Season preview: Wisconsin seeks to reclaim Big Ten contender status Wisconsin News

MADISON, Wisconsin— Wisconsin used to make trips to the Big Ten championship game an almost annual excursion.

After playing five of the first seven games in the Big Ten Championship, the Badgers have only been to Indianapolis once in the past four years. They missed a chance to get there last year when they lost to Minnesota in their regular season finale.

This gives them extra incentive as they enter the Western Division favorites once again this season. The Badgers, ranked 18th, would prefer to go further.

“The goal is to win the Big Ten, obviously,” running back Braelon Allen said. “That hasn’t been done in 10 years. That’s definitely the main focus and something we’ve been pushing all summer, our desire to be in Indianapolis and win a Big Ten championship.”

Wisconsin will need consistency, which the Badgers lacked a year ago.

They lost three of their first four games before winning seven in a row once Allen landed a starring role. Then their offense exploded in Minnesota ahead of a Las Vegas Bowl win over Arizona State.

Wisconsin will try to produce a quicker start with plenty of new faces.

Coach Paul Chryst brought in former Baltimore Ravens tight ends coach Bobby Engram as offensive coordinator. On defense, the Badgers must replace eight of the top 10 tacklers in a unit that gave up the fewest yards per game and yards per play of any Football Bowl Subdivision team last season.

The defense’s inexperience means the offense needs to perform better.

Allen rushed for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns as a rookie. He’s enjoying the return of Chez Mellusi, who rushed for 815 yards in nine games last season before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.

Mellusi could only watch last year as Wisconsin struggled at Minnesota when Allen was held in check.

“I was sitting on the couch,” Mellusi said. “I was at home watching this game. So it was very difficult for me. It was difficult. Not even me, I think everyone in this team is going to do everything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Graham Mertz is entering his third season as the starting quarterback for Wisconsin, realizing he needs to become more stable.

About Marc Womack

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