Football

Why Wisconsin will have to ride Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor to playoffs

Wisconsin LB T.J. Edwards (right) is poised for a big season in 2018.
Wisconsin LB T.J. Edwards (right) is poised for a big season in 2018. AP

College football is right around the corner and the Star-Telegram is bringing you its Top 25 teams going into the season.

Today we look at No. 4 – Wisconsin.

Top 25 to date

LSU (25); Texas (24); Central Florida (23); Oregon (22); Florida State (21); Boise State (20); USC (19); Mississippi State (18); Michigan (17); Virginia Tech (16); TCU (15); Notre Dame (14); West Virginia (13); Stanford (12); Michigan State (11); Miami (10); Auburn (9); Penn State (8); Oklahoma (7); Washington (6); Ohio State (5).

Nuts and bolts

Location: Madison, Wisconsin.

Coach: Paul Chryst (34-7, three seasons at Wisconsin; 53-26 overall at Pittsburgh and Wisconsin)

2017: 13-1, 9-0 in Big Ten (defeated Miami 34-24 in Orange Bowl)

Last league title: 2012

Three things to know

1. Heisman hopeful. Jonathan Taylor is one of the best running backs in the country. He is a Heisman candidate after a sensational freshman season in which he rushed for 1,977 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Taylor finished sixth in the Heisman voting a year ago, and should find himself back in the mix if he approaches the 2,000-yard mark again.

It helps, too, that Taylor is running behind one of the best offensive lines in the country. The Badgers had three linemen earn All-American honors from multiple outlets last season.

2. More than Taylor. The Badgers have more than just Taylor on offense.

Alex Hornibrook is entering his third season as starting quarterback, coming off a sophomore season in which he threw for 2,644 yards with 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

At wide receiver, Wisconsin has questions marks with the status of suspended Quintez Cephus, the team’s leader in receiving TDs last season who has been charged with two counts of sexual assault, and Danny Davis, Cephus’ roommate who has been suspended for the first two games.

The Badgers top returning receivers to start the season will be A.J. Taylor and Kendric Pryor.

3. Defensive turnover. The Badgers’ defense returns only four starters from last year’s team. The good news is one of the returners is linebacker T.J. Edwards, an All-American in 2017.

Edwards is coming off a season in which he had 81 tackles, including 11 for loss, with four interceptions and seven passes defensed.

The key, though, might be finding replacements for a secondary that saw Nick Nelson and Natrell Jamerson drafted to the NFL.

Three games to watch

1. Oct. 6 vs. Nebraska. Wisconsin has owned the Huskers, winning five straight. Will that change with Scott Frost returning to Lincoln?

2. Nov. 10 at Penn State. A potential preview of the Big Ten championship.

3. Nov. 24 vs. Minnesota. The “battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe” hasn’t been much of a battle. The Badgers have won 14 straight.

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