Final 2020 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst 2020 Combine III

Even though we are still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL draft will still take place starting three days from now on April 23. Which means I’ll be doing my final mock draft exercise for the Green Bay Packers, which I have been doing now for 20 years.

I first started doing my mock drafts when I was with Packer Report, and that continued with Wisconsin Sports Online (Packer Chatters), Bleacher Report (for three and a half years) and now my own site. Over the years, I have had a decent track record in correctly naming some players who the Packers did select in the various drafts.

Over the past several years, I have utilized the wisdom and insight of NFL scout Chris Landry and I basically use his positional draft boards and horizontal draft board to guide me through my selections for the Packers.

In the past, I have done a number of mock drafts each year, some starting shortly after the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl were over. I would then do another mock draft after the NFL Scouting Combine. This year will be different. I’m doing just two mock drafts and this will be my second and final one.

My first mock draft for the Packers in 2020 is right here.

Again, making use of the expertise of Landry is very helpful. I’m talking about a scout, who has also been a coach and an administrator, who has been to every NFL Scouting Combine since it’s inception in 1982.

That’s why I use his various draft boards to help steer me through my selections.

Besides using his draft boards to select any given player, I will also add comments which Chris has made about that particular player, whether at the combine or at other events like East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl practices.

It’s important to note that towards the end of a draft, teams look to improve the special team units on their team. That is what I have tried to do in this mock with my Round 7 selections.

I’m sure Packer Nation is hoping that general manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouting staff will have similar success in drafting like scout Jack Vainisi did in the 1950s, especially with the 1958 draft class which saw three future Pro Football Hall of Famers come to Green Bay.

Based on the two-year track record of Gutekunst running the draft for the Packers, one should expect some trades. I expect Gutekunst to use some of his late-round extra draft picks (five total picks in Round 6 and Round 7) to try and move up in the middle rounds of the draft.

But for this mock draft, there will be no trades.

Okay, the Packers on the clock.

Round 1: Running Back Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

Jonathan Taylor in the Rose Bowl

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 226 pounds

Almost seven weeks ago, I wrote a piece about why drafting Jonathan Taylor was a decent possibility for the Green Bay Packers. I still feel the same way today, perhaps even stronger.

In fact, I also had the Packers taking Taylor with pick No. 30 in my first mock draft three weeks ago.

When he played for the Wisconsin Badgers, Taylor rushed for 6,174 yards (plus scored 50 touchdowns) and averaged over 2,000 rushing yards per season. Taylor ran for more yards in three seasons than anyone in college football history. The former New Jersey native broke the record of Herschel Walker of the Georgia Bulldogs, who had rushed for 5,596 yards in three years.

Taylor improved his pass receiving skills in his junior year, as he caught 26 passes, which was 10 more than his freshman and sophomore year combined, for 252 yards and five scores.

The big issue with Taylor at Wisconsin was with fumbling the football. No. 23 fumbled 18 times in three years, eight times as a freshman, four times as a sophomore and six times as a junior.

Still, Taylor’s body of work was just fabulous at Wisconsin and his showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was off the charts in terms of showing off his speed and also impressing scouts with his improving pass receiving skills.

Taylor ran a 4.39 in the 40, which was the best mark of all the running backs at the combine, plus he also looked very natural in catching the football.

This is what Landry said about Taylor at the combine:

Taylor is in a battle for the top running back spot in this class. While D’Andre Swift did not drop the ball this evening (figuratively or literally), Taylor wowed with his performance. He was the only back to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds (4.39 — at 226 pounds). His feet were blurs when required to go over the often dreaded blue pads in drills. Taylor’s cuts were not as quick and effortless as those of Swift, Darrynton Evans (more on him below) or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but his speed and vision have allowed him to find and exploit holes over the past three years for the Badgers. Despite the lack of receptions early in his collegiate career, Taylor looked natural snatching passes during workouts, grabbing high throws and others that were far from his frame. Scouts will forgive him for running out of his shoe on one rep.

The Packers under head coach Matt LaFleur run the outside zone running scheme for his offense, which was also what the Badgers run under Paul Chryst at Wisconsin. This bodes well for Taylor picking up the offense quickly.

