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Big Ten breakdown: Wisconsin

August 22, 2018

Big Ten breakdown: Wisconsin

Coach: Paul Chryst, 34-7 entering fourth season at Wisconsin, 53-26 entering seventh season overall

2017 record: 13-1, 9-0 Big Ten (first, West Division), lost to Ohio State 27-21 in the Big Ten Championship Game, defeated Miami (Fla.) 34-24 in the Orange Bowl

Offensive starters returning (9): QB Alex Hornibrook, RB Jonathan Taylor, WR Quintex Cephus, WR A.J. Taylor, OT Michael Deiter, OG Jon Dietzen, C Tyler Bladasz, OG Beau Benzschawel, OT David Edwards

Defensive starters returning (4): NT Oliver Sagapolu, LB Ryan Connelly, LB T.J. Edwards, SS D’Cota Dixon

Specialists returning (3): PK Rafeal Gaglianone, KO Zach Hintze, P Anthony Lotti

Returning statistical leaders: Rushing, Jonathan Taylor 299-1,977; Passing, Alex Hornibrook 198-318-15-2,644-25; Receiving, Quintez Cephus 30-501; Tackles, Ryan Connelly 88; Interceptions, T.J. Edwards 4

Starring roles

Beau Benzschawel: Is among the anchors of a veteran offensive line which is expected to be the heart of the Badgers’ attack this season. The 6-foot-6, 322-pound Grafton, Wisconsin, native returns at right guard and joined senior left guard Michael Deiter and junior right tackle David Edwards in bypassing early NFL exit options to return to block for returning quarterback Alex Hornibrook.

T.J. Edwards: A senior inside linebacker, Edwards is one of four players returning with starting experience on a defense which is the youngest segment of the Badgers’ team. The 6-1, 248-pound Lake Villa, Illinois, native shared the team lead with four interceptions last season and was Wisconsin’s second-leading tackler with 81 stops.

Jonathan Taylor: The sophomore running back is already in the Heisman Trophy conversation based on his work a year ago when he rushed for 1,977 yards. The 5-11, 216-pound New Jersey native averaged 6.6 yards per carry last fall and topped 100 yards on the ground in 10 games and went over 200 yards three times as a freshman.

On the rise

Dontye Carriere-Williams: A five-game starter as the Badgers’ nickel back last season, the sophomore is expected to step into a cornerback position this season as part of a secondary which returns only senior strong safety D’Cota Dixon. Williams broke up six passes a year and contributed 30 tackles as a redshirt freshman.

Newbie

Aron Cruickshank: A true freshman receiver, 5-11 Brooklyn, New York native enrolled early and his explosive quickness and playmaking abilities continues to impress Wisconsin coaches. The Badgers have no shortage of returning receivers but he has positioned himself to help strengthen Wisconsin’s kick and punt return units.

The big number

14.4: In Paul Chryst’s first three seasons as the Badgers’ head coach, the Wisconsin defense has finished in the top-10 nationally each season by allowing an average of 14.4 points per game.

Coach speak

“The beauty of going into every season is you don’t know what’s to come. It truly is a journey and yet, we’re looking forward to it. We’re trying to make the most of the opportunity that is this season and the best way to do that is just making the most of each day. Our group gets that.’’ – Paul Chryst, Wisconsin coach

2018 schedule

Aug. 31 – Western Kentucky

Sept. 8 – New Mexico

Sept. 15 – BYU

Sept. 22 – at Iowa*

Oct. 6 – Nebraska*

Oct. 13 – at Michigan

Oct. 20 – Illinois*

Oct. 27 – at Northwestern*

Nov. 3 – Rutgers

Nov. 10 – at Penn State

Nov. 17 – at Purdue*

Nov. 24 – Minnesota*

* -- West Division game

Numerology

Where Wisconsin ranked in the Big Ten in 2017:

Scoring offense: 32.0 (Third)

Rushing offense: 233 (Second)

Passing offense: 165 (10th)

Totals offense: 398 (Third)

Scoring defense: 12.7 (First)

Rushing defense: 77 (First)

Passing defense: 156 (Second)

Total defense: 233 (First)

Trends

The Badgers’ record over the last five years:

2013: 9-4

2014: 11-3

2015: 10-3

2016: 11-3

2017: 13-1

Eye on Iowa

All-time series

Wisconsin 46, Iowa 43, Ties 2

Record in the last five games vs. the Hawkeyes:

2013: Wisconsin 28, Iowa 9

2014: Wisconsin 26, Iowa 24

2015: Iowa 10, Wisconsin 6

2016: Wisconsin 17, Iowa 9

2017: Wisconsin 38, Iowa 14

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