Written by: jzenk42

Packers Mock Draft version 2.0

January 20, 2017

Much has changed over the past few months since my last Packers mock draft. Green Bay has some key free agents this offseason. In this mock, I have the team re-signing running back Eddie Lacy and moving Ty Montgomery permanently to running back from wide receiver. I also have a hard time seeing Green Bay retaining Sam Shields. He is not a free agent, but he has never played a full 16 games and has only played at least 14 games twice in seven seasons. The 29-year-old suffered his fourth concussion in six years and has only played in one game this season, while being paid more than $8 million. Needless to say, cornerback is the biggest need, especially after watching the team struggle so much stopping the pass this season without the former Miami Hurricane.

Round 1: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

This one is tricky. Any number of cornerbacks could go in this spot and I think Green Bay will take one of the top corners who is left. In this case, I will have Lattimore go in this spot in the late first. Shields will not be back and Lattimore will step in and play right away. The Packers nickel corner at this point is LaDarius Gunter. While Gunter has tried to hold his own against some of the league’s star receivers, he just does not have that capability. However, I do think he has a place in the league, but as a No. 4 or 5 cornerback. I would also keep recently signed Bene Benwikere to go along with 2015 draft picks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. He has good size at cornerback and has very good speed. One of the knocks on Lattimore is his health. The third-year sophomore played in only seven games his freshman season due to hamstring injuries. He was fully healthy this year and picked off four passes, including returning one for a touchdown, and having 13 passes defensed. Other possibilities here are cornerbacks Sidney Jones, fellow Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and Auburn outside linebacker Carl Lawson.

Round 2: T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin

I have seen Watt go late in the first round and I have seen him go in the late second. There is a good chance he will not be here late in the second round, but I am hoping so. Both Nick Perry and Datone Jones are free agents and I believe Green Bay will re-sign one, but not both. Perry had a very good year, registering a team-leading 11 sacks. Jones has been a massive bust so far, having fewer sacks in his career than Perry had this year alone. I think Perry will be back, but there is little chance Jones returns. Green Bay drafted Kyler Fackrell last year, and he has been productive in limited opportunities this year. Clay Matthews has struggled the last two years, so next year could be a make-or-break year for him. Matthews has a combined 11.5 sacks and is being paid more than $8 million in base salary in 2016. Watt led the Big Ten in sacks, as well as is solid against the run. Other possible draft picks could be Iowa safety Desmond King, Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp and Illinois outside linebacker Carroll Phillips.

Round 3: Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

Apparently I believe the Packers love the Big Ten, with the first three picks coming from that conference. Jared Cook is a free agent this offseason, but I would like for the team to bring him back on a two-year deal or so. Butt was going to be a first or second round pick heading into the Orange Bowl, but he tore his ACL in Michigan’s loss to Florida State. Any team that drafts him will be without him for most, if not all of 2017. Even if he does come back late in 2017, he will not be close to full strength. If Green Bay signs Cook for a few years, it will let Butt come along slowly and then take over when Cook leaves after his next deal ends. Richard Rodgers is decent, but will never be a No. 1 tight end.

Round 4: Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State

If Montgomery moves to running back full-time in 2017, Green Bay will need a wide receiver in the draft. However, the position isn’t the urgent need it was earlier in the season when the passing game was struggling, especially with the emergence of Geronimo Allison. However, Rudolph could be an upgrade over either Jeff Janis or Trevor Davis. The latter has been in the doghouse ever since he muffed a punt in Tennessee and the former does his best work as a gunner on punt coverage. Rudolph had a bit of a disappointing season this season, having only 840 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. He has the chance to be a very good wide receiver and could be a steal in round four.

Round 5: Ethan Cooper, OG, IUP

Green Bay has three offensive linemen who are free agents, including T.J. Lang. I think Lang will be priority No. 1 in this offseason. He is having the best year of his career and Aaron Rodgers needs some continuity on the offensive line. If he is re-signed, there is a good chance J.C. Tretter will leave via free agency, so Cooper will help the Packers with depth.

Round 6: Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon

Micah Hyde is a free agent this offseason, and while I would like to keep him around, I would not be surprised if he gets paid more this offseason than the Packers can offer. If he re-signed, I don’t think Green Bay takes a safety, except for maybe King in round two. Robinson was the rock of the Oregon secondary and would have a chance to make the roster.

Round 7: Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi

When Ron Wolf was the General Manager, he would like to take a quarterback in the later rounds every draft and stash them on the roster and then would trade them for a higher draft pick when they progress. Green Bay would be wise to do that again. That quarterback could be Joe Callahan, who was signed as an undrafted free agent and looked solid in the preseason. Kelly could be that guy, too. Mike McCarthy would just have to watch him to make sure he does not continue to DM porn stars on Twitter.

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Written by: jzenk42

Wisconsin Draft Prospects

January 17, 2017

Wisconsin NFL Draft prospects

Ryan Ramczyk, OT

The big offensive tackle had a long road to get to this point. In just two seasons, Ramczyk went from Division III UW-Stevens Point to an AP All-American at Wisconsin. He was the best offensive lineman on a Wisconsin team that helped Corey Clement rush for more than 1,300 yards. I doubt his stock would get much higher if he would have come back for his senior season with the Badgers. Even though he will not be able to test at the NFL combine in March due to hip surgery, he will still likely be a first round pick. He was outstanding as a pass blocker and is a powerful run blocker. In a weak offensive line draft, Ramczyk ranks No. 2 at this point at his position and has the potential to go in the top 15. Even if the surgery knocks him down a bit, he should still go in the first round.

