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Wisconsin Badgers vs. Maryland Terrapins: Preview, predictions and prognostications

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When: Sat., Nov. 7; 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: College Park, MD; Byrd Stadium
TV: BTN
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Wisconsin 52-7 (2014)
Line: Wisconsin -12.5

On a weekend full of cross-division Big Ten games, this is one that may not resonate with many fans. Wisconsin and Maryland are heading in completely opposite directions, as the Badgers have won four in a row after opening conference play with a loss to Iowa, and the Terrapins are on a five-game losing streak. Plus Wisconsin blew away Maryland in 2014 as shown above.

However, just when it seems like teams are figured out, they usually go and surprise us. It’s college football, after all. Let’s count to five and preview this battle that spans across the width of the new conference footprint.

1 Burning Question: Can Maryland get anything done against this Wisconsin defense?

Wisconsin has struggled to blow out games this season because the offense has been dealing with a significant number of injuries to important players like Rob Wheelwright and Corey Clement, among others. However, scoring 25 to 30 points a week has been more than enough thanks to one of the best defenses in the country. Wisconsin leads the NCAA in scoring defense at 11.0 points per game, and this team ranks third nationally in total defense with 267.1 yards per game.

This past weekend, Wisconsin broke past 30 points for only the second time all season thanks to the healthy returns of Joel Stave and Corey Clement against Rutgers. Maryland has a comparable defense, which means the Terrapins will likely need to score some big points to keep up in this game. But that will be easier said than done.

Unlike Rutgers, which struggled without WR Leonte Caroo in the rain of Madison, Maryland has struggled to find much rhythm and consistency on offense. Part of that has been the lack of solid quarterback play, but Perry Hills has been better for this team since taking over against Ohio State a few weeks ago. Hills does make mistakes, however, and Wisconsin will look to take advantage to add to his already 10 interceptions on the season.

There’s no question Wisconsin will score some points in this game. But it is highly unclear if Maryland will do the same.

2 Key Stats

— +2 and -16. That is the turnover margin on the season for Wisconsin and Maryland, respectively. When previewing Maryland’s game against Iowa last weekend, the turnover margin was one of the key stats. It turned out to be critical in that game as Iowa pushed Maryland even farther into the basement of the conference rankings in this. The Terrapins have thrown an incredible 23 interceptions in eight games, and that has helped many games snowball against the overmatched Terrapins. If that trend continues, Wisconsin will not be challenged.

— 25.1 and 19.1 yards. That’s the kickoff return average and the punt return average for Maryland. If there is anything that can keep Maryland in the game, it is special teams and specifically, Will Likely. Likely has generated three touchdowns in the return game, and this is the type of game where such a play could make a difference in keeping it close. As long is Likely is not worn out from playing some offensive snaps and all defensive snaps, and he was not last week on a 4th quarter touchdown return, this is someone Wisconsin should never kick towards, just for the sake of playing conservative.

3 Key Players

Corey Clement, Wisconsin RB — Heading into last weekend, the best running back on Wisconsin’s roster had 16 rushing yards on the season thanks to an injury aggravated during the opener against Alabama. In his first action back, he averaged 10.5 yards per rush in the blowout of Rutgers, earning an easy 115 yards to work back in the groove. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin’s newly discovered balance on offense led to about twice as many points.

Vince Biegel, Wisconsin LB — Biegel’s hair (mullets and otherwise) is a thing of absolute beauty, even if you cannot see it normally underneath his helmet. While Joe Schobert has received many accolades for leading this defense in sacks and tackles for loss, his linebacker mate Biegel has also put up great numbers on the season with 5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. With offenses paying special attention to Schobert, look for Biegel to take advantage and make some big plays against the Maryland offense this week.

Will Likely, Maryland KR/PR/CB — Anytime Maryland is on the television, you always have to look for Likely, even on offense where he is taking some snaps now at receiver. Regardless of who the coach has been, this staff has understood that the best thing that can happen on this team is getting the ball to Likely in open space and letting him make some magic. There are other players who could cause some issues for Wisconsin, but none come close to the threat Likely presents.

