College Football Rankings Countdown: No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers

The college football rankings countdown from Campus Insiders slates the Wisconsin Badgers at No. 14. Here are five things that matter heading into Wisconsin’s 2016 season.

Yes, there will be a running game again

The Badgers were fourth in the nation in rushing in 2014. They were eighth in 2013, 13th in 2012, 11th in 2011, and on and on and on with one of the most consistently dominant offensive styles in all of sports. And then came last year – Bucky finished 95th in the nation in rushing finishing with a mere 1,954 yards.

What went wrong? Star back Corey Clement was banged up from the start, and the young offensive line was never quite right. This year, Clement is back, healthy, and fully committed working behind a potentially crushing line. Wisconsin will be Wisconsin again, but …

It’s Wisconsin. The wide receivers will be meh

The Badgers always seem to have one good target who takes advantage of the single coverage against defenses that overcommit to stop the run, and they always seem to have an NFL-looking tight end. This year’s offense has veteran targets who haven’t done much of anything. As long as the ground game is fine, everything should be okay with an efficient passing game. However, to survive early on the passing attack must work, because …

Schedule-wise, playtime is over

A few years ago, Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez made a big deal out of wanting to improve the schedule to make it tougher, stronger, and better. While that’s great for fans, it’s not fun to start the season off against LSU two years ago, Alabama last year, and this season, against LSU – a national title-caliber LSU – in Green Bay.

That might be fine as a one-off, but after two breathers, the Badger schedule drops like a hammer – at Michigan State, at Michigan, Ohio State, at Iowa, Nebraska, at Northwestern. Wisconsin will be as good or better than it was last year, but with a worse record early on.

Losing Dave Aranda is a big deal

The former Wisconsin defensive coordinator is now doing the same thing at LSU after leading the Badgers to national rankings of No. 2 in total defense and No. 1 in scoring defense. This year it’s up to Justin Wilcox to keep all the fun going with a loaded group of linebackers and pass rushers to help out a rebuilding secondary that should turn out to be fine in time.

What’s going to happen?

The schedule is way too tough to get into the College Football Playoff discussion, but after a rough start the Badgers will quickly rebound. They’ll lost to LSU and on the road at Michigan State and Michigan for a 2-3 start, and then after an off-week they’ll shock Ohio State at home to spark a run of seven straight wins to take the Big Ten West.

MORE: 2016 Preseason College Football Rankings, No. 1-128