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Badgers among college football elite

Jun. 22, 2008 @ 12:18 AM

HUNTINGTON – Continuity is rare within college football’s evolving landscape.
The University of Wisconsin has achieved just that, even following the transition of replacing a legendary head coach. Entering his third season, coach Bret Bielema has maintained the Badgers’ standing among the Big Ten elite.

HUNTINGTON – Continuity is rare within college football’s evolving landscape.

The University of Wisconsin has achieved just that, even following the transition of replacing a legendary head coach. Entering his third season, coach Bret Bielema has maintained the Badgers’ standing among the Big Ten elite.

Southern California and West Virginia join Wisconsin as the lone programs to earn January bowl bids the past four seasons. Wisconsin is riding a run of four straight nine-win seasons, unprecedented in program history.

Power running behind a massive, relentless offensive line and defensive speed continue to spell Badger success, and the formula appears set for 2008. Marshall University travels to Madison for the first time this season for a Sept. 6 non-conference matchup.

Wisconsin merely returns 17 starters from last season’s 9-4 squad that lost 21-17 to Tennessee in the 2008 Outback Bowl. Back are four offensive linemen, headed by Outland Award candidate Kraig Urbik, plowing gaps for a proven power running back.

P.J. Hill experimented with trimming weight and adding elusiveness to his game last year, but is regarded as more effective between the tackles. He rushed for 1,212 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, averaging 5.2 yards a carry.

Quarterback is something of a question in Tyler Donovan’s absence, but ball control should help ease concerns early. Wisconsin led the nation in time of possession last year, holding the ball for 33:44 a game.

Following spring practice, Bielema was non-committal in naming Donovan’s replacement.
“ We probably will kind of approach it similar to what we did a year ago as far as naming a starter,” he said. “We will get into fall camp, see where the guys are at, see who is consistent and name a starter probably two weeks out from the game.”

Defensively, Bielema’s team is just as sturdy at least. Three linemen, three linebackers and three defensive backs return as starters from a unit that allowed 23.2 points and 356.6 yards a game.

Versatile defensive end Matt Shaughnessy has been named to the Bronko Nagurski Award watch list following his standout ’08 season. Shaughnessy totaled 18 tackles for loss last year, earned second-team All Big Ten honors. He suffered a broken bone in his right leg during spring practice but is expected to return for preseason camp.

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas has been named to the Lott Award watch list.

Wisconsin traditionally is sound in special teams but must replace placekicker Taylor Mehlhaff and punter Ken DeBauche.

The Badgers open the season Aug. 30 at home against Akron before hosting Marshall. UW has posted consecutive 7-0 records at Camp Randall Stadium and its 14-game home winning streak is second in the nation to Oklahoma (17). Wisconsin is 25-1 at home during the past four seasons.


Southern California and West Virginia join Wisconsin as the lone programs to earn January bowl bids the past four seasons. Wisconsin is riding a run of four straight nine-win seasons, unprecedented in program history.
Power running behind a massive, relentless offensive line and defensive speed continue to spell Badger success, and the formula appears set for 2008. Marshall University travels to Madison for the first time this season for a Sept. 6 non-conference matchup.
Wisconsin merely returns 17 starters from last season’s 9-4 squad that lost 21-17 to Tennessee in the 2008 Outback Bowl. Back are four offensive linemen, headed by Outland Award candidate Kraig Urbik, plowing gaps for a proven power running back.
P.J. Hill experimented with trimming weight and adding elusiveness to his game last year, but is regarded as more effective between the tackles. He rushed for 1,212 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, averaging 5.2 yards a carry.
Quarterback is something of a question in Tyler Donovan’s absence, but ball control should help ease concerns early. Wisconsin led the nation in time of possession last year, holding the ball for 33:44 a game.
Following spring practice, Bielema was non-committal in naming Donovan’s replacement.
“ We probably will kind of approach it similar to what we did a year ago as far as naming a starter,” he said. “We will get into fall camp, see where the guys are at, see who is consistent and name a starter probably two weeks out from the game.”
Defensively, Bielema’s team is just as sturdy at least. Three linemen, three linebackers and three defensive backs return as starters from a unit that allowed 23.2 points and 356.6 yards a game.
Versatile defensive end Matt Shaughnessy has been named to the Bronko Nagurski Award watch list following his standout ’08 season. Shaughnessy totaled 18 tackles for loss last year, earned second-team All Big Ten honors. He suffered a broken bone in his right leg during spring practice but is expected to return for preseason camp.
Linebacker Jonathan Casillas has been named to the Lott Award watch list.
Wisconsin traditionally is sound in special teams but must replace placekicker Taylor Mehlhaff and punter Ken DeBauche.
The Badgers open the season Aug. 30 at home against Akron before hosting Marshall. UW has posted consecutive 7-0 records at Camp Randall Stadium and its 14-game home winning streak is second in the nation to Oklahoma (17). Wisconsin is 25-1 at home during the past four seasons.

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