When teams start to prepare to face the 2022 Wisconsin Badgers, trying to slow down dynamic running back Braelon Allen is first on the to-do list. Allen only had 12 carries in the first four games of the 2021 season but he rushed for more than 100 yards in eight of the last nine games.
The college football predictions only have two running backs with better odds to win the Heisman Trophy than the Wisconsin sophomore.
The defense, which led the nation in multiple categories, does have some holes to fill heading into the 2022 season.
Wisconsin wasn’t overly busy on the transfer portal with just six incoming transfers. Most of the 11 players leaving the program were not huge contributors.
Wisconsin (+1200) is third behind Ohio State and Michigan in the odds to win the Big Ten title according to the college football picks. The odds moved from +950 since late May. The Badgers (+165) have the best odds to win the Big Ten West Division title.
Wisconsin (+8000) is tied for 13th in the odds to win the national championship according to the sportsbook.
- 2021 record: 9-4
- 2021 conference record: 6-3
- Head coach: Paul Chryst
- Odds to win conference title: +1200
The defense was the best in the country as season ago but it will look a little different following the loss of some key players, including leading tackler Leo Chenal. The secondary will feature plenty of transfers with the addition of Kamo’i Latu from Utah, Jay Shaw from UCLA, Justin Clark from Toledo and Cedric Dort from Kentucky. Wisconsin lost twice as many transfers as they brought in.
Allen should be one of the top running backs in college football. Chez Mellusi, Isaac Guerendo and Julian Davis are also coming back so the running game should be among the best in the conference and the country. The Badgers were one of two Big Ten teams to average more than 200 rushing yards per game a season ago.
Quarterback Graham Mertz returns but he will need to improve on his numbers after completing 59.5 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He had two TD passes and seven interceptions in the four losses and completed just 52.7 percent of his passes in those contests. Backup quarterback Chase Wolf is also coming back.
Mertz will need to work in some new receivers as tight end Jake Ferguson is off to the NFL while Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor are also gone, leaving the Badgers without their top three pass catchers from a season ago.
Receivers Chimere Dike (19 catches, 272 yards) and Markus Allen along with tight ends Clay Cundiff and Jack Eschenbach are the top returning pass catchers. Allen, Cundiff and Eschenbach combined to miss 23 games a season ago or their numbers might look a little more impressive. UCLA transfer Keontez Lewis is another receiver to keep an eye on.
Receivers AJ Abbott and Devin Chandler both transferred. There wasn’t much production on offense for either of them although Chandler did have 10 kickoff returns in two seasons with Wisconsin.
Logan Bruss, who started 25 games at right tackle and six at right guard over the last four seasons, is off to the NFL. Wisconsin does return starting offensive linemen Tyler Beach, Taner Bortolini, Jack Nelson and Joe Tippmann. Kayden Lyles transferred to Florida State.
Wisconsin’s top two tacklers Chenal and Jack Sanborn, have moved on as the Badgers have to replace four of their top five tacklers off a team that led the nation by allowing only 235.3 yards per game and 4.1 yards per play. Wisconsin gave up just 61 rushing yards and just under two yards per carry in 2021.
Linebacker Nick Herbig (64 tackles, 14½ tackles for loss, nine sacks), safety John Torchio (35 tackles, three interceptions), defensive lineman Keeanu Benton and defensive end Isaiah Mullens are the top returning players on defense. Cornerback Dean Engram also returns but he has moved over to receiver.
After 11 of the top 12 tacklers a season ago were either juniors or seniors, some of the understudies will be asked to move into more significant roles.
The secondary should be helped by the arrival of transfers Jay Shaw (27 tackles, three interceptions last season at UCLA), Kamo’i Latu (19 tackles, three pass breakups at Utah), Cedric Dort (19 tackles for Kentucky) and Justin Clark (four interceptions, 12 pass breakups over five years at Toledo).
Jay Shaw ranked 3rd among Pac-12 CBs in PFF Grade last season (82.7) 🔒
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 24, 2022
Punter Andy Vujnovich is back after ranking 11th nationally with an average of 46.4 yards per punt. Kicker Colin Larsh is gone after going 17 of 22 on field goals. Stephan Bracy (32 yards per kickoff return) and Engram, the team’s top punt returner, also are back.
Former Arkansas kicker Vito Calvaruso, who was tied for sixth among FBS kickers with 63 touchbacks on 74 kickoffs during the 2021 season, is another player on special teams to keep an eye on.
2022 Wisconsin Outlook
The Badgers don’t have to face Michigan and Penn State, who are second and tied for third in the odds to win the Big Ten title.
Wisconsin headed into the 2021 regular-season finale needing only to beat Minnesota to earn a share of a Big Ten West title and a spot in the conference title game. Instead, Wisconsin was limited to 233 yards and no offensive touchdowns as the 23-13 loss that gave the division title to Iowa. There might have been a silver lining as Wisconsin didn’t have to face Michigan in the conference championship game after falling to the Wolverines 38-17 during the regular season.
Since the inaugural Big Ten title game in 2011, Wisconsin has played in six of the first nine championship contests. The Badgers have failed to reach the Big Ten final in the last two years so there is some unfinished business.
It remains to be seen if opening the season with games against Illinois State and Washington State will properly prepare the Badgers for their conference opener against national championship contender Ohio State.
Wisconsin has a projected regular-season win total of 8½, according to the college football predictions, with the odds at -140 for the Badgers to go over that total and +110 to finish under.
Something for those who bet online to ponder: Wisconsin failed to cover in each of its last three games and finished 6-7 against the spread in 2021. Five of the last eight games finished within 3½ points of the total.
2022 Wisconsin Schedule
- Sep. 3 vs Illinois State
- Sep. 10 vs Washington State
- Sep. 17 at Ohio State
- Oct. 1 vs Illinois
- Oct. 8 at Northwestern
- Oct. 15 at Michigan State
- Oct. 22 vs Purdue
- Nov. 5 vs Maryland
- Nov. 12 at Iowa
- Nov. 19 at Nebraska
- Nov. 26 vs Minnesota