2022 Wisconsin Badgers Preview

by Matt Fargo

Wisconsin Badgers

2021-22 Season Record 9-4 (6-3 Big Ten West) - 6-7-0 ATS - 6-7-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 5
Defense - 3

Overview

Since a 5-7 season in 2001, Wisconsin has run off 20 straight winning campaigns with half of those resulting in double-digit victories. It has finished in the AP Poll 13 times including five in the top ten over this stretch but has been left out two straight seasons. One of those was the 4-3 COVID shortened season and a bad start to last year knocked them out but they finished strong to carry something into 2022. After a pair of blowout losses to Michigan and Notre Dame while allowing 79 combined points to fall to 1-3, the Badgers defense stepped up and allowed 72 points total during a seven-game winning streak. They come into this season ranked No. 18 despite returning only eight starters to go along with a returning production ranking of No. 85. We should expect Wisconsin to win again but getting back to a double-digit winning season will be a tough ask despite a favorable schedule.

Offense

The offense has slipped over the last two seasons finishing No. 96 and No. 86 in total offense while putting up an average of 25 ppg during both campaigns. In comes a new offensive coordinator as Bobby Engram was hired after spending the last eight years with the Baltimore Ravens as a position coach but he has never called plays at any level. The passing offense was one of the worst in the country as quarterback Graham Mertz completed only 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,958 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The top three receivers are gone with Chimere Dike taking over the top spot after 272 yards last season and there is a lot of youth after him. Freshman All-American Braelon Allen rushed for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns while Chez Mellusi rushed for 815 yards and five scores and they will be running behind an offensive line that is big and experienced.

Defense

The defense carried the load late and overall, the Badgers finished No. 1 in total defense, No. 1 in rushing defense, No. 6 in passing defense and No. 6 in scoring defense. Now comes a test as only three starters are back, one from each level, so forget about coming close to matching the numbers from last season. Linebacker Nick Herbig is back after 64 tackles and a team high nine sacks and the other three spots will be manned by players that had a combined 26 tackles last season so the pass rush that had 39 sacks last season, tied for No. 16 in the country, will take a step back. Safety John Torchio is the lone returnee in the secondary yet he had only 35 tackles last season but did have two interceptions to go along with a pair of veteran corners. The rushing defense will be good again with Isaiah Mullens manning one of the defensive end spots and this is a big unit with decent depth.

2022 Season Outlook

Head coach Paul Chryst is 65-23 in seven seasons with the Badgers and this could be his most challenging one yet. A veteran quarterback is a plus, possessing two amazing running backs is better and having the edge in size at the line of scrimmage against most opponents is always important. This is far from a rebuild and Wisconsin has three games to start the season to see where it stands. The Badgers are home against Illinois St., Washington St. and New Mexico St. which all should be won handily and then comes the big one as it travels to Ohio St. for its Big Ten opener. Overall, there are five conference road games that also includes Michigan St. and Iowa. The home schedule is tame enough to sweep and Michigan and Penn St. are off the schedule. The O/U win total is set at 8.5 which seems massive but being favored in nine of their games shows it will be doable is the pieces fall into the right places. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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