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 Wednesday, Nov. 2, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
A good starting spot
Many players on the Wisconsin football team said this week they had no intention of watching or paying attention to the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings. But if they had watched, most of them likely would have been nodding their heads up and down, agreeing with the No. 8 spot Wisconsin held when the order was unveiled Tuesday night.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 1, 2016
The Badgers are the highest-ranked two-loss team in the country, one spot ahead of 6-2 Auburn, and behind the two squads that beat them — No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Ohio State. And it also puts Wisconsin in a perfect starting spot to throw a wrench into the whole thing and become the first team with more than one loss to make the playoff.
It’s certainly way out there, and the chances are slim, but if the Badgers somehow manage to make the Big Ten title game — likely by winning out and having Nebraska lose once — then coach Paul Chryst and his team will potentially get a chance to face the Wolverines or Buckeyes again. A win over either in Indianapolis would almost surely give the Badgers four top-10 wins on the year and few, if any, teams could have a better resume.
In the end, whichever team wins the Big Ten championship is almost certainly getting into the playoff, outside of a team like Minnesota crashing the party with an unlikely berth into the title game and pulling off the upset of all upsets.
So the path is there for the Badgers. Now it’s just a matter of not tripping up before getting to Lucas Oil Stadium, starting this Saturday at Northwestern.
New Jersey running back commits
Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement are all names that have graced the Wisconsin backfield in recent years. It’s a group, along with their predecessors like Ron Dayne, Anthony Davis and Brian Calhoun, that have made Madison one of the best places to play running back. The names and success should draw recruits to town on its own, but for the past 18 months that hasn’t been the case. Or more accurately, hadn’t been the case.
— Ryan Bartow (@RyanBartow) November 2, 2016
On Tuesday, Wisconsin got a commitment from 3-star running back Jonathan Taylor from Salem (N.J.) High School, just two days after he decommitted from Rutgers. Taylor isn’t the highest-ranked running back Wisconsin has gotten, but after its recent hauls, it’s a step in the right direction.
Recruiting a tailback shouldn’t be difficult for the Badgers. The program can sell playing time, carries and history. The 2012 Big Ten title game, where Ball, White and Gordon all went over the 100-yard mark, sealed the deal for Clement.
With the success of Gordon — rushing for more than 2,500 yards and being the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2014 — there should have been a cascade of running back prospects wanting to play for the Badgers. But that didn’t happen, and after losing long-time commit Antonio Williams in the class of 2016 to Ohio State, Wisconsin had to settle for Sam Brodner, who may end up at fullback.
Chryst and his staff had struck out on running backs in 2017 as well until Taylor’s announcement on Tuesday. It’s a start in reestablishing Wisconsin as a destination for high-profile recruits who want to see the ball a lot and end up in the NFL like Ball, White and Gordon did.
Ryan Ramczyk doesn’t like to talk about himself, so you can imagine how uncomfortable he is when asked about all the praise he’s received just eight games into his career as Wisconsin’s starting left tackle. A fixture on midseason All-American teams and listed by ESPN as one of the fastest risers for the 2017 NFL Draft, the junior has gone from Division III UW-Stevens Point to potential first-round pick in less than two years.
PC on Ryan Ramczyk: Been fun to see him play this yr. He's taken each week and embraced the challenges they bring. Playing good football.
— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) October 31, 2016
“No, I really didn’t,” Ramczyk said when asked if he anticipated such a quick climb to his current status. “It’s been kind of chaotic.”
It has and it’s all due to Ramczyk’s stellar play at what many consider the toughest position on the offensive line. He’s slowed talented rushers and opened up holes against guys from LSU, Michigan State, Ohio State and Nebraska as the Badgers have gotten more and more recognition on a national scale. And that’s led to more eyes on a guy that just a few years ago was planning on becoming a welder for a living. Now, outlets like SI.com have him listed in the first round of their latest mock drafts.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) October 28, 2016
Ramczyk had no interest in talking about leaving school a year early and declaring for the draft. He said it’s a discussion he’ll save for after the season, and one that will involve his coaches, parents and anyone else that needs to be. But asked whether he felt he was ready for the NFL, the 6-foot-5, 315-pound, Ramczyk smiled and said, “Yeah, I think I’m ready for anything.”
If Ramczyk finishes off the season like he started it, a first-round grade seems like a very good possibility. And in that case, there is no way he should come back for his senior season. Wisconsin fans should enjoy him while they can.
Northwestern … a rival?
A week after having to ask the question whether Wisconsin-Nebraska was a rivalry — it’s not, by the way — Badgers fans are presented with another are-they-or-aren’t-they with a game against Northwestern.
“I would definitely call this a rivalry,” Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale said Monday. “Two good teams playing, two Big Ten West teams and we’re close. It’s got all the things that make a rivalry.”
It does have all the right ingredients, including long-tern history and an especially difficult and terrorizing recent history on the Wisconsin side of the things. The Badgers have lost the last two games in the series — the most recent one coming in agonizing fashion last year as Wisconsin had three different touchdowns taken off the board by replay review and lost by six.
“That sucked last year,” running back Corey Clement said. “The refs called what they called. Saturday’s a new day. Hopefully we come out with a victory.”
There is no trophy or clever name tied to the matchup with the Wildcats. But the record over the last 25 games — Northwestern leads 13-12 — and the very entertaining battles nearly every season, make this series more interesting and meaningful than anything Wisconsin has going with Nebraska. At least for now.
- A few good minutes with Nebraska CB Chris Jones
- Former Nebraska LB says the Huskers need to bring a ‘baseball-bat mentality’ to Ohio State
- Iowa planning on putting a pair of playmakers on the field at the same time
- What does Ohio State need to do to make the College Football Playoff?
- Alabama, Michigan could be on a collision course for epic defensive showdown