The Wisconsin Badgers' 2016 schedule features four teams ranked in the top 11 of the preseason coaches poll -- in the first six weeks of the season. The schedule gets easier in the second half of the season but not before matchups vs. 15th-ranked Iowa and Nebraska. Read on for a more detailed breakdown of the team's 2016 opponents.
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Sept. 3: vs. No. 6 LSU (at Lambeau Field)
2015 record: 9-3, 5-3 SEC (Defeated Texas Tech 56-27 in Texas Bowl) Key returners: Junior RB Leonard Fournette (300 rushes, 1,953 yards, 22 touchdowns in 2015), junior quarterback Brandon Harris (12 starts in 2015, 149-277, 2,165 yards, 13 touchdowns, six interceptions, senior defensive end Lewis Neal (48 tackles, 9 1/2 tackles for a loss, eight sacks). Notable: LSU will bring an experienced squad with 17 returning players who started much of 2015 into the opener at Lambeau Field. The team started last season 7-0 before consecutive losses to Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. . . . Ex-Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will lead the Tigers' defense in game action for the first time, after coaching at Wisconsin for the past three seasons. . . . Wisconsin is 0-3 all time vs. LSU, having lost to the Tigers in 1971, 1972 and 2014. . . . LSU rallied to defeat the Badgers 28-24 in 2014 in Houston, after trailing by 11 heading into the fourth quarter.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Sept. 10: vs. Akron (Camp Randall Stadium)
2015 record: 8-5, 5-3 MAC (Defeated Utah State 23-21 in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) Key returners: Junior QB Thomas Woodson (52.8 completion percentage, 169.4 passing yards, 46.2 rushing yards per game, 16 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), junior WR/LB Jerome Lane (39 catches, 60.2 yards per game, eight touchdowns), senior CB DeAndre Scott (six interceptions, 11 pass breakups). Notable: Akron won five straight games to end last season after starting 3-5. . . . The Zips graduated their leading rusher and top three tacklers. . . . Wisconsin is 2-0 all time vs. Akron, having played the Zips in 2003 and 2008.
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Sept. 17: vs. Georgia State (Camp Randall Stadium)
2015 record: 6-7, 5-3 Sun Belt (Lost 27-16 to San Jose State in Cure Bowl) Key returners: Sophomore WR Penny Hart (71 receptions, 1,099 yards, eight touchdowns, Sun Belt Freshman of the Year in 2015), redshirt senior LB Alonzo McGee (12 1/2 tackles for a loss, 70 tackles) Notable: Georgia State has had a football program for just six years and last year made its first bowl game. . . . The Panthers won four straight games last year before their bowl game loss. . . . Georgia State had the ninth-most passing yards in the Football Bowl Subdivision last year with 4,367, led by senior quarterback Nick Arbuckle. They also had 28 passing touchdowns. . . . Wisconsin has never played the Panthers.
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Sept. 24: at No. 11 Michigan State (East Lansing, Mich.)
2015 record: 12-2, 7-1 Big Ten (Lost 38-0 to Alabama in College Football Playoff Semifinal) Key returners: Senior LB Riley Bullough (106 tackles, four sacks), senior CB/S Demetrious Cox (79 tackles, three interceptions), sophomore RB LJ Scott (146 carries, 699 yards, 11 touchdowns). Notable: Michigan State has finished ranked in the nation's top 10 for the past three seasons and is 36-5 since 2013. The team returns 12 starts but needs to replace three-year starting quarterback Connor Cook, Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year Aaron Burbridge and All-American offensive linemen Jack Allen and Jack Conklin. . . . The Spartans defeated Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game last season, their second conference title in three seasons. . . . The Badgers are 22-30 all time vs. Michigan State and lost played the Spartans in 2012, losing 16-13 in overtime at Camp Randall Stadium.
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Oct. 1: at No. 8 Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
2015 record: 10-3, 6-2 Big Ten (Defeated Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl) Key returners: Senior RB De'Veon Smith (180 carries, 753 rushes, six touchdowns), junior LB/DB Jabrill Peppers (45 tackles, 10 pass deflections, two rushing touchdowns), senior DE Chris Wormley (43 tackles, 14 1/2 tackles for a loss, 6 1/2 sacks). Notable: The Wolverines began last season 5-1 under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh before a dramatic, last-play loss to Michigan State. Senior quarterback Jake Rudock led the offense, throwing for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns. . . . Wisconsin is 14-49-1 all time vs. Michigan and 7-27 in Ann Arbor. The Badgers have won two straight against the Wolverines, however, but haven't played them since 2010.
