Ask any college football pundit and they will tell you the best offensive line unit in College Football resides in Madison, Wisconsin.
The Badgers had a 13-1 season last year and won the Big Ten West. They narrowly and some, including me, say were unlucky not to be a play-off team. A win in the Orange Bowl against the hotly tipped Miami Hurricanes was the least the Badgers deserved.
This year at O-line they have an embarrassment of riches. Importantly, three all American’s are returning for their senior years opting not to follow the NFL road to riches.
Last year the Badgers O line allowed only 21 sacks and averaged 5 yards per carry. In 14 games.
Center Tyler Biadasz returns for his Sophomore year having had a blistering start to his Badgers career starting in all 14 games, winning the Big 10 W, the Orange Bowl and becoming an All American as a freshman. Michael Deiter returns for his senior year, already as a two time All American. Last year Deiter played at left tackle but this isn’t regarded as his best position.
And this is where it gets tricky for Offensive co-ordinator Joe “Rudy” Rudolph. Rudy has consistently said that he will play his best 5 linemen irrespective of their position resulting in almighty competition for just 5 starting positions. Take for example senior Micah Kapoi who has 14 starts and has played in 34 games but is considered as far down as 8-10 on the depth chart.
Michael Deiter has caught the attention of NFL scouts but not at left tackle. He is being projected as an NFL interior lineman which was the prime motivation for his return to school. A further year in Madison will afford him the time to transition to guard.
And all this without mentioning Heisman touted running back Jonathan Taylor, who many consider will prove to be the best running back in FBS this year. Taylor is on record as saying he was hesitant to run through the holes his O line were creating for fear it was a trap. “I didn’t think a hole was supposed to be that big”, Taylor said. But it was, and he took advantage of the work the big guys were putting in. As a freshman Taylor set a major college record for a freshman recording 1,977 yards last season. You can understand why excitement is building in Camp Randall.
The Badgers start their season at home to Western Kentucky. They then travel to New Mexico and BYU. Aside from the altitude, there should be no problems for the Badgers in those first three games. But it gets more serious after that. Iowa visit Madison in late September, followed by a trip to Scott Frost’s Nebraska and then Michigan make the trip to the Badgers. We will know by that time if they are contenders or pretenders. It’s Big Ten from there on in with games against Penn State and Purdue being the stand outs. But if the Badgers maintain the same form as last year, then a third straight Big Ten West is entirely possible and surely a play off berth. Surely.
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