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Wake Forest Football: Previewing the Wisconsin Defense

The Badger defense has been very good this season

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

We hit the Wisconsin offense yesterday, which means—you guessed it—today we’ll take a quick look at the Badgers’ defense. In case you didn’t already know, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons are taking on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl this Wednesday at noon.

The Badgers’ defense has been one of the best in all of college football this season. With just 6 games played, Wisconsin ranks 6th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 15.7 points per game, and 1st in the nation in total defense, allowing 263.5 yards per game. The fact that the offense leads the nation in time of possession undoubtedly helps their totals, but the Badgers are also holding opponents to just 4.8 yards per play, the 13th best average in the nation. In the passing game, the Badgers are allowing opponents to complete just 51.8% of their passes (6th in the nation) for 169.8 passing yards per game (also 6th). On the ground, their defense is even better, allowing just 93.7 rushing yards per game (also 6th again) and just 3.4 yards per carry (20th). Some good news for the Deacs is that the Badgers average just 1.6 sacks per game (95th) and 1.3 turnovers forced per game (72nd). That being said, this is a very tough defense and moving the ball could be an uphill battle come Wednesday.

The Badgers have the luxury of two very talented linebackers anchoring their defense. Sophomore Leo Chenal finished the season with 35 total tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and 1 interception in Wisconsin’s 6 games this season. He is aided by junior Jack Sanborn, who was voted 3rd Team All-Big Ten with 41 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 sack this season. Also on the All-Big Ten 3rd team is senior DE Isaiahh Loudermilk. Loudermilk finished the season with just 13 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks this season. Obviously none of these players are putting up eye popping stats, because the Badgers only played 6 games this season and their offense controls the ball for over half the game. That, of course, does not mean that they are not talented players.

On paper, this Wisconsin defense is exceptional. However, the 6 teams they played this season did not exactly set the world on fire offensively. Here’s a quick breakdown of the teams the Badgers faced:

This is not to say that the Wisconsin defense is not good, but more that they may not be as good as the statistics claim, simply due to their schedule. Looking at that list of their 2020 opponents, the Badgers did not face any opponents with a similar style of offense to that of Wake Forest, and only Iowa cracked the top 50 in points per game OR yards per game. Since nonconference games were basically nonexistent this season, it is almost impossible to determine how the different conferences stack up against one another. That makes it really difficult to predict how the top ranked Badgers defense will perform against a top 50, fast paced Wake Forest offense. I guess we will have to wait and find out.