Last season didn’t go as planned for the Wisconsin Badgers. The team battled COVID-19 problems all season, forcing them to cancel games. Despite the harsh circumstances, the Badgers finished the year 4-3 including a win over Michigan in Ann Arbor for the first time since 2010. Wisconsin concluded the season by beating Wake Forest in the Mayo Bowl 42-28.
While the 2021 schedule largely remains the same, the only change is the Badgers will battle for Paul Bunyan’s axe against Minnesota at the end of the season in Minneapolis.
Win: Penn State Nittany Lions
The Badgers open their season at home against a tough Penn State team. This will be the second year in a row that Wisconsin opens its season at home against a Big Ten East opponent. But nonetheless, Wisconsin should be able to win.
Penn State’s relevance took a dive last season, and while they did close out the season on a four-game winning streak, those wins came against equally middling Michigan, Rutgers, Michigan State and Illinois teams.
The Nittany Lions will be visiting Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium, which is one of the hardest places to play in the nation. Head coach, Paul Chryst’s team’s are also 6-0 in home openers and Wisconsin hasn’t lost it’s opening home game since 1995.
Win: Eastern Michigan Eagles
This one is a cup cake game for the Badgers as they’ll look to tune up before going into their bye week. I’m expecting the reserves to see action.
Loss: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Coming off the bye week Wisconsin travels to Chicago to take on Notre Dame at Soldier Field as part of the Irish’s Shamrock Series. This will be the first meeting since 1964. Originally these two were scheduled to meet at Lambeau Field last season but COVID ruined that.
Notre Dame has never lost a game in the Shamrock Series. While I’m expecting it to be the most thrilling non-conference match up of the season; I think the Irish will edge the Badgers in the end.
Win: Michigan Wolverines
Jim Harbaugh currently has a losing record against Wisconsin (2-3) and his team’s have never won in Madison (0-2). The past two games the Badgers have played, they’ve outscored the Wolverines 84-25. With so many question marks surrounding Michigan, I’m not expecting anything to change.
Win: At Illinois Fighting Illini
The Badgers will have their first road game of the season and they’ll be reunited with former head coach, Bret Bielema. While Bielema is a proven winner in the Big Ten, the talent gap will be on display this game.
Win: Army West Point Black Knights
This game will be a big test as Wisconsin faces a non-conference opponent in the middle of their Big Ten slate. Army runs the always challenging triple option attack, but nobody has been as great at stopping the run as Jim Leonard’s defenses.
Win: At Purdue Boilermakers
Colin Cowherd once referred to Purdue as “Purdon’t” and with good reason. Purdue hasn’t won against the Badgers since 2003 and I’m not expecting that streak to end now. This will serve as a tune up game for Iowa.
Win: Iowa Hawkeyes
It’s homecoming weekend in Madison! Iowa will be a big home test for the Badgers. Of the three losses Wisconsin had, Iowa was the only one that the Badgers weren’t competitive in. With it being a big weekend and possible Big Ten West implications, that is all the motivation Wisconsin will need to avenge last year’s loss at Iowa. Paul Chryst has only lost to Iowa once at Camp Randall Stadium since becoming head coach. I’m expecting this game to be a close one. Time for the Heartland Trophy to come home!
Win: At Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Easy blowout win. Nothing to see here.
Win: Northwestern Wildcats
Thankfully the Badgers aren’t playing at Ryan Field as the Wildcats haven’t won at Camp Randall Stadium since 2015. This will again be another test for the Badgers, but I think they’ll pull this game out. The Wildcats defense has always given the Badgers fits and Wildcats Defensive Coordinator, Mike Hankwitz retired which helps.
Win: Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Badgers have beaten the Cornhuskers by over 18 points. While I expect Nebraska to be more competitive; I don’t think it’ll stop the Badgers win streak against the Cornhuskers.
Win: At Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Badgers have dominated the Gophers for Paul Bunyan’s axe this past decade. Minnesota has regressed from their 11-2 turnaround in 2019 and the Badgers haven’t lost to the Golden Gophers in Minneapolis since 2003. I expect Paul Bunyan’s axe to stay with the Badgers for awhile longer.
Result: Wisconsin Badgers go 11-1 overall; 6-0 in the Big Ten West
If Wisconsin rediscovers their identity on offense and Graham Mertz becomes more consistent then the Badgers will win the west. The rise of Jalen Berger is a nice surprise and if he continues to take steps toward becoming a star then this offense can be dangerous. Wisconsin hasn’t had quarterbacks with the potential that Mertz has, so he could be the guy that puts them in the playoff conversation. Their defense is the best in the Big Ten and will make hard for any opponent to score points.