Badgers way-too-early 2019 top-25 rankings roundup

The 2018 college football season has officially come to an end. So of course, it’s time to look ahead to the 2019 season.

At least that’s what many college football analysts do immediately after the national championship game.

And thus we have a slew of way-too-early top-25 rankings (or some such name) to wade through.

While Wisconsin was highly thought of going into this past season, it’s no surprise there’s some trepidation heading into next year. However, of the 16 “early top 25s” we found for 2019, only one doesn’t have the Badgers ranked. Wisconsin falls between 14-23 in the other 15 rankings.

On average, UW is ranked 18th (OK, 17.9 but we rounded up).

Here’s all 16 rankings, from best to worst, with the analysis from each, where applicable:

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Wayne Staats of 14. “The Badgers were supposed to be in the CFP chase but instead fell to 8-5, even with RB Jonathan Taylor winning the Doak Walker Award. Jon Dietzen will keep Wisconsin’s offensive line a force, even with departures. But it’s all about the quarterback. Alex Hornibrook struggled (13 TDs, 11 interceptions, 59.5 completion percentage), though Jack Coan led the team in the Pinstripe Bowl win against Miami.”


Chris Hummer of 247Sports: 15. “That an 8-5 season was cause for disappointment in Madison is a testament to the consistency of the Badgers’ program over the last decade. Expect Wisconsin to return to its double-digit win norm in 2019 as long as a QB solution is found. Be it Alex Hornibrook, Jack Coan or even incoming freshman Graham Mertz, who killed it at the All-American Bowl, the Badgers must get better under center to reach their ceiling. There’s plenty of talent returning around that trio, including college football’s best running back (Jonathan Taylor), the starting tight ends and receivers along with a different but no less talented offensive line (five-star Logan Brown is a plug-and-play type player at tackle). Defense is where the question marks arise, specifically at linebacker. Wisconsin, which seems to just manufacture impact linebackers, is losing two great ones in T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. That’s 201 tackles and 21.5 tackles for loss walking out the door on the inside. You can’t really replace that. The Badgers need Chris Orr to step up and lead a young group, and the defensive line must get better. Wisconsin finished 54th nationally against the run, well below its ranking at third nationally in 2017. Plug that hole and find a QB, and Wisconsin should again be considered the Big Ten West favorite.”


Scooby Axson of 17. “The difference between Wisconsin contending for a Big Ten title and spending a second straight year in mediocrity will be competent quarterback play. Alex Hornibrook’s penchant for turnovers doomed this year’s team, and his replacement Jack Coan did the best he could under the circumstances. The Badgers will once again hitch their fortunes to running back Jonathan Taylor, who is hoping to become the first back with back–to–back 2,000-yard seasons since Iowa State’s Troy Davis accomplished the feat in 1995 and ’96. There will be some new faces on the offensive line blocking for Taylor.”


Dennis Dodd of 17. “Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Walker returns for another run at 2,000 yards. Quarterback remains a huge question mark with Alex Hornibrook slipping back last season. The Badgers should get back to being the class of the Big Ten West.”


Patrick Stevens of the Washington Post: 17. “Too. Many. Injuries. Plain and simple, the Badgers were snakebit in 2018. But they haven’t dropped five games in consecutive seasons since 2002-03 and the Big Ten West remains wide open. Look for a bounce-back year in Madison.”


Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: 17. “Jonathan Taylor is back at RB and should be a Heisman contender. He should also carry the Badgers as far as they can go.”


Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports: 18. “The Badgers were projected to be a top-10 team in 2018 but fell short in a disappointing 8-5 season. Can coach Paul Chryst get this team back on track? As usual, the ground game will be the strength of the offense. Running back Jonathan Taylor should be a first-team All-American after rushing for 2,194 yards and 16 touchdowns this fall. The offensive line is slated to lose standout guards Michael Deiter and Beau Benzschawel, but center Tyler Biadaz is among the best in the nation and announced his return for ’19. Jon Dietzen could slide from tackle to guard, with Cole Van Lanen anchoring the edge at tackle after David Edwards left early for the NFL. In order for Wisconsin to get back to the top of the Big Ten West standings, Chryst has to get more out of his passing game. Alex Hornibrook did not play in the Pinstripe Bowl due to concussion symptoms, and his status for 2019 is unknown. If Hornibrook is sidelined, junior Jack Coan (515 passing yards and 5 TDs) or freshman Graham Mertz could get the nod under center. The team’s top four pass catchers are back, including tight end Jake Ferguson and wide receiver A.J. Taylor. Despite losing a ton of talent from its 2017 unit, Wisconsin still held teams to 22.6 points a game in ’18. Coordinator Jim Leonhard will have to replace standout linebackers T.J. Edwards, Andrew Van Ginkel and Ryan Connelly, safety D’Cota Dixon and tackle Olive Sagapolu. A healthy year from Isaiahh Loudermilk and Garrett Rand will stabilize the trenches, while most of the secondary returns, including promising safety Scott Nelson. The Badgers catch Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan in crossover play and have to play at Nebraska and Minnesota.”


Steve Petrella of The Action Network: 18. “The Badgers probably won’t be this bad on defense again, but they do get Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State in crossover play.”


Craig Stephenson of 20. “The Badgers were a huge disappointment in 2018, falling from Top 5 in the preseason to 8-5 at the end. Still, 2,000-yard rusher Jonathan Taylor is among 15 starters expected back next season.”


Mark Schlabach of 21. “The bad news: The Badgers will have to rebuild their stellar offensive line, with three starters possibly departing. Edwards, a junior tackle, has already said he’s entering the draft; third-year sophomore center Tyler Biadasz says he’s coming back. The good news: Sophomore tailback Jonathan Taylor is returning after running for 4,171 yards with 29 touchdowns on 606 carries in his first two seasons. The Badgers need to get more from their passing game; it’s unclear when quarterback Alex Hornibrook will be cleared from concussion symptoms. Sophomore Jack Coan and incoming freshman Graham Mertz, the No. 2 pocket passer in the ESPN 300, will battle him for the job. Wisconsin’s schedule in 2019 will be arduous with Big Ten cross-divisional games against Michigan (home), Michigan State (home) and Ohio State (road).”


Bill Bender of the Sporting News: 22. “The Badgers slipped in Paul Chryst’s fourth season and didn’t handle preseason expectations well, but there are enough pieces, starting with Doak Walker Award winner Jonathan Taylor, to believe the Badgers can get back atop of the Big Ten West. They did not win the crossover draw with games against Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, however. Can Alex Hornibrook — or whoever is under center — rejuvenate the passing game?”


Matt Murschel of the Orlando Sentinel: 22. “It’s not much of a stretch to say that 2018 was a disappointing year for the Badgers. After four consecutive double-digit win seasons, Wisconsin managed just eight victories last year. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook was dinged up, forcing the offense to lean heavily on running back Jonathan Taylor, who won the Doak Walker Award after leading the nation with 2,194 yards. His return is huge as the Badgers looks to bounce back in 2019.”


Paul Myerberg of USA Today: 23. “Wisconsin looks for a rebound after a relatively disappointing season defined by injuries. There is uncertainty at quarterback and new faces set to ascend to starting roles on the offensive line. By and large, though, the Badgers are a safe bet to win eight or nine games during the regular season and contend for the Big Ten West.”


Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News: 23. “A major disappointment in ’18, the Badgers should stabilize on defense next season and welcome back tailback Jonathan Taylor. If quarterback Alex Hornibrook is healthy, the Big Ten West title is well within reach.”


Stewart Mandel of The Athletic ($): 23. “The Badgers will bounce back from this year’s puzzling disappointment, but Paul Chryst needs an upgrade at quarterback, potentially from incoming freshman Graham Mertz. Most important, star RB Jonathan Taylor (2,194 yards) will be back, and Wisconsin returns its top three receivers. The secondary should be solid, but the defense must replace LBs T.J. Edwards, Ryan Connelly and Andrew Van Ginkel.”


Alex Kirshner of SBNation: not ranked.