The Wisconsin football program is pretty predictable every year: The Badgers are going to mash people with their ground game and stellar, gigantic offensive line, and they are going to contend for a spot in the Big Ten title game. What to expect from the 2022 Badgers?
Wisconsin Badgers 2022 Football Season Preview
Wisconsin started last season an unusual 1-3 but the losses were to ranked Penn State, Notre Dame and Michigan so no shame in that. The Badgers then won seven straight and had a shot to win the Big Ten West in the regular-season finale with a win over Minnesota but lost 23-13.
UW was sent to the Las Vegas Bowl – the school’s 20th straight bowl bid — and beat Arizona State 20-13 to finish 9-4. Braelon Allen ran for 159 yards and Wisconsin drained the final 9:57 off the clock with an 18-play drive to seal it. Allen, who was just 17 years old in 2021, had 101 yards by halftime for his eighth 100-yard game of the season.
Allen is back and should be one of the country’s top running backs. Last year, he led the Badgers and ranked 3rd in the Big Ten with 1,268 rushing yards. He joined Ron Dayne (1996), James White (2010) and Jonathan Taylor (2017) as the only true freshmen in school history to run for 1,000 yards. Allen averaged 6.82 yards per carry, tied with Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson for the best average in the nation among backs with at least 140 carries. Allen’s streak of 7 straight 100-yard games was the longest by a freshman in school history.
Allen said of his offseason focus: “Much of it was on mobility and flexibility. Honestly, the explosive exercises are the things that people don’t normally think about. I just want to improve my overall athleticism.”
With Allen leading the way, the Badgers are hoping to field a three-back attack along with seniors Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo akin to when Montee Ball, Melvin Gordon III and James White shared carries.
Starting QB Graham Mertz also returns. He started every game in 2021 and completed 169-of-284 passes (.595) for 1,958 yards and 10 touchdowns. He threw 9 TD passes against just five interceptions over the final 10 games of the season and completed 73-of-110 passes (.664) and threw 7 TD passes over the final five games.
Wisconsin’s first-year offensive coordinator Bobby Engram is a stickler on the basics from his quarterback.
“Like any other position, fundamentals are such a huge part of the game,” Engram said of playing efficiently at quarterback. Citing pass drops, and footwork in the shotgun, he added, “All these things are fundamentals we have to continue to chase that will allow him to excel at everything else. It sounds trivial but footwork — your first step and your second step — is putting yourself in position to have success on that play. You just want to make sure there are no false steps. His drops correlate with the timing of the routes of the receivers. It all ties together.”
Engram wants to open up the offensive bit. He knows how to get a running game going – he was working with the Baltimore Ravens before this – but the passing attack needs more pop, too. Chimere Dike is the leading returning receiver with 19 catches for 272 yards and a score.
The defense will be terrific because it always is. Since taking over as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator in 2016, Jim Leonhard has schooled some of the most efficient, ball-hawking, suffocating defenses in college football. Over the last five seasons, the Badgers rank among the Top 5 in virtually every meaningful category, including No. 1 in total defense.
Trying to replace linebackers Leo Chenal, a second-team All-American, and Jack Sanborn, a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten pick, will be a crop of inexperienced but talented players. The Badgers were fourth in the nation and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense, but they lose three good starters including both cornerback. John Torchio is back at one safety spot, and Jay Shaw is coming in from UCLA to take over one of the corner spots.
Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule is laughable so the Badgers will win all those at home. However, UW likely will lose Sept. 24 at Ohio State and also tough trips to Michigan State, Iowa and Nebraska. At least the Badgers avoid Michigan and Penn State from the East Division.Wisconsin 2022 Expert Prediction9-3, Big Ten West champion