2018 Wisconsin projections on the Hour Glass
By John Luke McCord
Paul Chryst never won more than seven games in his first three seasons as a head coach - all at Pittsburgh. However, in the previous three seasons he’s guided his alma mater Wisconsin to a 34-7 run that has seen each season better the last - 10-3(2015), 11-3(2016) and 13-1(2017). In that time the program has built on its identity that features a strong run game and sturdy defense, though you could say he’s taken that formula to a new level. In that time he’s become of the nation’s elite coaches, in fact, his Hour Glass coaching stamp of 24 ranks fourth overall in the nation and second-best in the Big Ten.
Speaking of a strong running game, the Badgers are likely to be better in that area in 2018. Surefire Heisman contender Jonathan Taylor is back after rushing for just short of 2,000 yards plus 13 scores last season. He rushed for 6.6 yards per carry and over 140 yards per game. Bradrick Shaw scored four times and finished with 365 yards in 2017, and will be back to compliment Taylor this fall.
The passing attack is in good hands, too, with QB Alex Hornibrook as well as plenty of production returning at receiver. For starters, Hornibrook completed 62% of his passes as season ago, to go with 2,644 yards and 25 touchdowns. Quintez Cephus, AJ Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor finished are all back in the receiver room. Taylor can also make plays in the passing game, and Zander Neuville is set to emerge at tight end.
Additionally, 2017 all-Americans Michael Deiter, Beau Benzschawel and David Edwards all return, as well as freshman all-American center Tyler Biadasz. The fullback position will have to develop some depth, but Alec Ingold is returning for his senior season.
Again, the defense should be a stingy unit that pairs with the running game like a tall, cold brew and Buffalo wings. Three players deserve a focus, in linebackers TJ Edwards and Ryan Connelly plus safety D’Cota Dixon. The middle of the field should be a quarantined zone for opponents thanks to those three. Edge linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel does a fantastic job of getting into the backfield as evidenced by his 10 TFLs and 6.5 sacks in 2017. Nose guard Olive Sagapolu should also strengthen the Badger defense in the middle of the D-line. All in all, this unit is talented, and experienced, but depth will still have to emerge, especially on the D-line and in the secondary.
The schedule is light in the non-conference, and of course, the Badgers benefit from being in the Big Ten West, which is by far the weaker division in the league. However, the three biggest games on the schedule in 2018 - Iowa, Michigan and Penn State - are each on the road.
HG analytics pick: 9-3, 2nd in Big Ten West
My pick: 10-2, 2nd in Big Ten West
2017 Wisconsin projections, 10-2; actual finish 12-0 (83 percent accuracy)
Hour Glass National Recruiting Ranking: 40th – outside our College Football Playoff Bust Line on our talent index.
National Coaching Rank for Paul Chryst on HG Scale: 4th (Chryst Stamp at 24) – Average coaching value for 2018 set at 3.75.
Returning Wisconsin quarterback play rated 37th in the country out of 130 teams. Average quarterback stamp nationally for 2018 is 8.3. Wisconsin has a stamp of 8.4.