Prediction: Round 1

T.J. Watt, OLB

The second Badger expected to be drafted is J.J. Watt’s little brother. After having two injury-plagued seasons to start his collegiate career, Watt broke out in a big way in 2016. He led the Big Ten with 11.5 sacks and led the team with 15.5 tackles for loss. He is the perfect fit at outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense. He and Vince Biegel formed the best outside linebacker duo in the country. Watt will be drafted in the top two rounds without question and possibly make it into the bottom of the first.

Projection: Round 1-2

Vince Biegel, OLB

I mentioned Biegel above, as he was a great tandem with Watt at outside linebacker. Biegel had a solid senior season after having terrific sophomore and junior seasons. In those two seasons, Biegel had a combined 15.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss, but he took a back seat to Watt this season. He had just four sacks and six tackles for loss this season. He is not as good of a prospect of Watt, but he has the ability to be a solid contributor. He sometimes misses sacks by over-running the quarterback and has to try to loop around to try to get him. If he would have declared last year, he likely would have been a Day 2 draft pick, but did not have a great senior season. He does not have great athleticism, but makes up for it in other areas.

Prediction: Round 4

Corey Clement, RB

Clement is a solid running back, but not as good as people thought he would be. Many thought he would be the ‘next great Wisconsin back.’ Having to be the running back to follow Melvin Gordon is not easy to do. As a junior, Clement missed most of the season with an injury, but came back with a strong senior season. His pass catching ability is still a bit unproven, but his vision is great. I have a feeling he will just be lumped in with a number of other running backs and will depend on which team prefers which back. I have a hard time seeing Clement as a feature back in the NFL, but I could see him as a backup for awhile in the league.

Prediction: Round 5

Sojourn Shelton, CB

Going into Wisconsin, Shelton was compared to former Badgers great Jamar Fletcher. In his freshman season, Shelton had four interceptions and the comparison to Fletcher seemed accurate. However, Shelton had just one interception combined in the next two years with that lone pick coming in the closing minutes of the Holiday Bowl his junior season and the Fletcher comparison disappeared. But his senior season was fantastic. Shelton had four interceptions his final season, including two huge picks in a win over the rival Minnesota Gophers. However, just like with Fletcher, Shelton does not have the typical size for a cornerback and that will hurt him. If he is not drafted, he will get a training camp invite.

Prediction: Round 7

Bart Houston, QB

Houston had a weird career with the Badgers. He came in as one of the best quarterback recruits in Wisconsin history, but was the backup to Joel Stave for three years and he was heading into 2016 as the starter. But after he struggled in the first half in the third game against Georgia State, he was benched in favor of freshman Alex Hornibrook. Then, against Iowa, coach Paul Chryst decided to go with a two quarterback system. Amazingly, both quarterbacks performed better under the system. He is a big guy and has the arm strength, but lacks consistency in accuracy. He will get a camp invite, but I doubt he gets drafted.

Prediction: UDFA

Dare Ogunbowale, RB

Ogunbowale is a typical third down back. With the injury to Clement his junior season, Ogunbowale had to be the lead running back and rushed for more than 800 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. When Clement came back this season, Ogunbowale went back to his normal role and thrived. He was the big reason the Badgers knocked off Nebraska in overtime this season, rushing for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the overtime period. However, he is at his best when catching the ball. To be honest, I did not think Chryst utilized Ogunbowale the way he should have. The back is a monster catching passes out of the backfield and if he makes it to the league, this will be the trait that carries him there as he has had 60 catches the past two seasons.

Prediction: UDFA

Leo Musso, SS

Musso seemingly came out of nowhere to play extremely well in the back end of the Wisconsin secondary. He was a third team All-Big Ten selection. He is a solid safety who led the team in interceptions, but I doubt he gets much more than a training camp invite.

Prediction: UDFA

Rob Wheelwright, WR

Wheelwright had a solid, but unspectacular career with the Badgers. He is a possession receiver who will not be able to stretch the field. His career-long reception of 47 yards was on a wide receiver screen. He also has a tendency to drop some easy passes and he is not the best blocker in the world. If he can clean up the drops, he has a chance. He may get a training camp invite, but I doubt he makes it into the league.

Prediction: UDFA

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Written by: Pat Schu

Buffalo Bills Fans Deserve Better

January 07, 2017
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The dog and pony show in Buffalo needs to stop and someone with a true vision needs to build a team worthy of their fan base. The fans want a return to the playoffs and the only way something long lasting can be accomplished is with a true plan. The days of hiring guys like Rex Ryan whose presence will get you the occasional Monday night game or signing Terrell Owens so you have top jersey sales need to come to an end immediately and the Bills need a coach who can win long term in Buffalo. Entire football operations needs an overhaul and I would scour the front offices of teams like the Cowboys (Will McClay), Atlanta (Scott Pioli), former Broncos GM (Ted Sundquist), are just a few names that come to mind.

The equally critical hiring will be the head coach and I have the perfect guy but first I want to bring you to understand my evaluation of the position of head coach of the Buffalo Bills. You first need an offensive minded coach but not just any offensive minded coach someone who has a system that works in the elements you would face in Buffalo. No benefit to have a pass heavy system when November and December come rolling into Buffalo. You would want a guy with a proven track record of winning in multiple areas of similar weather. This eliminates the idea of his system only working because he had a superstar player. Next you prefer a coach with NFL experience as there is no reason to learn on the job at this level. The experience of having gone through several NFL calendar years is invaluable.

