Badger football can still have a special season

Ross Litscher, Sports Editor

The Wisconsin Badgers football team enters the 2022 college football season with high expectations. Nothing new there, as ever since Barry Alvarez took the program over in the ‘90s the Badgers have been a top tier program in college football. It hasn’t looked like that in the last two years, as they haven’t had a 10-win season since 2019. In fact, they haven’t gone three straight years without double digit win totals in nearly 20 years.
There’s a lot of optimism for the 2022 Badgers despite losing a good number of players to the NFL, including their three leading receivers. They also lost key defensive players in linebackers Leo Chenal and Jack Sandborn, cornerbacks Faion Hicks and Caesar Williams and defensive tackle Matt Henningsen.
The Badgers reloading the roster this offseason is really a testament to head coach Paul Chryst’s recruiting ability and the coaching staff’s ability to develop younger players. Chryst is entering his eighth season as the Badgers’ coach and has a 65-23 record at Wisconsin entering this year. The Badgers made some good moves with their coordinators this offseason by retaining defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, who was a candidate for many other DC jobs and even some head coaching jobs. They also hired Bobby Engram as offensive coordinator to hopefully revive an offense that has been very one dimensional over the past few years.
The Badgers began this season ranked 18th in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. Their schedule consists of 7 home games at Camp Randall Stadium, including homecoming on Oct. 22. They started the season 1-1 with a win over Illinois State and a close loss to Washington State.
They play New Mexico State to round out their out of conference schedule before their biggest game of the regular season on the road against Ohio State. Not only is this a potential Big Ten Championship preview, it’s also a great opportunity for the Badgers to send a message against the team that has been the class of the Big Ten for many years. They play Big Ten conference opponents the rest of the way after that, wrapping up the regular season at home against rival Minnesota on Thanksgiving weekend. The Badgers are set up with a great opportunity to compete for the Big Ten championship.
I believe the biggest key to the Badger’s success is without a doubt the passing game. The running game has never been a problem, and it will continue to wreak havoc on opposing defenses with potential Heisman candidate running back Braelon Allen and his counterparts Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo.
Quarterback Graham Mertz needs to have a big year. He is entering his third year as the Badgers starting quarterback and has operated a passing offense that has been mediocre at best the last two years.
I believe finally getting an offseason uninterrupted by COVID-19, plus the addition of a new offensive coordinator, will help Mertz and the rest of the passing game out a lot. The Badgers shouldn’t have too much trouble finding receivers to catch the ball, despite losing Danny Davis, Kendric Pryor and Jake Ferguson to the NFL.
Chimere Dike, Markus Allen and Skylar Bell are expected to take on much bigger roles this year in the passing game. Clay Cundiff will replace Ferguson at tight end and transfer wide receiver Keontez Lewis from UCLA will also be a big part of a passing game that hasn’t been great since Russell Wilson played.
The sky is the limit for the Badgers this season. On defense, transfers Jay Shaw, Cedrick Dort Jr. and Kamo’i Latu will join safety John Torchio and defensive tackle Keeanu Benton to anchor an already solid unit. Arkansas transfer Vito Calvaruso will take over the kicking duties and Dean Engram (Bobby’s son) will take on kick and punt return duties.
This roster, paired with the right coaching as well as one of the best fan atmospheres in the country, have everything they need to compete for a Big Ten championship in December.