Dot Commentary: Who has the best chance to beat Wisconsin?
Ever since the 2017 schedule was released, the possibility has loomed. Wisconsin has as good a shot as ever to roll through their slate undefeated heading into a potential Big Ten Championship Game.
Here’s how their remaining schedule plays out:
Oct. 7: @ Nebraska
Oct. 14: Purdue
Oct. 21: Maryland
Oct. 28: @ Illinois
Nov. 4: @ Indiana
Nov. 11: Iowa
Nov. 18: Michigan
Nov. 25: @ Minnesota
But we know anything can happen in college football, and it’s incredibly difficult to run the table. That’s how this week’s Dot Commentary debate topic came to be:
Which regular season game is Wisconsin most likely to lose?
By the look of things, it wouldn’t be a shock if Wisconsin runs the table and finishes the regular season 12-0. The Badgers are that good.
They already are 4-0 as they head to Nebraska for a big game this Saturday night. Could Wisconsin lose to the Huskers? Nah. So, what game is the biggest hurdle for the Badgers? The one game where they have the best shot to lose? I think it will be when Iowa visits Madison on Nov. 11.
This has been one of the tightest series in the history of the Big Ten, with Wisconsin holding a 45-43-2 edge over Iowa. But that’s not what makes this game a potential trapdoor for the Badgers. It’s the fact the Hawkeyes play good defense and have a good quarterback.
Iowa’s defensive line is tough, led by guys like Anthony Nelson and Parker Hesse off the edge. And the linebacking corps is one of the best in the Big Ten with Ben Niemann and Josey Jewell, the star of the unit and maybe the best defensive player in the Big Ten. This front seven may be able to mute the Wisconsin rushing attack … and then get after Badger quarterback Alex Hornibrook, perhaps forcing some mistakes and turnovers.
While Iowa’s offense lacks dynamic ability, there are enough playmaking elements in wideout Nick Easley, tight end Noah Fant and running back Akrum Wadley, among others. And Stanley is proving to be one of the top young signal-callers in the league.
Another reason Wisconsin may stumble: it could be looking ahead to a visit from Michigan the next week.
So, Badgers, be careful when Iowa comes to Camp Randall.
I’m not completely dismissing the Huskers’ chances this weekend against the Badgers, which is Wisconsin’s most difficult road trip remaining, by far. The Hawkeyes won’t make it easy on Bucky, either, because they rarely roll over to good teams. But the best team remaining on Wisconsin’s upcoming slate is the Wolverines, and it’s not really that close. Wisconsin caught a huge break avoiding Ohio State and Penn State, and the other Beast in the East has to pay Camp Randall a visit.
Somehow, some way, the Wolverines have managed to slide in 10 new starters on defense and barely miss a beat. Michigan is the No. 1 team in the country in total defense, and while that’s an amazing fact to behold, the formula isn’t exactly a secret. Jim Harbaugh can really recruit, and defensive coordinator Don Brown can really coach. The age discrepancy on their defense doesn’t matter as much when those underclassmen are former four and five-star recruits.
If anyone can shut down Wisconsin’s phenom freshman back Jonathan Taylor, it’s Rashan Gary’s crew on the defensive line and Mike McCray’s linebacking squad. Badger QB Alex Hornibrook has looked good as of late, but the Wolverines’ D has been a no-fly zone so far. Plus, I think there’s a good chance Michigan’s QB situation has stabilized by the time they pack their bags for Camp Randall for the Nov. 18 game.
The joint will be jumping in Madison, and I’m not just talking about immediately after the third quarter. But if anyone’s going to knock off Wisconsin before Indianapolis, I’d wager it’ll be the Wolverines.