We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.
Today is Tuesday, Jan. 10, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
It can be done
No one will ever confuse Clemson for a college football powerhouse. There is no doubt the recent success under Dabo Swinney has been remarkable, culminating in a thrilling 35-31 win against Alabama on Monday night to claim the national title. But when you think of blue bloods of college football, it’s schools like Alabama, USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas and several more that come to mind. Each has had its ups and downs, but never lost that pedigree.
So, it begs the question. If Clemson, a middling program for much of the first 10 years of the century, can take home the top prize, can a school like Wisconsin do the same?
Do you think Wisconsin will ever win a national title in football?
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) January 10, 2017
The pessimists will slam the idea as foolhardy, pointing to the inherent disadvantages that face Wisconsin, a lack of fertile recruiting ground in the state, inability to bring in top-level talent from other parts of the country and academic standards that are higher than most.
And they would be right. All of those challenges are difficult to overcome.
But it isn’t impossible, as previous Wisconsin teams have shown. Consider 2010, when the Badgers finished the regular season with just one loss and ranked in the top 5 of the national polls, or in 2011 when a pair of Hail Mary’s on back-to-back weeks in October dashed any title thoughts.
Even this year is relevant, because this Wisconsin team lost three games all by a touchdown to teams that finished ranked in the top 10. A break here or there and the Badgers would have been in the conversation in all three years.
There is no doubt it takes something special to make a run like Clemson did these past two years. Everything has to come together perfectly, and you probably need a transcendent star like the Tigers have in quarterback Deshaun Watson. Wisconsin had that in Russell Wilson for one year, but not the defense to go along with it. Clemson had both this year, and it got the job done.
None of this is say that Wisconsin will be the last one standing in a season anytime soon, but Clemson showed that Wisconsin — and other programs like it — have a chance to crash the party every once in a while.
Is it unlikely? Sure. But impossible? No.
Looking to 2017
With the 2016 college football season officially in the books following the national title game on Monday night, many are already looking toward the 2017 season and who might be lifting the hardware like Clemson did. A flurry of ‘Way-too-early-Top-25’ polls were released in recent days and at least one casino in Las Vegas has set the odds for next year’s national champion.
Here’s a look at where Wisconsin fits in:
- ESPN: No. 9
- Sporting News: No. 13
- Land of 10: No. 13
- USA Today: No. 12
- Athlon: No. 9
- Campus Insiders: No. 9
Next year’s title odds continued: Ga/VT/Wash 40-1, UF/KSU/Tenn/UCLA 50-1, Miami/ND/WVU/Wis 60-1, Ore/Stan/TCU/WSU 80-1 via @LVSuperBook
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) January 9, 2017
If this season taught us anything, it’s that preseason rankings — especially ones that are done nine months before the season begins — aren’t worth getting worked up over. Still, what these rankings are good for is building excitement and hype around teams, and it’s clear — based on these rankings — that Wisconsin fans have plenty to look forward to next fall.
In general, it’s hard to disagree with where many projections have the Badgers. The mid-teens seem appropriate considering what the team accomplished this year and what they have returning. Certainly, you can’t overlook what they lose in outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel, running back Corey Clement, cornerback Sojourn Shelton, safety Leo Musso and likely left tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Those losses alone should keep them outside of the top 10, but with their top receiving options back, most of the offensive line and defensive front seven, along with promising young guys on the back end in the secondary, anything lower than 20 should be considered an insult.
Many figured Wisconsin was a year early with all of its success this year, with close observers of the program pointing to 2017 as the season the team could make noise on a national level.
Clearly, that remains the case.
Another in the bucket
Wisconsin’s 2017 recruiting class isn’t going to be a big one, but it did add another member on Monday in the form of 3-star safety Scott Nelson. The Detroit Jesuit product chose the Badgers while also holding scholarship offers from Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State and many more.
— Scotty Nelson 1️⃣0️⃣ (@_scottnelson) January 9, 2017
Nelson is a nice player, ranked as the 59th best safety in the country by 247Sports and should be a good addition to a class that is rated 44th in the nation. But the timing of his commitment could also potentially be very telling.
Earlier on Monday, North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky announced he’d be forgoing his final college season and entering the NFL draft. It was an expected move, but also one that former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire was surely waiting for.
Though he put off announcing where he’ll be transferring for his final year, it was thought that it was down to Wisconsin and North Carolina, with the deciding factor being whether Trubisky was still around. Now that he’s gone, the Tar Heels would seemingly be Zaire’s landing spot.
Did that knowledge allow Wisconsin to move on and accept Nelson’s commitment? The timing suggests that’s the case. And it also means that with Zaire headed elsewhere, the Badgers won’t be getting any significant competition for sophomore-to-be Alex Hornibrook to battle in the spring or fall.
It took several months, but Jared Abbrederis is back in the NFL.
The former Wisconsin standout was cut by the Green Bay Packers in October after spending his first two seasons with them and has been out of football since, partly due to his recovery from a leg injury. But on Monday, Abbrederis found a home, signing with the Detroit Lions.
I am also very thankful and excited to be joining the @Lions! Can't wait to start the new journey with my new team! Time to get to work!
— Jared Abbrederis (@abbrecadabra) January 9, 2017
That Abbrederis is back in the league — even if it is part of an expanded offseason roster — is a great thing for him. It was a numbers game in Green Bay, and he turned out to be expendable. But it’s impossible not to worry about his health. Though he officially had just one concussion while at Wisconsin, the wide receiver suffered multiple head injuries during his time in Madison. And then after missing his entire rookie year following a torn ACL, he missed a month of training camp in the fall of 2015 due to a concussion.
Talent has rarely been the question for the 26-year-old. It’s all about whether he can stay healthy enough to be on the field. If he does that for Detroit, he’ll make an impact. If not, then he’ll be looking for work once again and running out of options.
- Here’s how every Big Ten team can claim a transitive national title following Clemson’s win on Monday.
- As Wisconsin found out, splitting a pair of road games against ranked opponents apparently leads to a small tumble in the national polls.
- Former Badgers Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky will meet on the court for the first time in their professional careers on Tuesday night, but on Monday they took a step back in time.