The slam dunk choice if I were the Pegula family would be Wisconsin head coach, Paul Chryst as the next Buffalo Bills head coach. Chryst has won at the University of Pittsburgh as well as Wisconsin. He was an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers and would bring in the advantage for at least the next several season of in-depth knowledge on many future draft eligible players. Chryst knows what it takes to win when the weather gets nasty and at 51 years old he has the perfect amount of experience and eye for talent to lead the Buffalo Bills back to the playoffs and lay the groundwork for many successful seasons. Paul comes from a football family as his brother, Geep, coached in the NFL and his brother, Rick, was Mid-American Conference commissioner. If I were the Pegula family I would strongly consider investing not only in Paul but the entire Chryst family. It has worked out well in Dallas where Jason Garrett’s brother Judd is in the front office and his brother John was their tight end coach for a few seasons.  After hiring Paul Chryst the next move would be drafting a long term answer at quarterback and a strong defensive coordinator.  Bills fans deserve a coach as passionate as they are about football.

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Written by: jzenk42

Thanks, Badgers

December 21, 2016

Coming into the year, not many people expected Wisconsin to win more than eight games. The Badgers had a daunting schedule and had to break in a new starting quarterback. People like Colin Cowherd predicted 6-6 and many thought similar. Bucky had a number of seniors it had to replace and there were question marks all over. The Big Ten Championship game had a disappointing result, giving away a 28-7 lead. However, considering expectations, a 10-3 season far exceeded what most people thought would happen. On Jan. 2, the Badgers will make their first appearance in the Cotton Bowl against undefeated Western Michigan out of the Mid-American Conference.

Before the season, I remember looking at the schedule and hoping for seven or so wins. Many were thinking the Badgers were going to struggle to make a bowl, but Wisconsin went through the rest of the division unscathed to return to Indy. Joel Stave, while not perfect, was a solid quarterback who left as the all-time winningest QB in school history. Alex Erickson was a reliable target who is playing well with Cincinnati in the NFL. On defense, Joe Schobert was an All-American at linebacker and the team had to replace three defensive backs. Wisconsin also had to replace defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who left for LSU. Then the Badgers had to replace center Dan Voltz, who had to retire prior to the season with injuries.

Somehow, even with the many losses, the team did even better. The Badgers replaced Aranda with former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and the team didn’t skip a beat. With Aranda last season, Wisconsin was the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, but played a very soft schedule. This year, Wilcox’s crew is No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense against a significantly tougher schedule. T.J. Watt filled in for Schobert and was an All-American as well. Despite losing three members of a very good secondary, the defensive backfield was a strength this season. Many thought the cornerbacks, Sojourn Shelton and Derrick Tindal, were going to be a solid duo. They turned it up a notch in 2016. The safeties were thought to be a liability going into this season, but the pair of Leo Musso and D’Cota Dixon exceeded expectations and then some. The duo has combined to pick off nine passes on the year and have made some of the most significant plays this season.

Even fully healthy, it looked like Bucky was in for a major challenge, but the injuries came in early and often. It all started with starting linebacker T.J. Edwards, who broke his foot a month before the season started and missed the opener against LSU. Against the Tigers, the Badgers also lost linebacker Chris Orr for the season with a torn ACL on the first defensive play of the season. Wisconsin had to deal with so many injuries this season that it was pretty remarkable that the team kept rolling along to another 10-win season. Bucky had injuries on the offensive line the first half of the season, as well as losing a number of other key players.

One of those injuries was Jack Cichy, yet another linebacker. He was named a midseason All-American by Sports Illustrated who was the best player on the field against Ohio State. Coming into the season, Cichy was best-known for his performance against USC in last year’s Holiday Bowl in which he had three sacks in as many plays. At the time of his injury, he was the leading tackler for the Badgers with 60 and had seven tackles for loss in the seven games he played in. Against Iowa in late October, he tore a pectoral muscle causing him to miss the remainder of the season. But against the Hawkeyes, he played the remainder of the game despite the injury. He is one tough dude and I am looking forward to his return in 2017.

This has been a real fun season so far. I have been to three games (LSU, Purdue, Penn State) this season and I was able to attend College Gameday twice. The team had so many injuries and to see lesser known players step in and play almost as well. The Badgers played with so much heart this year and it put a smile on my face. Bucky is so loaded with juniors that many thought this team was a year away. Now, Wisconsin has a big final game against Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl, but if Watt and Ryan Ramczyk come back for their final seasons, the Badgers will be a contender for the College Football Playoff.

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Written by: Pat Schu

What a Run It’s Been So Far

December 08, 2016
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Any Dallas Cowboys fan that had an inkling that the season was going to play out like that should stand up. Now please sit back down because you are lying. It really has been remarkable as they flipped the switch and with a few keys additions turned the team back to the 2014 team that was in contention for a Super Bowl run. Since the 2016 team looks to be a souped up version of the 2014 team it is important to look at a few factors so we never have another 2015 season.

1. Backup Quarterback. Let us hope we never go through another time in Cowboys history where we have such a mediocre back-up at the most important position on the team. Just imagine if we have spent a draft pick every few years once Tony Romo was the starter on a backup/developmental QB. We could have either been similar to the Packers when Favre was there and they got trade value for such players they developed like Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselback and Mark Brunel or maybe developed Romo’s replacement. Let’s all be honest we got lucky taking Dak. Hopefully once Dak gets a few years under his belt we continue to spend mid round picks on a quarterback in an effort to never go through a 2015 season again. Funny how we kept drafting Jason Witten’s replacement with second round picks (Anthony Fasano, Martellus Bennett and Gavin Escobar) but the idea of developing someone behind Romo seemed crazy to the front office.

