CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 18 Wisconsin

1 Comment

2013 record: 9-4 overall, 6-2 in Big Ten (2nd in Leaders Division)
2013 postseason: Capital One Bowl vs. South Carolina (34-24 loss)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 22/No. 21
Head coach: Gary Andersen (39-35 overall; 9-4 in 1 year at Wisconsin)
Offensive coordinator: Andy Ludwig (1 year at Wisconsin)
2013 offensive rankings: 8th rushing offense (283.77 ypg); 94th passing offense (197.1 ypg); 18th total offense (480.8 ypg); 27th scoring offense (34.8 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 6
Defensive coordinator: Dave Aranda (1 year at Wisconsin)
2013 defensive rankings: 5th rushing defense (102.54 ypg); 17th passing defense (202.5 ypg); 7th total defense (305.1 ypg); 6th scoring defense (16.3 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 3
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium (80,321; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 2012

THE GOOD
Wisconsin has a very favorable draw in the Big Ten scheduling this season, with no Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State. The Badgers also get Nebraska at home late in the season, but must travel to Iowa the following week, and I have already suggested how dangerous that can be for Wisconsin. The running game should be as strong as it ever is in Madison with Melvin Gordon set to carry the load behind four returning starters on the offensive line (Kyle Costigan, Rob Havenstein, Tyler Marz and Dan Voltz). Wisconsin’s season starts off with an early test against LSU in Houston, but the Badgers could be looking at a 10-win season and should be the favorite in the Big Ten west to reach the Big Ten championship game.

THE BAD
Wisconsin has had one of the more underrated defenses in recent years, but this is a bit of a rebuilding year for the Badgers on defense. Wisconsin returns just three starters from last season and must rebuild the entire front seven.  Having to replace so much in the first game of the season against LSU could make a difficult take slightly more challenging. Wisconsin may feel comfortable with Joel Stave at quarterback, but the Badgers also need to find their new go-to receiver after losing Jared Abbrederis. The top four receivers on the team have moved on since last season, leaving some uncertainty in the open field for now.

THE UNKOWN
Just how good can Wisconsin be? Is this a Badgers team that will challenge Ohio State or Michigan State for the Big Ten championship in Indianapolis, or will this be a team more likely to play in the Capital One Bowl or Outback Bowl? There is nothing wrong with Orlando or Tampa, but the Badgers will have a chance to prove themselves worthy of being in the same conversation as the Buckeyes and Spartans early on if they can show something against LSU.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: vs. Nebraska
The season opener against LSU will certainly be the highlight of the 2014 Wisconsin schedule, and for good reason, but the more realistic make-or-break game will come at the other end of the schedule. With back-to-back November games against Nebraska and Iowa, the Badgers will likely have to do no worst than spit the two in order to earn a trip back to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game. Getting a win out of the way against Nebraska before heading to Iowa would be wise and could prove to be the deciding factor in the Big Ten West this fall.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: Running back Melvin Gordon
We will be highlighting top players from each team in our preseason top 25, but Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender. Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and that was while splitting time with James White (1,444 yards, 13 touchdowns). With White gone, Gordon’s production may actually increase and challenge the numbers put up by Montee Ball in 2012 or 2011. Of course, getting Gordon some rest when possible could be key for the success of Wisconsin this fall as well.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Miami to be without its leading tackler for FIU game

Getty Images
Leave a comment

As it closes out the non-conference portion of its 2018 schedule, Miami will (again, in one case) be at less than 100 percent at a couple of key positions.

Mark Richt confirmed Thursday that Jaquan Johnson will be sidelined for The U’s Week 4 matchup with Florida International. The safety suffered a hamstring injury in the Week 3 road win over Toledo and did not practice at all this week.

Johnson has started 17 straight games for the Hurricanes — three this season, all 13 in 2017 and the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl win over West Virginia. In 2018, the fourth-year senior leads the ‘Canes in tackles with 22. He also has one of UM’s two blocked kicks on the season.

In addition to Johnson, wide receiver Ahmmon Richards will miss his third straight game because of a knee injury suffered in the season-opening loss to LSU. Like his teammate, Richards did not practice at all this week.

The knee issue continues a string of injuries that Richards has had to battle through the past two seasons.

Richards missed the first two games in 2017 because of a hamstring issue, then suffered a season-ending meniscus injury in late November. At the time of that latter injury, Richards was third on the Hurricanes in receptions (24) receiving yards (439) and receiving touchdowns (three). The year before as a true freshman, he led the team with 934 receiving yards.

Prior to being injured in the opener this season, Richards had one catch for nine yards.

Miami will open ACC play next Thursday against North Carolina, with that short week likely playing at least a small role in erring on the side of caution with the players, Johnson in particular.

Scott Frost: This could get worse before it gets better

Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images
7 Comments

Nebraska’s hiring of Scott Frost to take over as the head coach of the Cornhuskers came with a red wave of high optimism, but this was always going to be a bit of a rebuilding process in Lincoln. After an 0-2 start to the season, Frost is already bracing Nebraska fans about what could come next for the Huskers, because it may not be all that happy.

This could get worse before it gets better,” Frost said this week, as quoted in a Sports Illustrated story by Andy Staples. Frost is fair with his assessment.

This week, Nebraska opens Big Ten play with a road game in Ann Arbor against Michigan. The Wolverines are hoping the offense is on track after a tough season opener and playing at home could be a nice advantage against a Nebraska team with a young quarterback and a team still trying to come together under Frost. After that, Nebraska will get a home game against Purdue before back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Northwestern.

Nebraska also has games later this season at Ohio State, home against Michigan State, and at Iowa to close out the season. The schedule was not a kind one to Nebraska this particular season, but the Huskers should improve over time under Frost.

Making a bowl game in Frost’s first season was always going to be a nice accomplishment if Nebraska could pull it off this season. After a tough 0-2 start with home losses to Colorado and Troy, Nebraska’s bowl hopes already look razor thin, but this is still a team that should continue to grow as the year moves along.

Rutgers completes 2021 schedule with addition of FCS school

Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images
5 Comments

The final piece of the scheduling puzzle for Rutgers has been found for the 2021 season. Rutgers announced the addition of a home game against Delaware, an FCS program, to the 2021 schedule to give the Scarlet Knights a full schedule.

Rutgers will host Delaware on September 18, 2021. Other non-conference games lined up for Rutgers includes a season opener against Temple at home and a road trip to Syracuse for a pair of games against former Big East foes.

Rutgers has not faced the Blue Hens of Delaware since 1973. Rutgers leads the all-time series, 15-13-3. Delaware was also recently added to the future schedule of Penn State, with road trips to Penn State slated for 2023 and 2027.

In a fun little uniform twist, Rutgers will play teams with the signature winged helmet with shades of blue and yellow in back-to-back weeks. A week after hosting Delaware, Rutgers is scheduled to play a Big Ten contest at Michigan. Delaware and Michigan wear similar uniforms highlighted by a similar winged helmet design.

Nebraska squeezes in 12th game against Bethune-Cookman

Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images
8 Comments

Nebraska will play a 12-game schedule after all, as long as Mother Nature decides to cooperate for the rest of the season. Nebraska announced today it has added a home football game against Bethune-Cookman.

According to the release from Nebraska, the Huskers will host the FCS school on October 27. The game will replace a home game wiped out by lightning against Akron back in Week 1.

“Our great fans and our football student-athletes deserve a full schedule, and we are glad to be able to provide an additional game on Oct. 27 against Bethune-Cookman,” Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said. “We appreciate the patience of our fans through this process.”

Nebraska will pay Bethune-Cookman $800,000 to make the trip to Lincoln.