Early football preview and predictions: Wisconsin Badgers
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, April 6, 2020
Some may regard The Observer’s continued business-as-usual anticipation of the 2020 Notre Dame season as obtuse; we, on the contrary, contend that amidst the chaos of present times, we need something to look forward to. And what better than some good old-fashioned football? We continue on then with the last of Notre Dame’s three neutral site games of the 2020 season –– against Wisconsin.
Opponent: Wisconsin Badgers
Date: Oct. 3, 2020
Location: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. EDT
History of the Matchup
In their respective program histories, Notre Dame and Wisconsin have met 16 times, with Notre Dame leading the series 8-6-2. The last matchup went in favor of the Irish 31-7, but that was in 1964 when Ara Parseghian was at the helm of the program. It’s safe to say that both schools have changed a bit since then.
The clash between the Irish and the Badgers will be a Shamrock Series game for Notre Dame, played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. It is one of four games the Irish will play in NFL stadiums this season. Wisconsin will be the first and only Big Ten team Notre Dame sees this season.
The Badgers luck out on the west side of the Big Ten in that they’re opposite Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and even Michigan State, which is why a last-second loss to Illinois on a field goal didn’t dash their conference championship hopes last year. They’ve appeared in six of the last nine Big Ten Championship games including in 2019, when they fell 34-21 to a top-ranked, undefeated Ohio State.
The Badgers have won at least eight games every year since 2009, and have appeared in 18 straight bowl games, the most recent of which was the Rose Bowl against No. 6 Oregon. The No. 8 Badgers fell to the Ducks in that game in a 28-27 nail-biter, closing their season out with a record of 10-4.
In 2020, they return senior quarterback Jack Coan, but lose leading rusher Jonathan Taylor and leading receiver Quintez Cephus. They also face noticeable absences in the pass rush with the graduation of linebackers Chris Orr and Zack Baun. The Badgers will miss out on Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State during the regular season, making Notre Dame one of their more formidable opponents on the year.
Hayden Adams — Sports Editor
Who replaces Jonathan Taylor? That’s the big question Wisconsin needs to answer for next season, and when I say big, I mean Big Ten championship-level BIG. Taylor gained over 2000 yards, and his resume speaks for itself. After him, they’re unproven, and that’s a problem. Freshman Nakia Watson was second on the roster with 337 rushing yards, and no one else eclipsed 200. Even so, they return almost everyone on the offensive line, with the exception of Rimington Award-winner Tyler Biadasz at center.
Quarterback Jack Coan will have to step it up as a senior, but even if he does, this Wisconsin team looks a lot like Notre Dame last season: lacking a go-to guy in the backfield who can get you three to four yards on any given carry. However, compared to the Irish, they lack the safety valve that was Chase Claypool, especially with junior wide receiver Quintez Cephus gone. It’ll be tough to earn points against this Badgers defense, but the Irish should have enough to create the necessary separation.
FINAL: Notre Dame 27, Wisconsin 17
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
This will be the first big test for Notre Dame in the 2020 season, and boy, is it a scary one. Although Wisconsin kind of tampered off as they neared the end of the season last year, they were in the playoff discussion for quite some time. Notre Dame, on the other hand, was not.
Jonathon Taylor is an absolute freak of nature that the Badgers will certainly miss next year, but Jack Coan has proven he can get it done through the air when he needs to. I think the real deciding factor in this game is whether the somewhat green receiving corps at Wisconsin can stack up against Notre Dame’s depleted secondary.
The only thing that makes me feel better about this matchup is the fact that it is not at Camp Randall. Still, I’m not convinced just yet that the Irish will leave the Badger state with a win.
Final: Wisconsin 31, Notre Dame 21
Ellen Geyer — Senior Sports Writer
This game makes me nervous. Growing up an Ohio State fan, I have learned far too well the ways in which Wisconsin can spoil a season. It’s easy to see that the Irish will have their hands full with this one. On the bright side, Notre Dame usually sees at least one Big Ten team a year in Michigan or Michigan State. On the not-so-bright side, I don’t think any of us want to be reminded of what took place in 2019 when that happened.
Wisconsin is good, and playing Big Ten teams is always a struggle for Notre Dame, who aren’t necessarily used to the extremely fast pace of play and aggression across the board. I like the fact that neither team has a home-field advantage; I don’t like the fact that the game is in Wisconsin (albeit Green Bay). I like the fact that this game is towards the beginning of Notre Dame’s season; I don’t like the fact that it will be their first real test.
I was in Ann Arbor for Michigan’s slaughter of Notre Dame last season. Fool me once, I bet against the Big Ten. Fool me twice? I don’t think the Irish will make it out of this one alive.
Final: Wisconsin 35, Notre Dame 21
Charlotte Edmonds — Senior Sports Writer
Over the past decade Wisconsin has managed to wiggle their way into a tier of schools that are marked by impressive athletics across the board, joining the UCLAs, Michigans and Floridas of the world that seem to consistently compete at a high level in most every sport — and football is no different. While the Badgers season might have unraveled slightly near the end in 2019, there’s no question this is a talented program as demonstrated by their one-point loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Add in the fact that, with the exception of a few key defenders, the Badgers are essentially returning their entire lineup, there’s no doubt that for the Irish to pull out a victory in Green Bay, they can’t expect the Badgers to lose. Rather, Notre Dame’s going to have to beat them.
Which brings me to the Irish. It’s hard to extrapolate much from the end of Notre Dame’s season. While they handily beat an underrated Iowa State team, they were pretty blah against a Stanford team that was in complete disarray and they crumbled under the lights at the Big House. Even more importantly though, there still remains the big question mark over the Irish offense. Very little has been seen of newly-appointed offensive coordinator Tommy Rees’ philosophy.
Ignoring the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over athletics in general right now, there’s no excuse for a lack of preparation on the part of Notre Dame. Prior to this Oct. 3 matchup, the Irish essentially have no one on their schedule that should prove a major challenge. Meanwhile, Wisconsin will be coming off an away matchup against Michigan the week before. That said, while I hope to be proved incorrect, I’m not convinced Notre Dame will make that jump on the big stage.
FINAL: Wisconsin 31, Notre Dame 24
Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer
This one will be an early-season statement for the Irish. Their biggest obstacle to entering the Clemson game undefeated, Wisconsin should still be trying to figure out their offensive identity without Jonathan Taylor.
The cold weather at Lambeau Field should make it tough for the Badgers to be multidimensional on offense, allowing the Irish defense to key in on the run game. Wisconsin’s defense will be tough, but I like the variety of weapons that Notre Dame can throw at them. The Irish seemed more inclined to utilize rising junior wide receiver Braden Lenzy, and his speed on the edge will open up running room for running backs rising senior Jafar Armstrong, sophomore C’Bo Flemister and freshman Chris Tyree. Once the running game gets going, graduate student quarterback Ian Book will have more of his first reads available, and the Irish offense will get on a roll.
Final: Notre Dame 30, Wisconsin 17