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Oct. 15: vs. No. 5 Ohio State (Camp Randall Stadium)
2015 record: 12-1, 7-1 Big Ten (Defeated Notre Dame 44-28 in the Fiesta Bowl) Key returners: Junior QB J.T. Barrett (11 touchdown passes, 11 rushing touchdowns in 2015), junior DL Tyquan Lewis (54 tackles, eight sacks), junior LB Raekwon McMillan (119 tackles, four pass breakups). Notable: The Buckeyes lost 16 starters from last year's squad, including five players picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. That list included third-overall pick Joey Bosa, fourth-overall pick Ezekiel Elliott and 10th overall pick Eli Apple. The team had 12 players in total selected in the Draft. . . . The Buckeyes won 10 straight to start last season before losing 17-14 to Michigan State at home. They need to replace their top rusher (Elliott), top passer (Cardale Jones) and top receiver (Michael Thomas). . . . Wisconsin is 18-57-5 all time vs. Ohio State and has lost four straight to the Buckeyes, including a 59-0 drubbing in the 2014 Big Ten Championship game.
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Oct. 22: at No. 15 Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa)
2015 record: 12-2, 8-0 Big Ten (Lost 45-16 to Stanford in the Rose Bowl) Key returners: Senior QB C.J. Beathard (2,809 yards, 17 touchdowns in 2015), junior LB Josey Jewell (126 tackles, four interceptions), junior DB Desmond King (72 tackles, eight interceptions, one touchdown). Notable: The Hawkeyes had a school-record 12 wins in 2015 after starting the season 12-0. The team returns seven starters both on offense and defense, including King, a consensus All-American. . . . Iowa faced just two ranked opponents (Wisconsin and Northwestern) in its first 10 games last season before losing its final two to Michigan State and Stanford, both ranked fifth at the time. . . . The Badgers are 44-43-2 all time vs. Iowa, having most recently lost 10-6 to the Badgers last year at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin had won three straight over the Hawkeyes before that.
2015 record: 6-7, 3-5 Big Ten (Defeated UCLA 37-29 in the Foster Farms Bowl) Key returners: Senior QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. (3,030 passing yards, 22 touchdowns), senior RB Terrell Newby (924 yards from scrimmage, seven touchdowns), senior DB/S Nathan Gerry (79 tackles, four interceptions). Notable: The Cornhuskers finished with a sub-.500 record in 2015 for the first time in eight seasons under first-year coach Mike Riley. . . . Nebraska returns its leading passer (Armstrong), rusher (Newby) and receiver (Jordan Westerkamp) from last season. . . . Wisconsin is 6-4 all time vs. the Cornhuskers and has won three straight, including a 23-21 victory in Lincoln, Neb., last year.
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Nov. 5: at Northwestern (Evanston, Ill.)
2015 record: 10-3, 6-2 Big Ten (Lost 45-6 to Tennessee in Outback Bowl) Key returners: Junior RB Justin Jackson (1,418 rushing yards, five touchdowns), junior LB Anthony Walker (120 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss), senior CB Matthew Harris (48 tackles, four interceptions). Notable: Northwestern in 2015 won 10 games for the third time in school history, finishing the season ranked 23rd in the country. The team returns seven offensive starters, including quarterback Clayton Thorson and Jackson, and four defensive starters, including four-year starter Dan Vitale. . . . The Badgers are 57-35-5 all-time vs. Northwestern but have lost two straight to the Wildcats, including a 13-7 loss last year at Camp Randall Stadium.
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Nov. 12: vs. Illinois (Camp Randall Stadium)
2015 record: 5-7, 2-6 Big Ten Key returners: Senior QB Wes Lunt (2,761 yards, 14 touchdowns), sophomore RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn (842 yards from scrimmage, six touchdowns), senior LB T.J. Neal (109 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss). Notable: Illinois hasn't posted a winning record since 2011 when it went 7-6. . . . The team returns seven offensive starters and four defensive starters for first-year head coach Lovie Smith, who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl as coach. . . . Wisconsin is 39-36-7 all time vs. Illinois and has won six straight and 10 of 11 over the Fighting Illini.
Nov. 19: at Purdue (West Lafayette, Ind.)
2015 record: 2-10, 1-7 Big Ten Key returners: Sophomore RB Markell Jones (1,114 yards from scrimmage, 11 touchdowns), senior DB/S Leroy Clark (88 tackles, two interceptions). Notable: The Boilermakers return 19 starters from last year's squad that one just one conference game. The team has won just six games over the past three seasons while losing 30. . . . The Badgers are 46-29-8 all time vs. Purdue and have won 10 straight meetings vs. the Boilermakers dating back to 2003. Wisconsin has played Purdue seven straight seasons.
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Nov. 26: vs. Minnesota (Camp Randall Stadium)
Key returners: Senior QB Mitch Leidner (2,701 passing yards, 14 touchdowns in 2015), sophomore RB Rodney Smith (794 yards from scrimmage, two touchdowns), junior LB Cody Poock (99 tackles, 5 1/2 tackles for a loss). Notable: Gophers coach Jerry Kill retired midway through last season because of health issues, and interim coach Tracy Claeys became permanent coach later in the season. The team averaged 22.5 points per game in 2015, ranked 106th in the country. . . . Leidner will lead the Gophers offense for a third straight year, but he will be without last year's top wide receiver, K.J. Maye. . . . The Gophers do not play Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State this season. . . . Wisconsin is 58-59-8 all time vs. the Gophers dating back to 1890 and has won 12 straight meetings over Minnesota dating back to 2004. The teams have played each other each year since 2006.
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