2. Stop With the Risky Picks. Everyone was flying high with the limited success of Rolando McClain and thought we can make Randy Gregory great again. Wrong!! When a talent like that goes without being selected until the bottom of round two bells, whistles and fireworks should being going off. Ironic a few picks later the Green Bay Packers selected Quinten Rollins at CB from Miami O and he has shown to be a bright young player. Imagine if instead of going for the high risk pick we went with a much safer pick. Teaming with Byron Jones, Rollins would have half the secondary locked up for a long time. Funny as the Cowboys will go into the 2017 NFL Draft with cornerbacks a need.  Look at the 2016 NFL Draft where we rolled the dice on Jaylon Smith who I hope comes back and shines the way he played at Notre Dame but we could have selected Deion Jones from LSU who was taken later in the round. As a rookie Jones just leads the Falcons defense in tackles. Would you feel better about the Dallas Cowboys defense if instead of Jaylon Smith and Randy Gregory on our roster we had Quinten Rollins and Deion Jones? They knew the risk on both picks and I could understand the gamble if our defense was already top five but I would feel a lot better about the Super Bowl with Rollins and Jones on the roster. Two simple decisions that seem obvious could have set our defense up to be a top 10 defense this year.

3. The Importance of Loyalty to a Point.   Many in the media/blogosphere were calling for Jason Garrett to fire many coaches on his staff. Most notable Frank Pollack the offensive line coach and Gary Brown the running back coach were names most mentioned by the “experts.” Amazing how having a legit quarterback and talented running back can make both men look so much smarter. Thankfully for Cowboys fans, Jason Garrett is a very smart man who looks big picture at everything and doesn’t make knee jerk reactions. Like they say if you listen to the fans you might find yourself sitting with the fans.

Don’t get me wrong when a player is coming to the end of his career and he doesn’t realize it we still need Garrett to put the team ahead of the player but don’t cut ties unless you are 100% sure. We likely will have some openings on staff this year as teams always look at success and want to copy it (by hiring from those that are successful). I have full faith in Jason Garrett that he will select the right guys to fill the spots.

Next Up: The Plans for the rest of the season and off-season.

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Written by: jzenk42

Penn State/Wisconsin preview

December 02, 2016

For the fourth time in the six-year history of the Big Ten Championship game, the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers will be their division’s representative. Last time Wisconsin was in Indianapolis, the Badgers were blown out 59-0 by Ohio State in 2014. This is the first time No. 7 Penn State has made it to the conference championship game. This will be a matchup of strength vs. strength, as the Nittany Lions are 25th in the country in scoring at 36.6 points per game, while the Badgers are third in the country in scoring defense at 13.7 points allowed per game. The last time these two teams met was at Camp Randall Stadium in 2013 when Penn State came out of Madison with a 31-24 win, spoiling Wisconsin’s Senior Day. The Nittany Lions and Badgers come in with identical 10-2 records, but Penn State was 8-1 in conference, whereas Wisconsin was 7-2. The Lions were tied with Ohio State at 8-1 in the Big Ten, but Penn State won the meeting in Happy Valley in October to earn the trip to Indianapolis. Penn State was dominant at Beaver Stadium, but was just 3-2 away from Happy Valley. The winner may still have a chance to make the College Football Playoff. This should be a great game for the Big Ten title.

When Wisconsin runs the ball...

The Badgers had another 200+-yard performance against Minnesota, but Corey Clement was held to 100 yards on 26 carries for a 3.8-yard average. The running back trio of Clement, Bradrick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale combine to average just 3.4 yards per carry. However, wide receiver Jazz Peavy took a jet sweep 71 yards to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown. That carry inflated the rushing statistic, but Minnesota has a very good front four. Bucky checks in at No. 44 in rush yards per game, but is No. 85 in rushing average. Wisconsin is much-improved in that area since the bye week. Penn State is solid at stopping the run, also coming in at No. 44. The Lions have not allowed a team to run for more than four yards per carry since Ohio State six games ago, and even then Curtis Samuel ran for a 74-yard touchdown to make the rushing stats look better. Wisconsin’s running back trio and the offensive line need to play well against a solid front seven for Penn State. Peavy has had success on jet sweeps, like against Minnesota, so he will he will need to make a play or two on the ground to soften up the edge of the Lions defense.

Edge: Push

When Wisconsin passes the ball...

The quarterbacks have both played well the past four games, even though Wisconsin’s wide receivers have not helped them out much recently. In the said four games, the quarterbacks have a 64 percent completion percentage and four touchdowns and most importantly, no turnovers. As a team, Wisconsin is 106th in the country in pass yards per game. However, the Badgers are No. 68 in quarterback rating. It is not great, but it is not terrible either. Penn State is No. 30 in pass yards allowed per game and has sacked opposing quarterbacks 37 times, which is tied for 12th in the country. This will be a challenge for the Wisconsin offensive line and passing attack. The big guys up front held their own last week against the ferocious pass rush of Minnesota, only allowing one sack. The Nittany Lions have a good defense, so the receivers will have to come to play and catch the ball when called upon.

Edge: Penn State

When Penn State runs the ball...

Saquan Barkley is the best running back in the Big Ten, but rolled his ankle in the victory over Michigan State last week. Penn State coach James Franklin says Barkley will be good to go against Wisconsin, but who knows how healthy he will be? Backup running backs Andre Robinson and Mark Allen are capable running backs, but they are not close to the caliber of Barkley. If he is not close to 100 percent, it would be a big blow to the Lions. Penn State also utilizes quarterback Trace McSorley as a runner. The sophomore quarterback has nearly 400 yards rushing on the season with six games of at least 40 yards rushing, and rushing statistics include sacks. Fortunately, Bucky has faced a number of running quarterbacks throughout the season, so this is nothing new to the Badgers defense. Wisconsin’s run defense struggled early on against Minnesota, but dominated the second half and the stats looked great again. The Badgers held the potent Gophers running back duo of Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks to a combined 82 yards on 22 carries. Overall, Bucky is ranked third in the country in rush defense, allowing barely over 100 yards rushing per game. If Wisconsin stops the Lions running game and forces Penn State to be one-dimensional, it would give the Badgers a huge advantage.

Edge: Wisconsin

When Penn State passes...

Wisconsin’s pass defense has been one of the biggest surprises this year. After losing both starting safeties from last year, including captain Michael Caputo, most people thought the safeties would be a liability. That could not have ended up being further from the truth, as D’Cota Dixon and Leo Musso have combined for nine interceptions, and have been a real strength this season. First-year defensive backs coach Jim Leonhard, along with first-year defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, has helped the defensive backs become one of the best units in college football. Leonhard, who is tied for the school record in picks, has had a big influence on the secondary. Wisconsin leads the nation with 21 interceptions, including 11 in its last three games. However, the Badgers have not faced a quarterback who is as good of a passer as McSorley. The Nittany Lions signal caller is 28th in the country in passing and has thrown 21 touchdowns and just five picks. He has a number of weapons at his disposal as well. Junior wide receiver Chris Godwin is the leading receiver, hauling in 47 passes for 762 yards and nine touchdowns. Tight end Mike Gesicki has become a reliable target for McSorley. One of the conference’s best tight ends has had at least 60 yards receiving in three of the last four games. Penn State has already faced the stout defenses of Ohio State and Michigan earlier this season, and now faces another top defense. In the two games against those teams, McSorley has a completion percentage of 48 percent and has averaged just 138 yards passing. He’ll need to perform better if the Lions want to win the Big Ten title. Wisconsin ranked No. 23 in pass yards allowed, but vault up to No. 5 in opponents quarterback rating and have 31 sacks. The Badgers will need to put pressure on McSorley to force him into mistakes to give their offense a short field.

Edge: Wisconsin

Special Teams

Like normal, Wisconsin is at a disadvantage on special teams. Penn State kicker Tyler Davis has been one of the most accurate in college football this year. The junior is 21-of-23 on the year, but has a long of just 40 yards. Andrew Endicott has made 11-of-16 filling in for the injured Rafael Gaglianone. Endicott has made five of his last six field goals, though. He does have a longer made field goal than Davis, making a 46-yarder against Ohio State. In punting, the Nittany Lions are in the middle of the pack in the country, while Wisconsin is now second to last. Penn State is second in the conference in kick coverage, while the Badgers are one of the worst in the Big Ten in kick returning. Wisconsin has not been hurt yet by its lack of a special teams, though (knock on wood).

Edge: Penn State


This is the most intriguing conference championship game this year. Penn State’s offense is on a roll, averaging 46.5 points per game in its last five, but Wisconsin’s defense has only allowed more than 20 once this season. The Nittany Lions have dominated the second half, outscoring opponents 274-102 in the third and fourth quarters this season. That is the second best differential in the FBS, only behind Alabama. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has shut out its opponent in the second half five times. That is tied for most in college football. Something has to give. You know the saying, defenses win championships. It will be a close game, but I think the Badgers will force a few turnovers and turn them into points. The Lions are without both starting offensive tackles, so they will have a hard time containing Wisconsin’s great tandem of linebackers in Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt. If Penn State is behind the chains at all, it could be in trouble. The Nittany Lions are 12th in the conference with a 32.2 conversion percentage. I believe this will come down to the wire, but the Badgers defense makes a play at the end of the game to seal the deal.

Prediction: Wisconsin 20, Penn State 17

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Written by: Pat Schu

A Quick Word on Kaepernick – Now Lets Move On

November 30, 2016

This article was sent earlier this season to be my former Dolphins great Tim Ruddy.

As a former NFL player, the Kaepernick situation is particularly deplorable to me. He is the perfect example of someone who should keep his mouth shut and let other people think he’s stupid, rather than open his mouth and prove it. I must admit that at first I thought Kaepernick was just so used to “ridin the pine” that he was trying to get a good seat before all the other preseason scrubs came to join him on the bloated preseason sideline. I wish that were the case.

However, it should be noted that in the past, the NFL would have put an end to this after the first occurrence, as it obviously takes away from the game. But in the end, as always is the case with the NFL, it comes down to money. The dirty little secret is that the NFL owners and execs, a group that is almost exclusively white, are extremely afraid of looking or being accused of being racist. Consequently, they are extremely hesitant to look like they are keeping minority players silent or holding them down in any way. Additionally, should the players turn their racial protests against the owners, it will be extremely bad for business. So it is really simply a “lesser of two evils” situation for the NFL heads. Let the players focus their racial protests and anger on the police (Rams with the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”) or the flag (Kaepernick, et al) instead of the group of rich white guys pulling the strings at the top, and scripting the majority of their professional lives.

FYI, to anyone who thinks otherwise, people watch the NFL to get away from politics and social problems, not to have them set as center stage. Poorly informed NFL players, just like poorly informed citizens, should keep quiet and stay out of the way. Time for those wearing their big boy pants to take the field and play football. Can I get an amen?

Tim Ruddy played for the Miami Dolphins from 1994 to 2003, after completing his career at Notre Dame (1990 to 1994) and from time to time shares his views on the game of football with us. Tim, not only excelled on the football field but also in the classroom achieved a 4.0 his junior and senior year while studying mechanical engineering at Notre Dame. Tim is the text book example of a student athlete and a person who looked at his football career as the start of his career not his whole career. His work ethic and dedication to the classroom as well as the football field is something that should be emulated by every young football players throughout the country.

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Written by: jzenk42

Minnesota/Wisconsin review

November 29, 2016

No. 6 Wisconsin struggled in all three phases of the game in the first half, but out-scored Minnesota 21-0 in the fourth quarter for the 31-17 comeback victory over Minnesota at Camp Randall Stadium. The first half was ugly for the Badgers. Minnesota out-gained Wisconsin 226-144 in the opening half and led 17-7 and Bucky was fortunate it was not worse. Starting running back Corey Clement had 11 carries for just 26 yards and wide receivers had key drops in the half. It was the first time Wisconsin had trailed by double digits since the season opener in 2015 against Alabama. But the Badgers, specifically the defense, showed up in a big way in the last 30 minutes. Wisconsin forced Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner to throw four interceptions, which led to 14 Badgers points. In addition to the takeaways, the defense held the Gophers to 60 yards in the second half. It was total domination in the final 30 minutes and that performance propelled Wisconsin to an outright Big Ten West championship. The Badgers will play Penn State in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Championship game.

After an extremely slow start, the defense was spectacular once again. In the first half, Minnesota had six possessions and scored 17 points with four of the six drives ending in Wisconsin territory. As mentioned above, the Gophers had 226 yards of offense in the first half, but ended up with 286 for the game. The previous two weeks, the Badgers defense had picked off seven passes, and picked off four more against Minnesota to bring the total to 21 for the season, which is tops in the country. The first interception by Wisconsin was the turning point in the game. With Minnesota leading 17-10 in the third quarter, Leidner threw a pass intended for Rashad Still in the end zone, but was intercepted by Leo Musso to turn away the Gophers and keep it a one score game. The next two picks led to two touchdowns to help give the Badgers a 31-17 lead. Wisconsin was able to hold a potent Minnesota ground attack to 128 yards and just a 3.4-yard average. Nearly half of the rushing yardage came on its opening drive. The Gophers also had 32 rushing touchdowns coming in, but were held to just one this past Saturday. Rodney Smith, who many believe is one of the best running backs in the Big Ten, was held to 45 yards on 13 carries. Wisconsin also added five sacks against a Minnesota team that had only allowed nine sacks going into the game. One of those sacks was by nose tackle Olive Sagapolu, who hadn't played in nearly a month and a half. The most important stat, though, is the zero points allowed by the Badgers in the second half. Well done, defense.

Playing in his last game at Camp Randall Stadium, Bart Houston played really well in relief of Alex Hornibrook, who left the game in the second quarter with a head injury. Normally he plays a few drives a game as a change-up from Hornibrook, but he had to play most of the game against the Gophers. After having to sit behind Joel Stave for three years, he could have transferred to another school and played right away. Instead, Houston waited his turn, but then was benched just three games into this season in favor of the freshman Hornibrook. The freshman was hurt after a hit in the second quarter and was forced to miss the rest of the game, but Houston came to the rescue. The senior completed 9-of-14 passes for 123 yards and led the Badgers to all their points. Wisconsin will still use the two quarterback system when Hornibrook is ready to go, but Houston showed tremendous poise to lead the team to a comeback victory. I salute you, Bart.

The last two games, Wisconsin has gotten off to a bad start. Against Purdue, Bucky struggled in the first quarter (trailing 3-0) before blowing the doors off the Boilermakers in the second quarter. Once again, the Badgers trailed 3-0 after the first, but it took the team a bit longer to get going this time around. After three quarters, Minnesota led 17-10. Bucky took advantage of Leidner mistakes to outscore Goldy 21-0 in the final quarter. The Badgers will need to start faster against Penn State and in the bowl game. Wisconsin was able to get away with that against Minnesota and Purdue, but won’t be able to against tougher competition. Drops are also becoming a bit of a concern. Jazz Peavy had a few against Purdue and had another bad one against Minnesota. Rob Wheelwright also had a big one in the first half against the Gophers that would have kept a drive alive. They’ll need to clean that up moving forward.

With it being Senior Day, it was fitting that a number of seniors made huge plays to help Wisconsin come back to beat its bitter rival. It was a small class, but they came up huge against the Gophers. I already mentioned the play of Houston, who was efficient through the air in his last home game. Two more seniors, Sojourn Shelton and Leo Musso, had three of the four interceptions for the Badgers. Two of those picks were crucial turning points in the game. Clement rushed for more than 100 yards and a pair of scores and Dare Ogunbowale scored the game-clinching touchdown late in the game. Rob Wheelwright only had two catches in the game, but he had a big 16-yard reception to move the Badgers to the doorstep of a tie game early in the fourth quarter. And finally, Vince Biegel added eight tackles and an impressive sack late in the game. Hats off to the senior class.

Wisconsin only has two games remaining this season, starting with Penn State next Saturday. If anybody were to tell me at the beginning of the season that the Badgers would make the Big Ten Championship game, I would have thought you were crazy. Bucky also has a shot at the playoffs with a win and a loss by either Washington or Clemson. Wisconsin, despite having the division wrapped up, played a great second half against Minnesota to keep the axe. It sets up the top 10 showdown next week against Penn State, which has won eight consecutive games. The Nittany Lions average nearly 37 points per game, while Wisconsin gives up fewer than 14 per game. It should be a great game in Indianapolis.

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Written by: jzenk42

Minnesota/Wisconsin preview

November 25, 2016

It has all come down to this in the Big Ten West. The No. 6 Badgers come in at 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten, while the Gophers come in at 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten. Wisconsin has won 12 consecutive games in the Battle for Paul Bunyan’s axe. It has also been a long road, but the Badgers have a chance to even the all-time series tomorrow. In last year’s meeting, Wisconsin knocked off Minnesota 31-21 in Minneapolis. In the last contest at Camp Randall Stadium, the Cardinal and White overcame a 17-3 deficit to defeat the Gophers 34-24 to win the Big Ten West and earn a berth in the conference championship game. Minnesota does not have a chance to play in Indianapolis, but could help Nebraska get to the Big Ten Championship game by beating Wisconsin if the Cornhuskers beat the Iowa Hawkeyes today. The Gophers had their most impressive performance of the season last Saturday with a 29-12 victory against Northwestern. This should be an interesting game between two of the top 30 scoring defenses in the country.

When Wisconsin runs the ball...

Wisconsin is running the ball well and has climbed up to No. 43 in rushing yards per game. The Badgers only averaged 3.9 yards per game against a terrible Purdue run defense, but that is because Wisconsin went ultra-conservative and ran it nearly every first down, despite having nine Boilermakers in the box. Bucky had 30 first down plays and ran it on 29 of them. Minnesota is 15th in the country in rush defense, allowing only 117 rush yards per game. Much of that is due to sacks, though. The Gophers have allowed at least four yards per carry to four of the last five starting running backs they have faced. Wisconsin will need to get the ground game going in order to move the ball. It all starts with the offensive line, which finally has some continuity after having injuries to start the year. Hopefully Chryst passes a bit more on first down this week to keep the defense honest.

Edge: Push

When Wisconsin passes...

The Wisconsin quarterbacks each had a great game last Saturday, proving that if a team stacks the box daring the Badgers signal callers to beat them, Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook can do just that. The Purdue game plan was to stop the Wisconsin rushing attack by any means necessary. Purdue stacked the box and the Badgers quarterbacks combined to complete 12-of-15 passes for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns. However, Minnesota’s defense is much better than Purdue’s. Teams have been able to pass the ball on the Gophers, though. Goldy is 75th in opposing passing yards per game. Wisconsin does not have a quarterback who will throw it for 250 yards, though they both have the potential to slice up the Gophers secondary. Another weapon for Minnesota is the pass rush. The Gophers have 33 sacks on the year, which is 16th in the country. However, 21 of those sacks are against Purdue, Rutgers, Oregon State and Northwestern. None of those teams are in the top 70 in sacks allowed and have a combined record of 13-31. Still, the Badgers have allowed 19 sacks on the season and the offensive line have to keep their quarterbacks clean to keep drives alive. Once again, the Badgers will need to make a few plays through the air to beat Minnesota and keep the axe.

Edge: Minnesota

When Minnesota runs...

This is a matchup of strength against strength. The Gophers rank just behind the Badgers in rush yards per game with 191.7. Minnesota has also rushed for 32 touchdowns on the year, which ranks eighth. However, of the 10 FBS teams Goldy has played so far, the Gophers have gone against just four teams that are single digits in opposing rush yards per game rankings. So, if you are not good at math, six teams are ranked 100+ in rush defense. Of the four teams Minnesota has played that are in the top 99, the Gophers are just 1-3. In the six games against the poor run defenses, Minnesota averages 212 rush yards per game and a 4.5-yard rushing average and 23 touchdowns. In the other four games, Goldy averages 137 yards per game and just 3.6-yard average and six rushing touchdowns. The top run defense Minnesota has played is Nebraska, which ranks 25th, and the Gophers had just 85 yards on the ground. Now, the Badgers run defense is a different animal. Wisconsin is ranked No. 5 in the country in rush yards per game against (98.3) and has only allowed six rushing touchdowns, which is tied for seventh in the country. The Badgers have also not allowed a rushing touchdown in any of the last three games. Nose tackle Olive Sagapolu was initially ruled out for this week on Monday, but returned to practice this week and appears close to returning. He was upgraded to questionable today, and there is a slight chance he could return this week, but most likely next week (if in the Big Ten title game) or the bowl game. Like many injuries for Wisconsin this year, the Badgers have not skipped a beat defensively in Sagapolu’s absence. Goldy will need to establish the ground game because if Wisconsin forces Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner to beat the Badgers through the air, the Gophers have no chance to pull the upset.

Edge: Wisconsin

When Minnesota passes...

Despite the fact that NFL Draft “expert” Todd McShay called Leidner a first round prospect, he is a liability on offense for the Gophers. He leads a Minnesota passing attack that is ranked 101st in the country. Leidner has just thrown six touchdown passes on the year, and four of them came in one game against FCS foe Indiana State. In Big Ten competition, the Minnesota quarterback has just a 56 percent completion percentage and has thrown just two touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He has thrown at least one interception in six of his seven conference games. Few teams have as good or a better secondary than Wisconsin. The Badgers are 27th in opposing passing yards per game, but most of that is due to Bucky being in front so much that it forces opponents to throw to catch up. Wisconsin climbs up to No. 4 in opposing quarterback rating after picking off Purdue’s David Blough three times last Saturday. The Badgers have intercepted seven passes the last two games and will be looking for more. With the recent interception surge, Wisconsin has vaulted into a tie for fifth in the country with 17 picks on the season, as well as just seven touchdown passes allowed. If Leidner is forced to try and beat the Badgers, the Gophers are in trouble. Drew Wolitarsky is a solid wide receiver for Minnesota, having more than 700 yards receiving on 57 catches. The senior has only had two games in which he had fewer than 50 yards receiving. No other receiver has more than 21 catches on the season or 300 yards receiving. Wisconsin needs to put pressure on Leidner and not let him get too comfortable in the pocket.

