- Location: Madison, Wisconsin
- Enrollment: 44,413 (undergraduates and post graduates)
- Home Stadium: Camp Randall Stadium (Capacity 80,321)
- Head Coach: Paul Chryst, 4th season, 40-10 (.800)
- Conference: Big Ten (West Division)
- Overall Bowl Record: 15-14 (.517)
- Conference Titles: 14
- Unclaimed National Titles: 3
- First Game: September 26, 1953 (Wisconsin won, 20-0)
- Last Game: December 3, 2016, Big Ten Championship Game (Penn State won, 38-31)
- Overall: Both teams tied at 9-9
- Current Streak: Penn State, 1
Last Season (13-1 overall, 9-1 in the Big Ten)
The Badgers had a stellar 12-0 regular season, easily winning all of their games, earning them a spot in the Big Ten Championship game, which they lost to Ohio State 27-21. But Wisconsin defeated Miami 34-24 in the Orange Bowl, ending their near-perfect season on a high note.
Recruiting and Offseason
The Wisconsin Badgers’ 2018 class ranks as the nation’s 44th recruiting class (ninth in the Big Ten) as compared to Penn State’s 2018 class, ranked at sixth in the nation and second in the Big Ten (per 247 Sports).
In the summer, junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus, expected to be the Badgers’ top receiver this season, was charged with second- and third-degree sexual assault and suspended from the program.
Last week the Badgers defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 31-17.
In the win, quarterback Alex Hornibrook threw 7 of 16 for 92 yard and threw two interceptions in the first half. Most concerning is that Hornibrook sat out in the second after appearing to suffer a concussion (after sitting out the Northwestern game because of a concussion).
Running back Johnathan Taylor rushed for 208 yards and three scores, and for the defense, Ryan Connelly had eight tackles.
For Rutgers, quarterback Artur Sitowski was 20 of 39 for 261 yards.
The Badgers rank in the top five in the conference in total offense (fourth; 447.2 ypg). Nationally, Wisconsin is 34th in total offense, 49th scoring offense, 110th passing offense, and unsurprisingly fourth in rush offense (first in the conference) and ninth in red zone offense. Yes, they’re going to run the ball because that’s what Badgers do.
They’re led by star running back Jonathan Taylor, who, so far this season leads the conference and FBS with 1,363 rushing yards and 11 scores. A few other running backs fill in the gaps here and there, but for the most part it’s all about Taylor. Filling in on the ground is Taiwan Deal, second on the team in rushing with 438 yards and five scores and Garrett Groshek, right behind, with 302 yards rushing and 17 receptions for 142 yards and one touchdown receiving. Fullback Alec Ingold is fourth on the team in rushing with 20 attempts for 132 yards and five touchdowns.
The Badgers also boast a strong offensive line with three returners and four All-Americans: returners left guard Michael Deiter, right guard Beau Benzschawel, and right tackle David Edwards plus sophomore center Tyler Biadasz (a freshman All-American). Junior left tackle Jon Dietzen rounds out the offensive line.
Wisconsin’s junior quarterback Alex Hornibrook returns after a solid 2017 season and has produced results this year. So far, Hornibrook had 100 completions of 172 attempts (58.1%) for 1,343 yards and 11 touchdowns in the air (but has had eight interceptions). Hornibrook ranks second in the Big Ten to Trace McSorley (13.47 yds) in yards per completion, averaging 13.43. Unfortunately, it seems that the Badgers also have some quarterback injuries with Hornibrook questionable for this week’s game after suffering two concussions this season. The backup quarterback, sophomore Jack Coan, with a 65.8% completion rate, has thrown for 222 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
In the receiver corps, there’s another Taylor lighting things up: A.J. Taylor, who this season has snagged 24 receptions for 406 yards and three touchdowns. Danny Davis has caught 24 receptions for 265 yards and two touchdowns with Kendric Pryor (16 receptions 197 yards two touchdowns) and Garrett Groshek (17 receptions 142 yards one score) right behind.
Tight end Kyle Penniston hasn’t been as productive this year with just two receptions for 15 yards and one touchdown, but TE Jake Ferguson has caught 25 passes for 361 yards and three scores.
Wisconsin is 35th in the nation in total defense (top five in the conference at no. 5), 61st in rush defense and 25th scoring defense – yet another strong Big Ten defensive unit but one that’s got inexperience and injuries in the secondary and on the defensive line.
The bright spot for the secondary unit is returning safety D’Cota Dixon, a finalist for the academic Heisman, William V. Campbell Trophy (along with Trace McSorley). Dixon has racked up 28 tackles and 1.5 TFLs this season, but was on the injured list last week (but expected to return for the Penn State game). His backup Reggie Pearson isn’t ready to go, either, questionable with a leg injury. And freshman starting free safety Scott Nelson (25 tackles, 2.5 TFLs) is questionable due to injury, with backup Eric Burrell (fourth on the team in tackles with 34) potentially playing this weekend.
Cornerbacks Faion Hicks (18 tackles) and Rachad Wildgoose (19 tackles) are both freshmen but have contributed this season (and are healthy).
The defensive line is young, too, made up of freshmen defensive ends Matt Henningsen (23 tackles, two TFLs, one sack) and Kayden Lyles. Freshman nosetackle Bryson Williams is filling in for sorely-missed injured senior starter Olive Sagapolu (23 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, two sacks, one interception), a 336 lb beast who likes to do backflips and does them well.
Although the Badgers lost a few linebackers, they have depth and also returned top senior tacklers Ryan Connelly (65 tackles, seven TFLs, two sacks) and T.J. Edwards (61 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, three sacks and two interceptions). Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (27 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two sacks) and Zack Baun (38 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, one sack, one interception) round out the starters.
Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone is one of the most consistent kickers in the Big Ten. Last year he held an 88.9% accuracy rate. This season, Gaglianone has been perfect (36-36) on extra points and 7 of 10 for field goals, and he’s second on the team in overall scoring.
Punter Anthony Lotti returns and so far this year kicked 28 punts for 1,095 yards and a 39.1 average.
Kick returns are mostly handled by Aaron Cruickshank, who’s had 20 returns for 399 yards along with Kendric Pryor. Punt returns are handled by Jack Dunn and Danny Davis.
Read more about Wisconsin football and other sports at the Wisconsin SB Nation blog Bucky’s Fifth Quarter.