Taylor mentioned that when he spoke to the media at the combine.

“A lot of guys think Wisconsin football is power football and outside zone schemes, which it is, ” Taylor said. “Coach Chryst did a great job of making an emphasis point to put me in space to be able to showcase that ability.”

There is one other reason that the Packers will have Taylor on their radar. A number of players are due to become unrestricted free agents in 2021. The list includes left tackle David Bakhtiari, defensive lineman Kenny Clark, center Corey Linsley, cornerback Kevin King and both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who are the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs on the team.

The Packers need to try and cover themselves at each one of those positions in the draft, although I do expect the team to do extensions for Bakhtiari and Clark for sure.

Doing an extension for Linsley is questionable, as is the case for King and Williams. I believe the Packers will also extend Jones, but that he won’t be a priority.

That’s why drafting Taylor is a growing possibility for the Packers.

Round 2: Defensive Lineman Raekwon Davis (Alabama)

Raekwon Davis

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 311 pounds

The calling card of Raekwon Davis has been his run-stopping ability on the defensive line at the University of Alabama. Which is not to say, Davis can’t get after the quarterback, as he did have 8.5 sacks when he was a sophomore for the Crimson Tide and he was named first-team All-SEC.

The production for Davis fell off a bit as a junior, but as a senior was named second-team All-SEC.

But stopping the run is what he does best and in four years at Alabama, Davis had 175 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

The Packers need someone to help to disrupt the opponents run game, even with the talented Kenny Clark on the defensive line. The Packers were ranked just 23rd in run defense last year and were thoroughly embarrassed trying to stop the run in the 2019 NFC title game.

Stopping the running game starts in the trenches.

Landry said this about Davis prior to the Citrus Bowl:

Davis is a true senior and two-year starter who can line up on the inside in a base four-man front or at defensive end in a base three three-man front. He’s a powerful run-defender with the length and upper-body strength to stack blockers, locate the ball and shed in time to make the play. He’s not as effective rushing the passer, but pushes the pocket and has enough quickness to get better.

Round 3: Wide/Slot Receiver Antonio Gibson (Memphis)

Antonio Gibson

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 228 pounds

The Packers certainly have some dangerous weapons on offense for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to utilize. Running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams come to mind.

The offense would become a lot more potent with the addition of players like Jonathan Taylor and slot receiver Antonio Gibson. Not to mention faster, as both Taylor and Gibson ran a 4.39 in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Packers need someone at receiver to take some the emphasis away from Adams. Young players like Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown and Jake Kumerow all have upside. The addition of Devin Funchess will definitely help.

But production from the slot receiver for the Packers stuck out like a sore thumb all year long for the Packers in 2019.

This is where a great athlete like Gibson can step in. Last year at Memphis, Gibson caught 38 passes for 735 yards (19.3 average) and eight touchdowns. In addition, Gibson ran for 369 more yards and four scores. Think jet sweep (like Deebo Samuel) with a guy like Gibson when he’s not catching the ball.

Plus, even though the Packers have a talented return man in Tyler Ervin, Gibson also returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2019 for the Tigers.

Landry said this about Gibson at the NFL Scouting Combine:

Memphis WR/RB Antonio Gibson ran an unofficial 40-yard dash of 4.40 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Gibson (6’0/228) and Devin Duvernay are currently tied with the fastest unofficial 40-yard dash times among wide receivers at the combine. The Memphis speedster is a position-versatile dynamo who could see work at both running back and receiver in the pros.

Landry also said this about Gibson at the Senior Bowl:

The fact Gibson was even at the Senior Bowl speaks volumes as he was not on the scouting radar before the season began. He’s a receiver in a running backs body.

Round 4: Offensive Tackle Alex Taylor (South Carolina State)

Alex Taylor

Height: 6’8″

Weight: 308 pounds

Even though left tackle David Bakhtiari will eventually get a contract extension before he reaches free agency in 2021 and the Packers signed Rick Wagner in free agency to replace right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who also left via free agency, the Packers need to add some offensive tackle talent in this draft.

