The 2018 college football season is within distance. A mere two weekends separate us from the first full slate of action. In like manner, this season’s schedule contains a college football fan’s paradise. From high profile non-conference clashes to rivalry games that put playoff aspirations on the line. This season will have it all. Lest we not forget the upsets. We have all of that covered in the Wisconsin Badgers 2018 schedule analysis.
Imagine the college football season as an ice cream sundae. The marquee matchups provide the base (the ice cream). Therefore the rivalries act as the whip cream/chocolate sauce. And, to top it off we have the cherry on top which serves as the upsets.
Now, Wisconsin Head Coach Paul Chryst enters his fourth season as the leader of the program. Furthermore, this will be his first year with almost entirely his recruits. Bucky has lofty goals this season. Behind a Heisman candidate in sophomore running back Jonathon Taylor coupled with the most balanced offense Wisconsin has seen since 2011, the CFB Playoff is within reach. However, this year’s schedule provides a much tougher gauntlet than last seasons proverbial “cakewalk” of a regular season.
Here’s the 2018 schedule:
Week 1: vs Western Kentucky
Week 2: vs New Mexico
Week 3: vs BYU
Week 4: @ Iowa
Week 5: Bye Week
Week 6: vs Nebraska
Week 7: @ Michigan
Week 8: vs Illinois
Week 9: @ Northwestern
Week 10: vs Rutgers
Week 11: @ Penn State
Week 12: @ Purdue
Week 13: vs Minnesota
Week 14: BIG Championship Game
Two things will jump out at you when you see this schedule. In similar fashion to last season, the non-conference schedule is weak. Secondly, the Badgers toughest games all come on the road. Not only does Bucky travel to Iowa City and Evanston, but they will make the trip to Happy Valley and Ann Arbor. In addition, the latter two will likely be prime time games for Bucky as its national profile continues to be elevated.
Ultimately, making the CFB Playoff is the end goal for this year’s Badgers. However, this schedule provides a series of unique challenges that will test this year’s team in every facet possible.
Iowa City is one of the toughest places to play in the nation. Additionally, Iowa’s record never matters when they play at home. They could have just one loss, or be a middle of the pack team and Hawkeye Stadium would be wrecking havoc on opposing teams. Just look at last season. Kirk Ferentz’s squad took Penn State to the brink, and absolutely dismantled Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes. The Badgers will be looking to kick off conference play on a high note, but it’ll take a tough-nosed effort. Luckily for Bucky, this team has the fortitude to come out of this game victorious behind an experienced offensive line.
Second-year coach Jeff Brohm has the Boilermakers on the rise. Purdue ended their season with a bowl victory for the first time since 2011. And, they have substantial momentum coming into this year that they can take the next step. On top of that, this game comes the week after the Badgers possible season-defining trip to Happy Valley. A slip up cannot happen here. Thankfully for Badger fans, Chryst and company are one of the most consistent well-prepared programs in the country.
Most Hyped Game:
at Penn State
Let me preface this by saying that the game at Michigan is a very close number two. As a matter of fact, the Badgers must come out of these two games with at the very least a split to maintain playoff aspirations. Furthermore, this game has all the makings of a prime-time showing with ESPN’s College Gameday on the scene. Led by head coach James Franklin and Heisman candidate quarterback Trace McSorley, the Nittany Lions have their own playoff aspirations. Likewise, the Badgers have the star power to match that with Taylor and senior linebacker T.J. Edwards. Junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook will have to bring the Orange Bowl version of himself as well to give the Badgers a shot at coming out victorious. With all that being said, this game has all the makings of being an instant classic.
Division Decider Game:
Fans of Wisconsin know just how much the Badgers have struggled in Evanston. Until their victory in 2016, Bucky hadn’t won a game at Ryan Field since 1999. Not to mention, this could be one of coach Pat Fitzgerald‘s best teams. Aside from losing star running back Justin Jackson, the Wildcats bring back quarterback Clayton Thorson who has all the tools of a future first round pick. In recent years, it’s come down to Wisconsin and Northwestern as the top two teams in the division. While the Badgers have come out on tops each of those times that does not mean it is a given. This game may very well decide who goes to Indy from the West Division.
In conclusion, the 2018 schedule for the Badgers is grueling. There is no other way to put it. In addition to facing six teams that made a bowl game, each of their five toughest games come on the road. In college football, there is no harder task than winning on the road. Correspondingly so, the Badgers have the pieces to rise from the ashes of the 2018 schedule with just one loss. For this to be done, however, the defense will have to fill the holes lost due to graduation and the NFL Draft. We know the linebacking corp is stacked, but the defensive line and defensive backs are mostly young and inexperienced. They will have to step up.
If they can perform adequately at best, the offense led by Taylor, Hornibrook, and a quartet of talented receivers could become a juggernaut behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. This could be the most balanced Badger team in the last decade.
The goals are there. The potential is there. Soon, we will learn if the results are there.