Our series looking at the best- and worst-case scenarios for each Big Ten team comes to a close today with Wisconsin.
As a reminder one last time, these are by no means predictions for the season. They are meant to illustrate the realistic potential highs and lows for a team's season, and any game-by-game breakdowns are more of a means to an end than anything else. We've been trying to have some fun here, and I think we succeeded.
The Badgers have had fun winning the past two Big Ten championships. What are the high and low possibilities for them in 2012?
Everything is coming up Roses again in Madison. Wisconsin returns a lot of top-shelf talent, the path in the Leaders Division has been cleared (thanks, NCAA!) and the bounces finally go the Badgers' way almost all season.
Montee Ball shows he's still the full Montee by running for four touchdowns in the easy opening win over Northern Iowa. Oregon State, rusty from having its opener cancelled by Hurricane Isaac, is a step slow all day in a 42-7 Wisconsin win. Danny O'Brien has his first big game against the Beavers, throwing for 300 yards. O'Brien completes 70 percent of his passes for the year, making fans forget about Russell Wilson.
Ball piles up the touchdowns against Utah State and UTEP to head into the showdown at Nebraska at 4-0. The Huskers win on a controversial call in the final seconds, spoiling a chance at a perfect season for the Badgers.
But that only makes this team mad, and it takes that anger out on the rest of the league. Wisconsin bludgeons Illinois and Purdue and beats Minnesota 65-0. Cement is poured around Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Michigan State comes to Madison on Oct. 27 and receives an early Halloween nightmare. Thousands of Wisconsin students dress up as John L. Smith, but the scariest thing is how easily the Badgers puncture the Spartans' defense in the 35-14 victory. O'Brien completes a Hail Mary for a touchdown -- to end the first half.
After a six-touchdown performance by Ball against Indiana, Urban Meyer brings Ohio State to town. Bret Bielema has been waiting for this one since February and pulls out all the stops. Wisconsin's defense rises to the occasion, repeatedly taking advantage of freshman offensive lineman Kyle Dodson, who's been forced into action because of injuries. Bielema goes for two on every play in the 44-17 win.
The Badgers steamroll a downtrodden Penn State and roll on to the Big Ten championship game, where they club Iowa by three touchdowns to regain both the league title and the Heartland Trophy. Ball, who finishes with a new FBS record of 41 touchdowns, wins the Heisman Trophy. Ricky Wagner wins the Outland Trophy. Travis Frederick wins the Rimington Trophy. Jacob Pedersen wins the Mackey Award. Chris Borland wins the Butkus Award.
Wisconsin makes its third straight Rose Bowl and wins it this time over USC. House of Pain performs at halftime. After an ugly BCS title game, several Associated Press voters elevate the Badgers to No. 1. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater decides that he will graduate in 2013 and transfer to the Badgers to succeed O'Brien as the starter in '14.
The FDA announces that cheese curds, bratwurst and Spotted Cow are actually good for you and recommends 3-to-5 servings per day.
Six new assistant coaches. No Russell Wilson. A dinged-up Montee Ball. Winter is coming, Badgerland.
Ball doesn't look quite right in the opener against Northern Iowa, and concussions symptoms lead to him missing several games. Wisconsin survives an upset bid. Oregon State, rested and ready after having its opener cancelled, springs a surprise on the flat-footed Badgers as O'Brien reverts to his Maryland sophomore struggles and throws three interceptions. Fans look longingly to Wilson, who's tearing up the NFL in Seattle.
Wisconsin beats Utah State and UTEP but looks ugly in doing so because of a lack of staff cohesion. The newly-married Bielema, much like Don Draper on the last season of "Mad Men," doesn't get too concerned because he's still on "love leave."
Nebraska pounds the Badgers into submission in Week 5 in primetime. Barry Alvarez is so overcome with emotion about his alma mater that he announces he will succeed Tom Osborne as Huskers AD.
The team rebounds to beat Illinois, but then its road troubles continue with a loss at Purdue. O'Brien tosses three more interceptions and is lifted for Joel Stave. With things in disarray, Minnesota comes to Camp Randall and pulls off a shocking upset thanks to MarQueis Gray's game-winning Hail Mary. Gleeful Gophers players take Paul Bunyan's Axe and destroy the new facility upgrades at the stadium.
Michigan State seeks revenge the next week and gets it. Isaiah Lewis blocks two punts and the Spartans don't need any late heroics in the 31-14 victory. Madison police, citing safety concerns, cancel the State Street Halloween party.
Wisconsin regroups enough to beat Indiana, but Urban Meyer has been waiting since signing day to exact a pound of flesh from Bielema. Braxton Miller goes nuts, and the surprising Kyle Dodson leads the way on the offensive line. Meyer goes for two on every play and struts off the field after a 44-17 win. Penn State gears up for the finale and waylays the Badgers 38-7, sending Purdue to Indianapolis. Iowa wins the Big Ten title.
The 6-6 season sends Wisconsin to the Little Caesars Bowl against Northern Illinois and former assistant Dave Doeren. Now more familiar with the Badgers system than most of Bielema's current assistants, Doeren leads the Huskies to victory.
House of Pain sends a cease and desist letter to the school, demanding that "Jump Around" no longer be played at Camp Randall. A national cheese, beer and sausage shortage grips the nation, and vegan restaurants take over Madison.
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