Alex Taylor of South Carolina is an intriguing prospect. Taylor is huge, as he goes 6’8″ and is north of 300 pounds. Add to that, he has a massive 36 inch wingspan. You wouldn’t think a guy that big could run very fast, but Taylor ran a 5.09 in the 40 at the combine.

Taylor has started 22 consecutive games for South Carolina State at right tackle and was third-team all-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as a junior and third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-MEAC honors as a senior.

While Taylor is learning the NFL ropes, the Packers could also re-sign offensive tackle Jared Veldheer to add to the offensive tackle depth chart, as Veldheer played very well in the absence of Bulaga in the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks last postseason.

Landry said this about Taylor at the Senior Bowl:

Alex Taylor has arguably the most upside of any player in the Senior Bowl. His frame and length would be top in the NFL. However he lacks technical refinement, and is a ways away from being a competent NFL protector. Taylor got better over the week, but his lack of refinement was obvious. Taylor could be a top tackle in the NFL. I just wonder if he’ll ever meet that ceiling.

Round 5: Cornerback Dane Jackson (Pittsburgh)

Dane Jackson

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 187 pounds

The Packers have two pretty good starting cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. The third cornerback who the Packers used a lot last year is free agent Tramon Williams.

Williams could be an option to come back, as he played pretty well for someone who recently turned 37. King has two issues in terms of his future. One, he has been injury prone in his career. Two, he will be a free agent in 2021. And who knows if he’ll be back, as David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark and Aaron Jones will be much bigger priorities in terms of doing contract extensions.

Which leads to me to the selection of Dane Jackson of Pittsburgh. Jackson played four years with the Panthers and played in 46 games. In that time, Jackson had 149 total tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, four interceptions (one for a touchdown), 39 passes defended, two fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles.

Jackson was honorable mention All-ACC as a junior and second-team All-ACC as a senior.

Jackson ran a 4.57 in the 40 at the combine, but his ball awareness makes him look much faster on tape.

This is what Landry said about Jackson at the Senior Bowl:

Dane Jackson was one of the best defensive backs in Mobile. I wasn’t too aware of his tape coming in but his physicality and athleticism in coverage during drills had me excited to see the traits on his tape. It was a great week for Jackson, capped off by being voted the best DB on the South squad by his teammates.

Round 6: Linebacker Chris Orr (Wisconsin)

Chris Orr

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 228 pounds

With Blake Martinez leaving the Packers via free agency and even with the signing of Christian Kirksey, the Packers are still looking for help at inside linebacker. Yes, Oren Burks could come on and be the guy, but after two years of little or no contributions, don’t hold your breath.

There is also a chance that the Packers might bring back Clay Matthews III to play at inside linebacker.

Which takes me to Chris Orr of the Wisconsin Badgers. Orr played in the same type of defensive scheme that the Packers utilize under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, as Jim Leonhard (who played under Pettine in the NFL) runs a similar 3-4 defense for the Badgers.

Orr has sort of flown under the radar in this draft, which is surprising to me. Especially based on what he did his senior year for the Badgers and the great workout he had on his pro day.

In 2019, Orr had 78 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, five passes defended, one recovered fumble and two forced fumbles. Orr played four years for the Badgers and had a great career in Madison overall, which included two interceptions, including one for a 78-yard touchdown.

Because of his great season in 2019, Orr was named second-team All-Big Ten at inside linebacker.

Or didn’t receive an invite from the combine for some ridiculous reason, and all he did was run a 4.65 in the 40 to add to his great stat line.

This is what Landry said about Orr after his pro day workout in Madison:

Wisconsin LB Chris Orr ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at the school’s pro day. Orr additionally logged 20 reps on the bench press to go with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 9-foot-2 before taking part in on-field drills. While the linebacker did not receive an invitation to the combine, some corners of the evaluating community are quite high on Orr.

Round 6: Quarterback Nate Stanley (Iowa)

Nate Stanley

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 235 pounds

I do expect the Packers to select a quarterback in this draft. It might be early if the right QB is on the board, but more than likely, I see the one taken later in the draft.

Which takes me to Menomonie, Wisconsin native Nate Stanley, who played for the University of Iowa and started for three years.

In his career with the Hawkeyes, Stanley threw 68 touchdown passes versus 23 interceptions for 8,297 yards.

Stanley was also a sparkling 3-0 in bowl games he started.

While he is certainly not a real mobile quarterback, he also is not a statue and he can move around the pocket. Stanley also has a rocket for an arm.

Landry said this about Stanley prior to the Holiday Bowl:

Nate Stanley is 2-0 in bowl games (now 3-0). He was just okay against Boston College in the win Pinstripe Bowl win two years ago – throwing for 99 yards and a score – and last season he kept his cool against the tremendous Mississippi State defense hitting 68% of his passes for 214 yards and three scores with a pick. He doesn’t have to bomb away against the Trojans, and he only threw 14 touchdown passes on the year, but he’s the senior veteran who won’t make the big mistake.

Round 6: Offensive Lineman Jon Runyan Jr. (Michigan)

Jon Runyan

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 306 pounds

Chris Landry knows a little about the Runyan bloodline, as he was part of the front office of the Houston Oilers when they drafted Jon Runyon Sr. in 1996.

Like his father did, Jon Runyon Jr. played at Michigan and had a very nice career. In fact, in both 2018 and 2019, Runyan was named first-team All-Big Ten at offensive tackle.

Although he was solid as a tackle in college, his best position in the NFL might be at guard as you will see with the comments of Landry.

Landry said this about Runyan at Day 2 of the East-West Shrine practices:

I was impressed with Jon Runyan on a number of occasions today. The former Michigan tackle has lined up at guard the past two days and looks like a natural at the position.

Landry said this about Runyon on Day 3 of the practices in St. Petersburg:

On the offensive line, Jon Runyan had another solid day and seems to be improving with each practice.

Round 7: Linebacker/Safety Khaleke Hudson (Michigan)

Khaleke Hudson

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 224 pounds

Khaleke Hudson is one of those tweeners. He’s basically one of those hybrids who can play both safety and linebacker. That versatility put together a great career for Hudson at the University of Michigan.

In four years with the Wolverines, Hudson had 225 total tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, two interceptions, 14 passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.

Hudson had a great senior year for the Wolverines, as he had 102 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two sacks, three pass breakups and also a blocked kick.

Hudson ran a 4.56 in the 40 at the combine, plus had 30 reps on the bench press.

Landry said this about Hudson at the Senior Bowl:

Hudson’s Senior Bowl week has been outstanding. He weighed in with good numbers and his week never came down from there. He flew around in coverage and kept making plays in every drill. For a stud athlete coming from a pretty big school, the lack of buzz coming into Mobile was pretty surprising. But, it’s safe to say he’ll have plenty of it leaving Mobile.

Landry also talked about Hudson playing both safety and linebacker:

Michigan DB/LB Khaleke Hudson is a safety who converted to linebacker. He moves very well but is engulfed vs size and is not a big asset in coverage. His best skill set is his toughness and awareness. I like him as a sub package situational player and he can excel on special teams.

Round 7: Tight End Stephen Sullivan (LSU)

Stephen Sullivan

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 248 pounds

When one thinks about the 2019 national champion LSU Tigers, most people will recall that the son of Randy Moss played tight end most of the time. I’m talking about Thaddeus Moss. Moss had a nice year catching the ball from Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, as he caught 47 passes for 570 yards and four scores.

But like all great teams in the SEC, all positions have fantastic depth, which was the case for the Tigers at tight end. The backup to Moss was Stephen Sullivan, who definitely is not a slouch, plus he did start two games in 2019.

In his three-year career at LSU, Sullivan had 46 receptions for 712 yards and three touchdowns.

Sullivan converted to tight end in 2019 after playing wide receiver for the Tigers in 2017 and 2018.

Besides having great size for a tight end, Sullivan ran a 4.66 in the 40 at the combine.

Landry said this about Sullivan at the Senior Bowl:

LSU TE/WR Stephen Sullivan caught the ball smoothly and moved exceptionally well for his dimensions” during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice week. Sullivan also run-blocked well during the week. He has a chance to stick on a roster as a mid-late round pick.

Initial 2020 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Matt LaFleur 2020 NFL Combine(1)

Even though we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL draft will still take place starting a little over three weeks from now on April 23. Which means I’ll be doing my annual mock draft exercise for the Green Bay Packers, which I have been doing now for 20 years.

I first started doing my mock drafts when I was with Packer Report, and that continued with Wisconsin Sports Online (Packer Chatters), Bleacher Report (for three and a half years) and now my own site. Over the years, I have had a decent track record in correctly naming some players who the Packers did select in the various drafts.

Over the past several years, I have utilized the wisdom and insight of NFL scout Chris Landry and I basically use his positional draft boards and horizontal draft board to guide me through my selections for the Packers.

In the past, I have done a number of mock drafts each year, some starting shortly after the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl were over. I would then do another mock draft after the NFL Scouting Combine. This year will be different. I don’t expect to do more than two mock drafts and this will be my first.

Again, making use of the expertise of Landry is very helpful. I’m talking about a scout, who has also been a coach and an administrator, who has been to every NFL Scouting Combine since it’s inception in 1982.

Besides using his draft boards to select any given player, I will also add comments which Chris has made about that particular player, whether at the combine or at other events like East-West Shrine or Senior Bowl practices.

With all that being said, here goes.

Round 1: Running Back Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota III

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 226 pounds

Almost four weeks ago, I wrote a piece about why drafting Jonathan Taylor was a decent possibility for the Green Bay Packers. I still feel the same way today, perhaps even stronger.

When he played for the Wisconsin Badgers, Taylor rushed for 6,174 yards (plus scored 50 touchdowns) and averaged over 2,000 rushing yards per season. Taylor ran for more yards in three seasons than anyone in college football history. The former New Jersey native broke the record of Herschel Walker of the Georgia Bulldogs, who had rushed for 5,596 yards in three years.

Taylor improved his pass receiving skills in his junior year, as he caught 26 passes, which was 10 more than his freshman and sophomore year combined, for 252 yards and five scores.

The big issue with Taylor at Wisconsin was with fumbling the football. No. 23 fumbled 18 times in three years, eight times as a freshman, four times as a sophomore and six times as a junior.

Still, Taylor’s body of work was just fabulous at Wisconsin and his showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was off the charts in terms of showing off his speed and also impressing scouts with his improving pass receiving skills.

Taylor ran a 4.39 in the 40, which was the best mark of all the running backs at the combine, plus he also looked very natural in catching the football.

This is what Landry said about Taylor at the combine:

Taylor is in a battle for the top running back spot in this class. While D’Andre Swift did not drop the ball this evening (figuratively or literally), Taylor wowed with his performance. He was the only back to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds (4.39 — at 226 pounds). His feet were blurs when required to go over the often dreaded blue pads in drills. Taylor’s cuts were not as quick and effortless as those of Swift, Darrynton Evans (more on him below) or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but his speed and vision have allowed him to find and exploit holes over the past three years for the Badgers. Despite the lack of receptions early in his collegiate career, Taylor looked natural snatching passes during workouts, grabbing high throws and others that were far from his frame. Scouts will forgive him for running out of his shoe on one rep.

The Packers under head coach Matt LaFleur run the outside zone running scheme for his offense, which was also what the Badgers run under Paul Chryst at Wisconsin. This bodes well for Taylor picking up the offense quickly.

Taylor mentioned that when he spoke to the media at the combine.

“A lot of guys think Wisconsin football is power football and outside zone schemes, which it is, ” Taylor said. “Coach Chryst did a great job of making an emphasis point to put me in space to be able to showcase that ability.”

There is one other reason that the Packers will have Taylor on their radar. A number of players are due to become unrestricted free agents in 2021. The list includes left tackle David Bakhtiari, defensive lineman Kenny Clark, center Corey Linsley, cornerback Kevin King and both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who are the No. 1 and No. 2 running backs on the team.

The Packers need to cover themselves at each one of those positions in the draft, although I do expect the team to do extensions for Bakhtiari and Clark for sure. Please check out Tom Silverstein’s fine article regarding this situation.

Doing an extension for Linsley is questionable, as is the case for King and Williams. I believe the Packers will also extend Jones, but that he won’t be a priority.

That’s why drafting Taylor is a growing possibility for the Packers.

Round 2: Wide Receiver Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jalen Reagor

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 206 pounds

In looking at Jalen Reagor of TCU, his skill-set reminds me of Randall Cobb, who spent eight years with the Packers catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.

In three years at TCU, Reagor caught 148 passes for 2,248 yards (15.2 yards-per-catch average) and 22 touchdowns.

Like Cobb did with the Packers, Reagor also return punts and kickoffs and last year the former Horned Frog returned two punts for touchdowns.

In terms of the passing offense of the Packers, Reagor would help fill the void that was missing for the most part all of the 2019 season. That is, getting substantial production from the slot receiver spot.

This is what Landry said about Reagor at the combine:

TCU WR Jalen Reagor ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Reagor (5’11/206) outright crushed his jumps earlier on Thursday, logging a 42-inch vertical jump and 138-inch broad jump, both close to the top marks at his position in this year’s class. His 40-yard dash was not nearly as impressive, especially given that Reagor reportedly ran the sprint in 4.29 seconds hand-timed during his collegiate career with the Horned Frogs. We wouldn’t overreact to the 4.47s mark he ran on Thursday, but at the very least, it’s not ideal.

Round 3: Center Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)

Tyler Biadasz

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 314 pounds

As I previously noted earlier, there is a decent chance that the Packers will not be bringing back starting center Corey Linsley in 2021. If Linsley does leave, the Packers could move left guard Elgton Jenkins to center and plug in a new left guard or they might select a player like Tyler Biadasz of Wisconsin to fill the void at center.

Biadasz makes a lot of sense, as the Badgers utilize the same outside zone running scheme that the Packers employ.

The former Amherst, Wisconsin native started all 41 games at center that he played in at Wisconsin through his junior year. He opened some eyes with his play as well. In 2017, Biadasz was a Freshman All-American and was named third-team All-Big Ten. In 2018, Biadasz was named first-team All-Big Ten.

And in 2019, Biadasz was named first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten, as well as winning the Remington Trophy and being a finalist for the Outland Trophy.

This is what Landry said about the former Badger:

Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz is a rock solid center prospect in this years draft. His pass protection, while not the strength of his game is better than amateur scouts suggests. He understands angles, leverage and has excellent quickness to replace hands and strength to turn defenders.

Round 4: Linebacker Jacob Phillips (LSU)

Jacob Phillips

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 229 pounds

In his three-year career as a LSU Tiger, Jacob Phillips made 218 tackles, 13.5 tackles for losses, two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

In 2018, Phillips played alongside of Devin White (now of the Tampa Bay Bucs) for LSU. Talk about a dynamic duo. In 2019, Phillips played next to Patrick Queen, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, just like White was in 2019.

As this was Queen’s first season as a starter for LSU, Phillips took over the inside linebacker leadership role for the Tigers in 2019, as the team eventually won the national title.

His leadership did not go unnoticed by the defensive staff at LSU either. Phillips was described to me as being long and athletic and that he takes coaching well. Also that he runs well and is physical. Good body control in pass coverage. Always is looking to get better.

This is was Landry said about Phillips:

Former LSU Tigers may make up a large share of the top 100 picks this year, thanks to guys like Phillips. He ran a bit faster than expected (4.66 40) and was explosive in the jumps (39-inch vertical, 10-6 broad). His junior-year tape exhibited good athleticism, which meant there was no surprise when he was able to quickly step over pads and fluidly change directions in the field workout. Phillips was a big part of a pretty strong performance by the inside linebacker group on Saturday.

Round 5: Quarterback James Morgan (FIU)

James Morgan

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 229 pounds

James Morgan of FIU is a very interesting story from a Wisconsin perspective. Morgan played his high school football at Ashwaubenon High School, which is basically right in the backyard of Green Bay and Lambeau Field.

Morgan wore No. 4 in youth football to honor Brett Favre, but in high school and in college, has moved on to No. 12 to honor Aaron Rodgers.

Morgan started his collegiate career at Bowling Green before transferring to Florida International University (FIU). His combined stats at both locations are pretty good, as he has thrown 65 touchdown passes versus 34 interceptions for 8,654 yards. In his last two seasons at FIU, Morgan threw 40 touchdown passes compared to just 12 picks.

The Packers and many NFL teams have shown interest in Morgan throughout the scouting process. Some have said that Morgan might be drafted as early as Day 2 of the draft, but Landry does not believe that will happen.

Here is what Landry said about Morgan during the East-West Shrine week practices, as he saw a lot of things he liked :

James Morgan entered Shrine week largely overshadowed by more highly-heralded signal callers, but the FIU passer acquitted himself quite nicely in the three practices. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback displayed a big league arm, remarkable poise, and delivered the ball with touch and accuracy. Morgan also impressed from a mental processing standpoint. He may have been the most consistent quarterback on either side this week, and with many evaluators on hand, I thought he really helped himself.

All that being said, Landry also said this about Morgan, as he threw some cold water on Morgan’s NFL possibilities:

Morgan completed just 57.2% of his passes as a result of poor footwork and release point. He also doesn’t move well outside the pocket and I struggle to see him as even a developmental type prospect.

Round 6: Offensive Tackle Charlie Heck (North Carolina)

Charlie Heck

Height: 6’8″

Weight: 311 pounds

Charlie Heck is the son of Andy Heck, who was a first-round pick out of Notre Dame in the 1989 NFL draft and had a long NFL career.

Charlie has started 35 games for the Tarheels in three season, plus played in eight games as a reserve as a freshman. From the perspective of the Packers, they have to be interested in a versatile offensive tackle like Heck because he has played both right and left tackle.

In his junior year, Heck started 12 games at right tackle and then started 12 games his senior year at left tackle.

This is what Landry said about Heck going into the 2020 NFL draft:

North Carolina T Charlie Heck is a run first right tackle type that will have to grow and develop as a pass protector. While Heck is not a spectacular athlete — testing in the 38th SPARQ percentile of NFL offensive linemen — he comes to the draft well-seasoned after starting 35 games with the Tar Heels.

Round 6: Defensive Back Brian Cole II (Mississippi State)

Brian Cole

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 213 pounds

You know what they say about defensive backs in the NFL. You never can have enough in this pass-happy league. Which is why a player like Brian Cole II of Mississippi State would be an excellent player for the Packers in the draft, seeing as he played against some of the finest receivers in the country in the SEC.

The Saginaw, Michigan native started his collegiate career at Michigan before transferring to Mississippi State. In the last two years as a Bulldog, Cole had 78 tackles, 10.5 tackles for losses and three sacks. Cole also had two picks, two fumbles recovered and one forced fumble.

Cole has good size and speed and has the ability to play near the line of scrimmage in running situations, plus can cover backs and tight ends in pass coverage. Cole is versatile enough to play either safety or cornerback.

This is what Landry said about the former Bulldog at the combine:

Mississippi State DB Brian Cole ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Cole (6’2/213) is considered a potential “box” safety — or possibly a nickel — and this is a pretty solid time for a player of that skill set. He was a productive member of the Mississippi State defense.

Round 6: Linebacker Carter Coughlin (Minnesota)

Carter Coughlin

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 236 pounds

With the loss of outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell to free agency, the Packers will be looking to fortify the depth at that position, even if they were able to bring back someone like Clay Matthews III, who would mostly play inside anyway.

That is why selecting someone like Carter Coughlin from Minnesota would help that situation. Coughlin had a very productive career as a Golden Gopher, as he had 158 tackles, 40 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles.

As a sophomore, Coughlin was named honorable mention All-Big Ten, second-team All-Big Ten as a junior and then second-team All-Big Ten again as a senior.

Coughlin ran a 4.57 in the 40 at the combine, plus had a 36 inch vertical jump.