4 Bold Prognostications

Corey Clement goes for 100 yards again but doesn’t play more than 2.5 quarters: Wisconsin is still working Clement up to speed, and there’s no reason to risk his health in games that should not challenge the Badgers. Accordingly, I predict the Badgers will race out to a quick start and a big lead in the first half, including a couple big runs by Clement to get him over 100 yards for a second-straight game. That will allow Wisconsin to stop playing Clement at halftime or sometime in the third quarter, which is a good move heading into the closing stretch.

Vince Biegel generates a couple of sacks against Perry Hills: With the prediction for a fast start for Wisconsin, that will force Maryland to try and throw the ball to get back into the game. Not only will that likely lead to a couple of interceptions, this will also provide a great opportunity for the linebackers of Wisconsin to rush the quarterback and make some big plays. Schobert has been the dominant force, but this week feels like a good time for Biegel to break out and have the best game against the Terrapins.

Wisconsin rushes for more yards than it passes: Joel Stave has led a dynamic passing attack thanks to the struggles keeping running backs healthy in 2015. That has led to a unique situation for this football program where the offense has passed for an average of 100 yards more per game than the rushing yards accumulated. But with the running backs becoming more healthy now and one starting receiver Rob Wheelwright out due to injury, this is the week Wisconsin returns to normal Wisconsin run-first football.

Will Likely is shut out of the end zone: Wisconsin has watched plenty of tape on Likely, including the 4th quarter touchdown return last week against Iowa. The Badgers have one of the better kick coverage units, but I expect the strategy to change to avoid defending any returns in this game. Meanwhile, Wisconsin also should not make any big mistakes like a pick-six, which means Likely will not reach the end zone for any game-changing plays.

5 Staff Predictions: (overall season record; record against the spread)

Andy: Wisconsin 45-10 (68-17 overall; 37-47 ATS)
Dave: Wisconsin 31-7 (69-16 overall; 44-39 ATS)
Greg: Wisconsin 37-13 (62-23 overall; 47-36 ATS)
Matt: Wisconsin 38-17 (68-17 overall; 50-33 ATS)
Phil: Wisconsin 31-10 (23-9 overall; 11-18 ATS) *joined in Week 5

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Badgers in the 2019 NFL Mock Drafts

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Believe it or not, we’re just three weeks away from the start of the 2019 NFL Draft. While, it’s likely your focus is on your favorite NFL team, its needs and who will go where, for fans of college football it’s also a time to sneak a look at where their favorite players will be going.

So, as we near the draft, I thought it a perfect time to take a look at where every former Badgers player stands. We’ll look at some of the most comprehensive 7-round mock drafts.

Making our cut were CBS Sports, Draft Wire, Draftteck and Walter Football.

Without further ado, let’s jump in in alphabetical order.

Beau Benzschawel, OL

CBS Sports: 3rd Round (No. 102 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens
Draft Wire: 4th Round (No. 114 overall) to Carolina Panthers
Draftteck: 4th Round (No. 116 overall) to Miami Dolphins
Walter Football: 5th Round (No. 149 overall) to Cincinnati Bengals

Ryan Connelly, LB

CBS Sports: Undrafted
Draft Wire: 7th Round (No. 238 overall) to Chicago Bears
Draftteck: Undrafted
Walter Football: 5th Round (No. 159 overall) to Seattle Seahawks

Michael Deiter, OL

CBS Sports: 4th Round (No. 108 overall) to New York Giants
Draft Wire: 3rd Round (No. 75 overall) to Green Bay Packers
Draftteck: 5th Round (No. 169 overall) to Los Angeles Rams
Walter Football: 2nd Round (No. 55 overall) to Houston TexansO

D’Cota Dixon, S

CBS Sports: Undrafted
Draft Wire: Undrafted
Draftteck: 6th Round (No. 190 overall) to Minnesota Vikings
Walter Football: Undrafted

David Edwards, OL

CBS Sports: 6th Round (No. 174 overall) to Seattle Seahawks
Draft Wire: 3rd Round (No. 94 overall) to Los Angeles Rams
Draftteck: 3rd Round (No. 88 overall) to Detroit Lions
Walter Football: 6th Round (No. 181 overall) to Buffalo Bills

T.J. Edwards, LB

CBS Sports: 5th Round (No. 162 overall) to Chicago Bears
Draft Wire: 7th Round (No. 215 overall) to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Draftteck: 5th Round (No. 145 overall) to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Walter Football: 6th Round (No. 178) to Jacksonville Jaguars

