Wisconsin Badgers football is almost underway as the 2012 season will kickoff this weekend against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Camp Randall Stadium. The Badgers are coming off a successful year in which they went 11-3 (6-2) and won the Big Ten after defeating the Michigan State Spartans in the first ever Big Ten Championship game.
The following is a breakdown of Wisconsin’s 2012 favorable schedule in which they play only three currently ranked teams, two of which are at home:
Sept. 1: vs. Northern Iowa
The Panthers finished the 2011 season 10-3 (7-1) and was co-champion of the Missouri Valley Football Conference with North Dakota State. They lost 48-10 to Montana in the FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals. Northern Iowa is determined to have a similar record this season and a win against Wisconsin would certainly send them on their way. Personally, I would be surprised if the Badgers did not win this game by at least three touchdowns.
Sept. 8: @ Oregon State
This match up against the Oregon State Beavers will be the toughest among Wisconsin’s non-conference opponents. The Beavers were a measly 3-9 (3-6) last season due to a bad defense and non-existent running game. However, Oregon State ranked 19th in the FBS averaging 286.8 passing yards per game. As easy as this game may seem, the Badgers certainly cannot take it for granted.
Sept. 15: vs. Utah State
Utah State Aggies have the potential to be Wisconsin’s hardest opponent up to this point in the season. Even though the Aggies were 7-6 (5-2) last season, they ranked sixth in the FBS with 282.7 rushing yards per contest and 23rd in scoring with 33.6 points per game. To put it in perspective, Wisconsin rushed for 235.6 yards per game, which was good for 11th in the nation.
Sept. 22: vs. UTEP
Wisconsin will have one more warm-up game before they begin their Big Ten Conference play against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. UTEP Miners should be a walk in the park for the Badgers and will serve as a good game for Wisconsin to hone their skills as well as build their confidence.
Sept. 29: @ #17 Nebraska
The first game of Big Ten play will also be the Badgers first real test of the season. Wisconsin embarrassed the Cornhuskers last season when Nebraska played their first Big Ten game in Madison. The final score was 48-17 and the No. 8 ranked Cornhuskers looked like they had no business being a member of the Big Ten Conference or being in the top 10. This year Nebraska will get to take on Wisconsin on their own turf so the Badgers must make sure the tables do not get turned.
Oct. 6: vs. Illinois
The Illinois Fighting Illini may have finished the 2011 season 7-6 (2-6) but they certainly gave Wisconsin quite a scare in their match up last year. The final score was 28-17 as the Badgers kept their dreams of a Big Ten title match alive. With this game being played at home this season, it should prove to be a little easier.
Oct. 13: @ Purdue
The most points Wisconsin scored against an opponent last season was 62, which came against the Purdue Boilermakers. I am not sure if the Badgers will score that many points this season against the Boilermakers but I can guarantee the game will once again not be close. Purdue 7-6 (4-4) last season will probably have a similar record and should not be a problem in the Leaders division.
Oct. 20: vs. Minnesota
College football’s longest played rivalry will add on another year when the Minnesota Golden Gophers come to town. Wisconsin and Minnesota will play for the 122nd time as the Badgers try to improve on their 17-5 record since 1990. Last season, the game was never close as the Badgers won decisively 42-13.
Oct. 27: vs. #13 Michigan State
This will be the Badgers hardest game of the season, as the Spartans will surely have another outstanding defense this year. Both games played between these two teams in 2011 were instant classics as the Big Ten Championship game will be remembered forever as one of the greatest games ever played in conference history. Just like the Badgers got revenge on the Spartans for their Hail Mary touchdown pass, Michigan State will be looking to get back at Wisconsin for stunning them in the championship game. Mark October 27 on your calendars because this will for sure be another exciting match up.
Nov. 10: @ Indiana
The Badgers defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 59-7 last season, which was their largest margin of victory over any opponent. The Hoosiers were 1-11 last season and went winless in the Big Ten. I fully expect Wisconsin to defeat them with the same authority, as this game will be a tune up before their showdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Nov. 17: vs. #18 Ohio State
The second and only other game the Badgers lost during the regular season last year came against the Buckeyes. It was a critical loss at the time that stunned the Wisconsin fan base, which dropped the Badgers from being ranked No. 11 to No. 17. Wisconsin certainly cannot take this game for granted because even though Ohio State cannot play for a title game, the least they can do is give the Badgers all they can handle. The fact that this game is being played at Camp Randall falls heavily in Wisconsin’s favor.
Nov. 24: @ Penn State
The last game of this year is against the Penn State Nittany Lions, the same team the Badgers had to defeat in 2011 for a berth in the Big Ten Championship game. The Nittany Lions also cannot play for a title game but there is no question the team will be playing with plenty of heart throughout the season. This could potentially be a very difficult contest if it is a must win for Wisconsin to get back to the championship game.
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