University of Wisconsin
Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Home Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium
Head Coach: Paul Chryst, 2nd year, 20-5 (.800)
Conference: Big Ten (West Division)
First Game: September 26, 1953 (Wisconsin won, 20-0)
Last Game: November 30, 2013 (Penn State won, 31-24)
Overall: Wisconsin leads 9-8
Current Win Streak: 2, Penn State
About the Big 10 Championship Game
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Stadium: Lucas Oil Stadium
Stadium Size: 62, 421
Most Championships (since 2011): Michigan State, Wisconsin (2)
Current Champion: Michigan State
Last Season (10-3 overall, 6-2 conference)
In Paul Chryst’s first year as head coach (also the first year for offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph), the Badgers went 10-3 overall (6-2 in the conference), losing only to Alabama, Iowa and Northwestern. Wisconsin earned a spot in the Holiday Bowl and defeated USC 23-21. The Badgers ended the year ranked No. 21 in both the Coaches and AP polls, and with the top defense in college football.
Just after their Holiday Bowl appearance, Wisconsin lost their defensive coordinator Dave Aranda to LSU. In August, they had two players leave, including wide receiver Krenwick Sanders, who transferred to Jacksonville State to gain more playing time, and fifth-year senior Dan Voltz, who retired from football due to injuries sustained over his career.
The Badgers’ 2016 recruiting class is ranked as the nation’s 32nd recruiting class (6th in the Big Ten) as compared to PSU’s 2016 class ranked at 20th in the nation, 4th in the Big Ten.
Last week the Badgers defeated the Minnesota Gophers 31-17, clinching the Big Ten West Division title and claiming the rivalry trophy, Paul Bunyan's Axe, for another year. The Badgers fell behind at the half 17-7 with spotty quarterback and offensive performances, but the Wisconsin defense took full advantage of Minnesota’s quarterback Mitch Leidner throwing four interceptions in the second half. Wisconsin had a field goal in the third quarter and had four touchdowns in a fourth quarter rally for the win.
Wisconsin’s backup quarterback Bart Houston played the second half due to starter Alex Hornibrook suffering a head injury.
Wisconsin is 10-2 overall this year (7-2 in the Big Ten), losing only to Michigan and Ohio State.
This year, Wisconsin returned just 34% of their offense (and Penn State returned 53%).
For 2016, Wisconsin’s been slotted at 54th on overall offense, 53rd in rushing offense and 12th in passing offense in S&P ratings.
The Badgers’ offense revolves mostly around senior running back and leading scorer Corey Clement. He’s on the watch list for Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards with good reason. Clement is third in the conference in rushing yards (1,140) and rushing touchdowns (13) and first in rush attempts (271).
Wisconsin also looks to leading receiver Jazz Peavy, who has amassed 39 catches, 582 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Wisconsin’s starting freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook who has racked up 1,243 passing yards, 8 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, with 104 completions of 179 attempts for a 58.1% pass completion percentage. There’s a Pennsylvania connection there: Hornibrook hails from West Chester, PA, and his father Jeff played football at Temple.
After suffering an apparent head injury last week against Minnesota, it’s unclear if Hornibrook will be starting against the Nittany Lions, or if senior backup quarterback Bart Houston, who finished the second half of the Minnesota game, will be in for the Big Ten Championship game.
Last year, the Badgers had the top defense in college football, with opponents averaging only 13.1 points per game against them. Wisconsin’s defense has been phenomenal again this year, ranked third in the country in S&P ratings on overall defense, 17th in rushing S&P, and ninth in passing S&P. Wisconsin is third in FBS in rush defense, giving up just over 100 yards per game on the ground, and third in FBS in third down defense stopping rivals 73.6% of the time.
Wisconsin returned 54% of their defense this year (and Penn State returned 63%).
The defense comes down to two T.J.s. Leading tackler T.J. Edwards has racked up 75 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. And linebacker T.J. Watt, younger brother of professional football players J. J. and Derek Watt, has 13 TFL for the season (seventh in Big 10), 9.5 sacks (second in the Big Ten), and 1 interception return touchdown (second in the Big Ten).
Also of note are outside linebackers Vince Biegel (on the watch list for the Bednarik, Nagurski, Butkus Awards) and Jack Cichy (on the watch list for the Lott Impact Trophy).
With starting kicker Rafael Gaglianone out for the season since September following a back injury, backup Andrew Endicott has been solid on extra points with a 93.3% extra point average, making 28 of 30, but struggled a bit with field goals, making 11 for 16 for a 68.8% average.
Running back Dare Ogunbowale and Natrell Jamerson leads the Badgers with punt returns, with Ogunbowale leading the team at 10 returns for 213 yards, and Jamerson just behind with 8 returns for 191 yards.
Read more about Wisconsin football at the SB Nation blog Bucky’s Fifth Quarter.