Alec Ingold, FB

CBS Sports: Undrafted
Draft Wire: Undrafted
Draftteck: Undrafted
Walter Football: Undrafted

Olive Sagapolu, DT

CBS Sports: Undrafted
Draft Wire: Undrafted
Draftteck: 6th Round (No. 182 overall) to Denver Broncos
Walter Football: Undrafted

Andrew Van Ginkel, OLB

CBS Sports: Undrafted
Draft Wire: Undrafted
Draftteck: 7th Round (No. 235 overall) to Oakland Raiders
Walter Football: 6th Round (No. 211 overall) to Cincinnati Bengals

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WATCH: Chryst addresses Spring Ball at halfway point

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Believe it or not…the Wisconsin Badgers are halfway through the 2019 spring practice season.

On Tuesday, Chryst addressed the media on where things stand. The head coach made it known the team is nowhere near ready to take the field in the fall, but that competition is fierce.

So much so, that there is nearly an open competition going on at every position on the team.

Some may see that as a bad thing, but considering the youth and the amount of graduated players, the fact that there are multiple players stepping up and performing well enough to compete for positions on this squad is a good thing.

Check out what else the head coach had to say at the halfway point here:

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Badgers using Axe loss as motivation for 2019 season

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The 2018 season did not go exactly as planned for the Wisconsin Badgers football program. Putting the cap on a disappointing season was UW’s first loss in 15 games to bitter rival Minnesota.

Not seeing Paul Bunyan’s Axe in the Badgers trophy case had to be a strange feeling when it happened. But, it has also become motivation for the Badgers to remember that awful feeling and never let it happen again.

To that end, apparently the coaching staff has put a picture of the Gophers players chopping down the goal posts following their win last seasons.

Ferguson and others note that the loss and the fact that UW went from a preseason College Football Playoff contender to the Pinstripe Bowl has served to make this offseason much more serious than a year ago.

“When we walk into the locker room, we’ve got the Nebraska trophy, the Iowa trophy, and then on the right is where the Axe would be,” Ferguson told the media. “Right behind it where it would be is that big picture.”

“Kinda pisses me off,” he continued. “But I think it’s a good thing we have that, and I’d say a lot more guys are focused up and a lot less goofing around in the weight room. Everyone’s holding each other accountable.”

With a much younger team and a whole lot of spaces up for grabs, things should be serious this spring as well.

The Badgers will move on from Alex Hornibrook at quarterback and four players have taken nearly equal reps overall so far this spring.

There’s youth being served along the defensive line, at linebacker and a host of young (but experienced) players at cornerback to give the Badgers plenty of focus overall.

But, it is interesting that with over seven months to go until the Badgers and Gophers knock heads again for the longest-played rivalry in college football, the Badgers have focused in on getting that trophy back in their possession.

While winning the trophy doesn’t guarantee success, it certainly has gone a long way towards letting everyone know the Badgers are successful on a near annual basis for the previous 14 years.

Can that focus on getting the Axe back be a catalyst for the improvement needed from the young roster? Only time will tell, but the fact that those young players appear to be locked in this early is a positive sign.

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5 Badgers who need to break out this spring

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As with any talk of spring ball, individual play is always at the forefront. It’s what Wisconsin Badgers head coach Paul Chryst is emphasizing the most this spring.

With injuries to potential starters like Christian Bell, Tyler Biadsz and Cole Van Lanen, there are more spots open for reps this spring. Add in a young overall roster and you can see why spring is big for the Badgers in 2019.

But, there are some players who need to showcase themselves more than others. For a group of players it may be their last chance to put it all together and show the coaching staff the belong in the mix.

So, let’s take a look at the five players who need to break out the most this spring.

Noah Burks, Jr. (Outside Linebacker)

MADISON, WI – NOVEMBER 03: Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) is tackled by Wisconsin outside linebacker Noah Burks (41) and Wisconsin defensive end David Pfaff (52) during a college football game between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights on November 3, 2018 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI. (Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Will Burks turn the potential that had him as a 4-star linebacker coming out of Carmel (Ind.)? It hasn’t totally happened so far and part of it has been other players ahead of him, but part of it has been his inability to win a position in the regular rotation.

