Though the University of Wisconsin’s 2020 fall football season was canceled, it’s still fun to predict what would’ve happened if the Badgers’ “conference only” schedule went on without any hiccups.
In an Aug. 6 article, fellow sportswriter Charlie Dern broke down Wisconsin’s first four games. Going off of Dern’s article, The Badger Herald took a look at Wisconsin’s final six games of the 2020 regular season.
Saturday, Oct. 3 at Maryland
The year 2019 was a struggle for the Terrapins and first-year head coach Mike Locksley. During the first two weeks of the season, the Terrapins made some noise with wins over Howard and then No. 21 Syracuse. Over those two games, Maryland outscored their opponents 142-20. The Terps soon received national attention by climbing to No. 21 in the national rankings, but shortly after, their season crumbled.
Quarterback Josh Jackson struggled through the air and only completed a dismal 47.3% of his passes during the regular season. Jackson’s play warranted questions about who would be the starter in 2020. Between Jackson, redshirt freshman Lance LeGendre and sophomore transfer Taulia Tagovailoa, there was a quarterback competition in College Park. With so much uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position and including the fact that the Terps lost star running back Javon Leake to the NFL, it’s likely Wisconsin will cruise through this matchup without any trouble.
Saturday, Oct. 10 vs. Purdue
In this week’s matchup, the Badgers take on the Boilermakers before heading into their bye week. Wisconsin has won 14 straight against Purdue, with their last loss being on Ben Jones’ game-winning field goal at Camp Randall in 2003. In 2019, the Boilers limped to a 4-8 record and suffered an embarrassing 45–24 loss in their Nov. 23 matchup with the Badgers. Last year the Boilers struggled defensively, ranking second to last in the Big Ten in yards per game (436.3) while also giving up an alarming 192.5 yards on the ground.
These statistics don’t bode well for the Boilers’ chances in Madison since year-after-year the Badgers model their offense on being a ground-and-pound football team. I see running backs Nakia Watson, Garrett Groshek and Jalen Berger having a field day. With no answer for the Badgers’ physicality, Wisconsin continues their undefeated season.
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Saturday, Oct. 24 vs. Illinois
Before Wisconsin’s 2019 matchup against the Illini, the Badgers were clicking on all cylinders. Wisconsin was ranked No. 6 in the country and had hopes of appearing in their first-ever College Football Playoff, but after a shocking 24–23 road loss, those chances soon vanished. The Illini have talent and were looking forward to building off a 2019 breakthrough season — a season where Illinois made their first bowl appearance since 2014.
Quarterback Brandon Peters is proven and threw for 18 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. Though Illinois is set at the quarterback position, it will be difficult to replace running backs Reggie Corbin and Dre Brown. Last season, the duo rushed for a combined 1337 yards and 12 touchdowns. Without a potent running attack, Wisconsin’s defense can neutralize Peters through the air. Unlike 2019, the Badgers don’t look past Illinois and take care of business.
Saturday, Oct. 31 at Michigan
Wisconsin enters this Halloween showdown in Ann Arbor with a lot on the line. The Badgers are undefeated with hopes of contending for a national championship. Michigan has a lot of depth offensively. The Wolverines bring back Ronnie Bell, the team’s leading pass catcher, and Nico Collins, who led the team in touchdown receptions last season. Sophomore running back Zach Charbonnet is a rusher that invites contact. In his first year, Charbonnet bulldozed his way to 726 yards and found the endzone 11 times. The defense is also stout and only gave up 20.7 points per game in 2019.
I think this game will be a difficult test for the Badgers. Though Wisconsin has the luxury of not playing in front of 110,000 plus boisterous fans at the Big House, Jim Harbaugh and company control the clock offensively and end Wisconsin’s perfect season.
Saturday, Nov. 14 at Iowa
The schedule doesn’t get any easier after a road test against the Wolverines, as Wisconsin travels to Iowa City for a battle against the Hawkeyes. One priority for Iowa is replacing seasoned quarterback Nate Stanley. In three years as a starter, Stanley threw for 68 touchdowns, which is second-best in school history. Stanley’s replacement is sophomore Spencer Petras. Petras is a promising passer and in his senior year of high school at Martin Catholic High School, he threw for an astounding 50 touchdowns and 4,157 yards. Though Petras has talent, Wisconsin’s Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard’s gameplan will give the young quarterback fits. Following a disappointing loss, the Badgers bounce back and win their fifth straight against Iowa.
Saturday, Nov. 21 vs. Rutgers
The Badgers wrap their season up against Rutgers in a game that could send them to their second consecutive Big Ten Championship game. This shouldn’t be too difficult of a matchup for Wisconsin, as the Scarlet Knights failed to win a conference game for the second consecutive season in 2019. Jack Coan has a field day in his final game at Camp Randall as he leads the Badgers to the Big Ten title game.
Though it looks like Wisconsin won’t be playing football until the spring at the earliest, it’s still fun to predict what would’ve happened if the Big Ten decided to keep their conference only schedule layout. Though there’s still a possibility of the Badgers playing in the spring, Saturdays in Madison this fall will be quiet without the Badgers suiting up every week.