Edge: Wisconsin

Special Teams

If Minnesota wins the game, the Gophers will need a big day from their special teams. Whenever Goldy gets inside the 35, Minnesota’s Emmit Carpenter is automatic. The sophomore kicker is 20-for-22 with a long of 53 on the year. He has made 10 consecutive field goal attempts. Quite simply, he is one of the best kickers in college football. Andrew Endicott, on the other hand, is just 10-of-15 filling in for the injured Rafael Gaglianone. Both punters are below average, but the Gophers have the edge, as Wisconsin’s Andrew Lotti is last in the country in punting average. Minnesota has the edge in kick returning, but P.J. Rosowski is a huge weapon on special teams, as he is one of the best in the country at kicking touchbacks. The Badgers have a minor edge in punt returning, but overall, special teams is a huge Gophers edge.

Edge: Minnesota


I keep seeing stories about Wisconsin “not overlooking” Minnesota. Why would the Badgers take their biggest rival lightly? Bucky has too much to play for. The Badgers are playing for a date in the Big Ten Championship game and possibly getting one step closer to the College Football Playoff. It will come down to turnovers and giving the offense a short field. However, it will be tougher for the Gophers to move the football against the vaunted Badgers defense. If Minnesota struggles to run the football, Wisconsin will win handily. However, like with most upsets, the Badgers will need to take care of the football and keep Goldy from making plays via special teams.

Prediction: Wisconsin 20, Minnesota 6

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Written by: jzenk42

Wisconsin/Purdue review

November 22, 2016

The Wisconsin Badgers used a big second quarter to dominate Purdue 49-20 in West Lafayette. Wisconsin had a slow start, as the Badgers trailed 3-0 after the first quarter. But a pair of screen passes on 3rd-and-longs to Dare Ogunbowale set Bucky up for an Alec Ingold touchdown run to give the Badgers the lead they would not relinquish. This was Wisconsin’s seventh consecutive win over Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium and the 11th straight victory over the Boilermakers overall. Despite the 29-point win, I don’t think the Badgers played a great game. Far from it, actually. I am sure Paul Chryst’s team will happily take the big win, though. It sets up a showdown on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium against Minnesota.

This is the best the quarterbacks have looked this season. Much of the game, Wisconsin was behind the chains since Purdue was selling out to stop the run. Alex Hornibrook struggled early, but Bart Houston came in and led the Badgers to four consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter to give Wisconsin a 35-10 halftime lead. Hornibrook started the second half and looked solid as well. Overall, the two quarterbacks combined to go 12-of-15 for 191 yards and two touchdowns. On two of the incomplete passes, Wisconsin wide receiver Jazz Peavy dropped passes right in his hands. So the Badgers quarterbacks were that close to a perfect game, despite a strong wind. The Wisconsin quarterbacks were great on third downs especially, combining to go 9-for-11 for 149 yards and a touchdown on the money down. That is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Badgers quarterbacks were 5-of-6 for 100 yards and a touchdown on passes on 3rd-and-8+. I doubt Chryst will be as conservative against Minnesota as he was against Purdue. The quarterbacks did well on third downs against Purdue, but likely won’t have the same success this upcoming week against Minnesota.

Much of the day, the defense played well. The Badgers were able to capitalize on three Purdue turnovers and turn them into 14 points. The play of the day was a defensive play that happened midway through the second period when Purdue quarterback David Blough rolled out to the left and threw a pass that was plucked out of the air by Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt and returned to the house for the pick six. That gave the Badgers a 14-3 lead and essentially ended the Purdue hopes of an upset. Wisconsin’s secondary gave up a few huge pass plays to DeAngelo Yancey, but as a whole, Bucky’s defense held the Boilermakers offense to 293 yards and 73 of them came on the final touchdown drive when the game was out of reach. A week after picking off Illinois’ Jeff George, Jr. four times, the Badgers were able to intercept Blough three times this past Saturday. All seven turnovers forced in the past two weeks were in the first half, which helped put both games away. The game went pretty much how I thought it would. Purdue was going to pass for some yardage, but Blough was not going to be able to win the game on his own. Wisconsin stoned Purdue’s running game, allowing just 71 yards on 22 carries, but one of the carries was a 34-yard run by Brian Lankford-Johnson late in the game when Wisconsin had its reserves in the game. I knew the Wisconsin defense would force a few Blough turnovers since he is the worst in the country at throwing interceptions this year. As a team, Purdue is a -18 in turnover differential. Not good.

As convincing as this win was, Wisconsin was far from flawless. Chryst will have plenty of teaching material after this one. Cornerbacks Derrick Tindal and Natrell Jamerson were each burned on a long pass play to Yancey in the first half, including Tindal being beaten on a 75-yard touchdown just before halftime. The Purdue wide receiver had a career-high 155 yards receiving in the game. Wisconsin was also not as focused as it normally is. The Badgers committed eight penalties against the Boilermakers, and Wisconsin is one of the top teams in the country in fewest penalties per game. Finally, even though he had a touchdown reception in the game, Peavy had a game he’d like to forget. Wisconsin’s quarterbacks had three incompletions in the game, and Peavy was targeted on all three and they all hit his hands. One was more difficult than the others, but they all arguably should have been caught. He also muffed a punt following Purdue’s first possession of the second half, which set up a Boilermakers field goal. These are correctable issues and I believe the team will be more focused against Minnesota with a trip to Indianapolis on the line.

Wisconsin had an ultra-conservative game plan against Purdue, but the Badgers were still able to control the game and win. They would not give other teams things to look at going forward. Wisconsin would win the Big Ten with a win on Senior Day against Minnesota or Iowa beats Nebraska on Friday. The Badgers are likely two wins away from a berth in the College Football Playoff. No matter what, it will be an interesting final two weeks.

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