To date, Burks has amassed 21 games played, 8 total tackles and a forced fumble to his name. If he’s ever going to take on the role as a starter, this spring is the time to do it. Christian Bell is out and there is plenty of room for snaps if one can prove they deserve them.

Burks has a big opportunity in front of him and the good news early on in practice is that he seems to be taking to that opportunity. Look for his name to be one that makes the jump necessary by the end of April.

Jack Coan, Jr. (Quarterback)

BRONX, NY – DECEMBER 27: Wisconsin Badgers Quarterback Jack Coan (17) gets set under center during the Pinstripe Bowl Game between the University of Miami Hurricanes and the University of Wisconsin Badgers on December 27, 2018 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY. (Photo by John McCreary/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Yes, he’s got experience as a starting quarterback and yes he is entering his junior season. But, one could argue no player needs to take the bull by the horns more than Coan does. With Alex Honribrook off to Florida State, the quarterback position is wide open this spring.

All the hype may be around early entrant Graham Mertz, and if he wins the job great. But, ideally the Badgers would like to not put Mertz in a situation where he’s not fully ready.

That requires Coan to show he’s growing and can be trusted to be a solid option, unlike what was there for most of last season. If Coan can’t put it all together in the spring, will he ever be able to be a solid option for the coaching staff to count on?

Anthony Lotti, Sr. (Punter)

ANN ARBOR, MI – OCTOBER 13: Wisconsin Badgers punter Anthony Lotti (15) punts during a game between the Wisconsin Badgers (15) and the Michigan Wolverines (12) on October 13, 2018 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’re talking about punters…yes punters. The truth is, Wisconsin needs better overall play from special teams and arguably no area needs more improvement than the consistency from the punter position.

Lotti came in as one of the most promising punters in the country according to scouts and hasn’t really lived up to that hype. He’s got 140 punts under his belt in the first three years, averaging just 38.8 yards per punt though.

Last season saw Connor Allen also get a crack at the punting duties and he wasn’t much better, booting 22 punts for an average of 37.5 yards per punt.

With a roster in flux at major positions on both sides of the ball, having some confidence in the special teams units would be nice. That means Lotti turning on the big leg and accurate punting that he was known for coming in to Wisconsin.

If he can’t turn it on consistently this spring, it could be time to give a new face a look in the fall.

Nate Carter, So. (Tight End)

Wisconsin knows it has a star in tight end Jake Ferguson, but what it doesn’t know is who in the heck can be counted on behind him. Expected second-string tight end Luke Benzschawel is out for an extended amount of spring ball and even he hasn’t proven to be a pass-catching threat.

In fact, there isn’t a Badgers tight end outside of Ferguson who has caught a pass in college ball yet. So, enter former quarterback turned tight end, Nate Carter.

The Waunakee native is 6-5 and nearly 210 pounds, so clearly he will need to put on some weight. But, if he can emerge as a good pass catcher and pick up some blocking schemes this spring perhaps the Badgers have another option.

Clearly the coaching staff thinks enough of his athleticism to put him in to a pass-catching role. Will that pan out or will the Badgers be searching for that other answer further in to the fall?

Aron Cruickshank, So. (Wide Receiver)

BRONX, NY – DECEMBER 27: Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Aron Cruickshank (1) runs during the fourth quarter of the 2018 New Era Pinstripe Bowl between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Miami Hurricanes on December 27, 2018 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

One part of Wisconsin’s passing game woes seemed to be inconsistent (at best) play at QB, but UW also struggled to get separation down field from its wide receivers too.

One potential cure for that is speedy sophomore Aron Cruickshank. The coaching staff thought enough of him to make sure he got the ball in his hands a few different ways all the way through the 2018 season.

But, can he go from a gimmick player to a real threat in the every-down offense? So far the returns in practice this spring indicate he’s having fun burning the crap out of UW’s defensive backs.

He’s already hooked up for a number of deep passes and made the quarterbacks lives easier. If he could help open up the deep passing game to go along with Jonathan Taylor’s home run hitting ability in the backfield, this could be a dynamic offense.

Of course, spring ball isn’t Saturday’s in the fall, but having him emerge as a true weapon in the regular pass game would be massive.

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