The year is 2019. The University of Wisconsin football team has another star running back. Raise your hand if you’ve heard that more than one time. “Running Back U” has earned it’s nickname. Names like Ron Dayne, Montee Ball, James White, and Melvin Gordon have all come through Madison the last two plus decades finishing with some of the most illustrious careers in college football.
Enter Jonathon Taylor. The junior has been running roughshod on the nation since exploding onto the scene as a freshman in 2016. Nearly 5,000 yards and 47 touchdowns later, Taylor may leave as the best of them all to ever come through Camp Randall Stadium. He will likely leave with his name written all over UW and NCAA record books. Will he bring home a coveted Heisman like Dayne? The three time Heisman contender may never actually win the award as it has virtually become a QB exclusive club. However, he could become just the third ever two time Doak Walker Award Winner, the award given to the nation’s best running back.
This is all to tell you that while Jonathon Taylor is the absolute best player on the Wisconsin Badgers, he does not define the entirety of their success. As the #6 team in America as it stands today, the Badgers boast a whole lot more than just their star tailback. The remainder of this article looks at just what other ingredients reside in this recipe that may take Bucky to the College Football Playoff.
Bucky Can Chuck It
This is the most balanced Badger offense since Russell Wilson’s in 2011. Wisconsin boasts not necessarily a big play passing attack, but a quick passing scheme that flows very smoothly. Six players have at least 12 receptions, with seven having more than 100 yards receiving on the year. This may not seem like a lot, but for Wisconsin they have more weapons in the passing game than maybe ever before. The group is spearheaded by junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus. He boasts a rare combination of speed an athleticism that few have possessed at the position for the Badgers. His mere presence alleviates pressure off of Taylor and quarterback Jack Coan.
The aforementioned Coan has been up to the task and then some halfway into the season. His best games have come against Bucky’s best opponents (Michigan and Michigan State), where he has shown he can more than carry his weight in the offense. In these two games, he is a combined 31/37, 308 yards, and 3 total touchdowns. Efficiency is the key to the Badgers passing game. Not only are they efficient, but they possess more play making ability on the outside than they’ve ever had before.
Play Making Defense
We are halfway through the season and the Wisconsin defense has scored as many touchdowns as they’ve given up. They’ve also posted four shutouts in just six games. Both of those stats are absurd. Opponents are averaging less than five points per game, along with just over 173 yards per game in total offense. This defense is suffocating opposing offenses, but it also has created its fair share of game changing plays. The defense has accounted for four touchdowns, while forcing 14 turnovers.
Not only are they good at creating turnovers, but the front seven is incredibly adept at getting into the backfield. Averaging nearly four sacks and over seven tackles for loss a game, this group brings nightmares to offensive coordinators unfortunate enough to face them. Senior linebackers Chris Orr and Zack Baun are the keys that start the car for this defense. Baun leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss, and will likely be on many Mid Season All American teams. Orr ranks top three on the team in total tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss. Both are longtime members of the program who have comeback from grueling injuries, showing both commitment and perseverance in the process. In all, they are the heart and soul of this dominant defense.
Will It Be Enough?
The age old question for Wisconsin is are they good enough to compete with the nation’s elite? More specifically, can they beat Ohio State? While they’ve come close numerous times recently, Bucky has historically fallen short in taking down the Buckeyes thus preventing them from jumping into the tier of elites in college football. This has largely been due to lack of a true passing game, as well as a defense lacking speed. In 2019, it appears the Badgers may finally have found the formula to take down their foes from Columbus. Will they? Maybe. Ohio State fields a team loaded with future pro’s, most notably Chase Young, Justin Fields, and JK Dobbins.
However, as we’ve learned halfway through the season, the Wisconsin Badgers are a whole lot more than just Jonathon Taylor.