The University of Wisconsin football team (3-0) has looked like a complete team through their first few games of 2019. They steamrolled through the University of South Florida and Central Michigan in the first two weeks before continuing right where they left off against Michigan in their third game after a bye week.
Unlike last year’s squad — who was highly rated in the preseason AP poll — this team’s expectations were low behind a young defense and quarterbacks with little experience at the college level. To say this team has outperformed thus far would be an extreme understatement.
In Wisconsin’s first three games, their offense has looked unstoppable. Scoring a total of 145 points, the offense has moved down the field without trouble behind the duo of junior quarterback Jack Coan and junior running back Jonathan Taylor.
On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin’s defense picked up right where it left off in the 2018 Pinstripe Bowl, when Wisconsin held Miami to just three points in the victory. The Badgers didn’t even allow a point to opposing offenses until the second half of the Michigan game, when Michigan managed to score twice against many of Wisconsin’s second-string players.
While Wisconsin has managed to silence the doubters through almost a full month of the season, the rest of the Big Ten West has been underwhelming to say the least. Despite this, it will be interesting to see how teams in the weaker side of the conference play as we move deeper into the Big Ten conference schedule. Let’s take a look at the competition, in the order they will be played this season.
Football: Badgers ride wave of success into bout with MichiganFollowing a pair of convincing shutout victories over non-conference opponents, the Wisconsin Badgers (2-0) prepare for their first true test Read…
Northwestern (1-2) is the defending Big Ten West champion, but they have looked like a totally different team thus far in 2019. Their team surprised many last season, but this season they have sputtered on both sides of the ball, struggling to put much together.
They could still be a threat if they string together a solid conference performance, but they have to play the Ohio State later in the season — a game that could make or break the conference for them. They will play Wisconsin later this week, Sept. 28 at Camp Randall.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois (2-2) looks like a more complete team than a year ago, but don’t be surprised if they continue to struggle to compete with the high-caliber teams at the top of the Big Ten. Illinois could, however, make a push for their first bowl appearance since 2014.
Illinois will face Wisconsin Oct. 14 in a game that will be played at Illinois’ home stadium. Last season, the Badgers dismantled the Illini in their homecoming game, winning 49–20 in a wind- and snow-filled game.
The Iowa Hawkeyes (3-0) have looked like perhaps the biggest competition to the Badgers through three games this season, as they had strong victories against Miami University and Rutgers before winning in their rivalry game against Iowa State on the road.
Much like Wisconsin, Iowa’s defense has looked spectacular thus far, and they will look to continue that trend through the Big Ten conference schedule. They will clash with Wisconsin Nov. 9 at Camp Randall in one of the biggest home games for the Badgers this season.
Nebraska (3-1) hasn’t come out of the gates as strong as they would have hoped this season, but they will likely continue to be a force in the West as long as sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez returns to his 2018 form. He’s shown flashes of this success in Nebraska’s three wins this year, but he looked like a different player in their loss to Colorado.
Head coach Scott Frost has a strong track record of coaching college football, so an improvement from last season is expected. Nebraska will play Wisconsin in Lincoln Nov. 16, a game that may very well decide the outcome of the West.
After losing their starting quarterback from last season as he moves on to the NFL, Purdue (1-2) has disappointed this season in losses to TCU and Nevada. Though their non-conference schedule is strong compared to other Big Ten teams, this start isn’t what they hoped for behind senior quarterback Elijah Sindelar.
Purdue is likely to stay in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten West, but they may fall to the bottom as the season moves on. Purdue will battle Wisconsin at Camp Randall in Wisconsin’s home finale Nov. 23.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0) have a record that indicates a strong start to their season, but their performance on the field has indicated anything but. They have narrowly avoided upsets in each of their first three games, winning by a touchdown or less against San Diego State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern.
Despite these close games, Minnesota is still a threat in the West after defeating Wisconsin in convincing fashion last November. This year, Wisconsin will be forced to go on the road to defeat Minnesota, as they play the Gophers Nov. 30 in the Twin Cities.
As any Wisconsin football fan can see, Wisconsin has a fairly balanced Big Ten West division to compete against, but nobody will be surprised to see Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game come December. If Wisconsin can handle their tougher opponents and continue their dominance of weaker ones, expect them to return to winning the Big Ten West after an off year last season.