Entering the 2019 season, expectations were low for the University of Wisconsin football team. After finishing the year with a dismal 8-5 record, the Badgers entered 2019 ranked No. 19 in the coaches poll.
With questions surrounding junior quarterback Jack Coan — who limped to a 3-2 record as the quarterback — and a defense that had complete turnover, writers questioned whether Wisconsin had the talent to compete in the Big Ten.
The Badgers have put many skeptics to rest after starting 6-0, including a 35–14 whopping over then-No. 11 Michigan. Coan ranks ninth in the country in completion rate with 73.7% and surpassed his touchdown total from last season with seven this year.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has dominated, allowing a national-best 192.3 yards-per-game. Pair these factors with junior Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor and suddenly the expectation is a 2019 Big Ten Championship.
Wisconsin faces a favorable schedule on its road to Indianapolis, playing Nebraska, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota. The only true tests remaining for Wisconsin are against Iowa and The Ohio State University.
The Badgers should be able to take care of business at home against the gritty Hawkeyes, and while a road trip to Columbus is no ideal destination, Wisconsin can afford a road loss to the Buckeyes and still win the division.
Badger fans should also raise their expectations because Taylor is simply that good. The 2018 Doak Walker Award winner picked up right where he left off in the first five games of the 2019 campaign. The junior running back has scampered for 745 yards and 12 touchdowns. Taylor’s best performance came Saturday against Kent State, running for 186 yards and five total touchdowns.
On top of that, Taylor has developed as a receiver, surpassing his receiving yards total from last year and finding the end zone four times. Taylor’s game-breaking explosiveness keeps fans on the edge of their seats and opposing coordinators searching for answers.
Likely headed to the NFL next year, this could potentially be Wisconsin’s last year with Taylor. With that, the time is now for the program to leap into college football’s elite and win the conference for the first time in the Paul Chryst era.
Over the years, the quarterback position has been kryptonite for Wisconsin’s Big Ten title hopes. The Badgers have lost in their last three Big Ten Championship Game appearances.
In those losses, Wisconsin quarterbacks have a combined 52% completion percentage with zero touchdowns and five interceptions. The last Badger quarterback to throw for a touchdown in the Big Ten Championship Game was current Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in 2011.
This year is different. Don’t get it wrong, Coan is no Wilson, but he has impressed with his ability to complete timely passes and move the chains.
If Coan continues his stellar play against marquee defenses like Michigan, there is no reason Badger fans shouldn’t expect a balanced, complementary attack in Wisconsin’s biggest games.
Furthermore, Wisconsin’s stifling defense complements their balanced offense. Wisconsin ranks first in the country in points allowed and yards per game. The opportunistic defense has also forced 11 takeaways, good for sixth-best in the country.
The linebacking trio of seniors Zack Baun, Chris Orr and sophomore Jack Sanborn has been lethal, combining for 74 tackles, 13 sacks and four forced fumbles. Baun is a nightmare for offensive tackles, using his speed to edge rush quarterbacks for six sacks through five games. This defense has the talent and scheme to shut down any team in the country. Badger fans need to realize this and believe the hype.
Since 2009, Wisconsin football has been one of the nation’s most consistent teams. Over this time period, the Badgers hold the country’s seventh-highest winning percentage with an impressive 102-33 record.
Wisconsin has also appeared in four conference championship games and six New Year’s Six bowls. The team hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2010 and has yet to appear in a National Championship game or the College Football Playoff.
Now is the time for Badger fans to raise their expectations and not settle for anything less than confetti Dec. 7 in Indianapolis for the 2019 Big Ten Championship.