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The Wisconsin defense is one reason expectations are so high for 2017.

Potential slip-ups on Wisconsin’s 2017 football schedule, Xavier coming to the Kohl Center and more

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the 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 Monday, May 22, and this is what’s for breakfast.

Feeling confident

Wisconsin fans are confident … very confident, in fact. When Las Vegas sportsbook CG Technology released its over/under win totals for the 2017 college football season on Friday, the Badgers’ number was 9.5. That’s 9.5 regular-season wins, so Wisconsin would have to go no worse than 10-2 in the regular season to reach the over. In the 125 years the program has been around, that’s happened six times. And yet, fans that voted in a very unscientific Twitter poll during the weekend overwhelmingly believe coach Paul Chryst & Co. will hit that mark.

What’s to believe the Badgers won’t make it? In a year in which they don’t play a powerhouse nonconference opponent and avoid Big Ten East favorites Ohio State and Penn State, it all sets up pretty nicely for the Badgers to repeat as West Division champions and hit the over.

But of the games that do make up Wisconsin’s schedule, where could the three slip-ups come to make that 85 percent of the fan base wrong? Here are the most likely.

1) vs. Michigan (Nov. 18)

Few teams lost more talent to the NFL than Michigan did with 11 players getting drafted, so year No. 3 in Ann Arbor is going to be a challenge for coach Jim Harbaugh. Still, few expect any significant drop-off simply because of how well he’s recruited, bringing in back-to-back top-10 classes in 2016 and 2017. While their youth may not bode well early in the season, by the time the Wolverines come to Camp Randall Stadium in November, the Wolverines will no longer be a young team.

Michigan will be the most talented team Wisconsin faces and potentially the only matchup where the Badgers will be an underdog. It’s nice that it’s at home, but that guarantees nothing as evidenced by the Wolverines’ 21-5-1 mark all-time in Madison.

2) at Nebraska (Oct. 7)

Wisconsin needed a game-winning field goal from Rafael Gaglianone in 2015 to get out of Lincoln with a win, and the 2017 matchup figures to be tight again as coach Mike Riley and the Huskers continue to get the right players in place to run the schemes they want.

Nebraska will be led be a new quarterback in Tulane transfer Tanner Lee and is making the transition to a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Bob Diaco. With the game so early in the season, that may work in Wisconsin’s favor, but Memorial Stadium is a tough place to win a game and the 2016 overtime loss in Madison likely left a bad taste in the mouths of the Huskers.

3) at BYU (Sept. 16)

The Badgers will head to Provo, Utah, for the first time — ever — to face a BYU squad that will have already been tested in its season opener against LSU. So facing Wisconsin won’t seem like such a daunting task.

The Cougars lost several key players, including new Green Bay Packers RB Jamaal Williams, but they have a lot of experience returning on the offensive line and in their back seven on defense, along with junior QB Tanner Mangum, who’s started 13 games in two seasons.

This will be the first true test of the season for the Badgers and perhaps the best measuring stick of whether they live up to the lofty expectations so many have for them the rest of the season.

Xavier to visit the Kohl Center

The names and faces will be different, but this should still be pretty good. For the first time since Bronson Koenig stunned Xavier with a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, the Musketeers and the Badgers will reportedly meet once again on the court, this time as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games this November.

It’s possible that the only person of consequence from either side still around will be Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who had 18 points and 7 rebounds that night. But that shouldn’t matter. These annual competitions between conferences — be it this one that is Big Ten vs. the Big East or the more-recognized Big Ten/ACC Challenge — are fun for fans and provide opportunities for teams to make statements.

The fact they are played four months before Selection Sunday doesn’t mean that can’t have a big impact on what happens that day. Just look at the Badgers last season. They were unable to capture a key road win against Creighton in the Gavitt Games and got punished for a nonconference schedule that lacked quality victories, helping their slide into a No. 8 seed.

These early-season games are important and are really what starts to shape your tournament résumé.

Season comes to an end

Wisconsin’s softball season came to an end on Sunday in NCAA Tournament regional action thanks to a 9-0 loss to host and third-ranked Oregon. But what ended up being a quiet end to their otherwise noisy run doesn’t take away from an impressive campaign overall for the Badgers. They won 30 or more games for the fifth time in coach Yvette Healy’s seven seasons as coach and went an impressive 18-5 on neutral fields this year.

That said, there has to be a little feeling of what might have been to end the year, as well. The Badgers had a chance to beat Oregon on Saturday in the winners’ bracket, leading 5-3 in the seventh inning. They needed just one more out to pull the upset but couldn’t get it, as the Ducks scored 2 runs to force the game into extra innings. There, Oregon got what proved to be the game-winning run in the eighth inning on a controversial play at the plate when the umpire called catcher Chloe Miller for obstruction. Healy had words for the umpire, but to no avail.

Who knows how the rest of the game plays out, but if you’re going to lose in that situation, you’d like it to be without debate.

In the end, Wisconsin can be proud of its season, as it matched the deepest any Badgers team had gone in the tournament since the program started in 1996.

Catching up

  • From Wisconsin hockey gets a commitment from 15-year-old Minnesotan.
  • Over at A story on former Wisconsin CB Sojourn Shelton showing the same confidence in the NFL that made him an All-Big Ten player.
  • Former Wisconsin LT Ryan Ramczyk is taking advantage of all the resources possible in his transition to the pro game, writes Joel A. Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate.