vs. Nebraska. If the Badgers want to get back on top in the West, they need to beat visiting Nebraska. Wisconsin will be coming off a tough game at Iowa. Still, UW needs to topple a Husker program that finished last year 3-1.

Bye week: The timing is good, as it comes after five games on Oct. 8. And it helps to break up an absolutely murderous run of six games, coming between a game at Michigan and visit from Ohio State.

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Day Date Opponent Time TV Result
Sat. 9/33:30 PM ET vs. 16 LSU* 3:30 PM ET  ABC
Sat. 9/10TBA vs. Akron TBA
Sat. 9/17TBA vs. Georgia State TBA
Sat. 9/24TBA at 6 Michigan State TBA
Sat. 10/1TBA at 12 Michigan TBA
Sat. 10/158:00 PM ET vs. 4 Ohio State 8:00 PM ET
Sat. 10/22TBA at 9 Iowa TBA
Sat. 10/29TBA vs. Nebraska TBA
Sat. 11/5TBA at 23 Northwestern TBA
Sat. 11/123:30 PM ET vs. Illinois 3:30 PM ET
Sat. 11/19TBA at Purdue TBA
Sat. 11/26TBA vs. Minnesota TBA

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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