This is what Landry said about the future of Coughlin in the NFL:

Minnesota EDGE Carter Coughlin posted 15.0 TFL and 9.5 sacks in 2018, and 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks in 2019. He plays with good quickness and speed off the edge and once he learns better hand usage can become an effective situation rusher in addition to being an ace special teamer.

Round 7: Defensive Tackle Benito Jones (Mississippi)

Benito Jones

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 316 pounds

Even with the talented Kenny Clark on the defensive line and having a tackling machine like Blake Martinez behind him, the Packers struggled stopping the run in 2019. The Packers were ranked just 23rd in run defense last year and were thoroughly embarrassed trying to stop the run in the 2019 NFC title game.

This is where drafting someone like Benito Jones makes sense. Jones is your typical run-stuffing nose tackle, who also has some pass-rushing ability. In four years at Ole Miss, Jones had 132 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

Jones was named second-team ALL-SEC in 2019.

This is what Landry about the former Rebel:

Ole Miss NT Benito Jones (6’1/316) is a former five-star recruit who led Ole Miss with 10 TFL and recorded 5.5 sacks on his way to receiving second-team All-SEC honors. Though he lacks prototype length for an interior lineman, Jones was a disruptive force displaying impressive strength at the point of attack. He plays with solid leverage and uses his hands well to shed blocks.

Round 7: Safety Josh Metellus (Michigan)

Josh Metellus

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 209 pounds

As I mentioned earlier, you can never have enough defensive backs on your team, plus one is always looking to improve the quality of special teams. That is why you normally see a lot of linebackers and defensive backs taken late in any given draft by teams.

Which takes us to safety Josh Metellus of Michigan. The former Florida native is strong and fast, plus is versatile. In his career as a Wolverine, Metellus had 186 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, one sack, five interceptions (one for a touchdown), 14 passes defended, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

As a sophomore, Metellus was named honorable mention All-Big Ten, then was named second-team All-Big Ten as a strong safety/rover and was once again named honorable mention All-Big Ten as a senior.

Metellus is an excellent downhill tackler and shows great awareness in pass coverage.

This is what Landry said about Metellus at the combine:

Michigan S Josh Metellus ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. Metellus ranked 11th among the “true” safeties who ran in the event, and he also had a solid vertical jump at 36.5 inches, and a respectable 124-inch broad jump. The 5-foot-11, 209-pound defender also was among the top defensive backs with 20 bench press reps.

Green Bay Packers: Why Drafting Jonathan Taylor with Pick No. 30 is a Possibility

Jonathan Taylor Combine

There is absolutely no doubt that Jonathan Taylor of the Wisconsin Badgers was one of the greatest running backs in the history of college football. Taylor is sixth on the all-time rushing yards leaders list and would have passed everyone in front of him had he played his senior year in Madison.

No. 1 on the list is former Badger Ron Dayne, who rushed for 7,125 yards in four seasons with the Badgers. No. 33 also was able to win the Doak Walker Award and the Heisman Trophy his last season with Wisconsin in 1999.

When Taylor announced that he was moving on to play in the NFL shortly after the Rose Bowl, No. 23 had accumulated 6,174 yards rushing (and 50 touchdowns) and had averaged over 2,000 rushing yards per season.

Taylor ran for more yards in three seasons than anyone in college football  history. The former New Jersey native broke the record of Herschel Walker of the Georgia Bulldogs, who had rushed for 5,596 yards in three years.

Although Taylor never won the Heisman Trophy, he did win back-to-back Doak Walker Awards in 2018 and 2019.

Had Taylor played in 2020 with the Badgers, it was virtually certain (unless he was injured) that he would have been the all-time rushing leader in college football history and by a wide margin.

Taylor improved his pass receiving skills in his junior year, as he caught 26 passes, which was 10 more than his freshman and sophomore year combined, for 252 yards and five scores.

The big issue with Taylor at Wisconsin was with fumbling the football. No. 23 fumbled 18 times in three years, eight times as a freshman, four times as a sophomore and six times as a junior.

Ball security has to be the number one item that Taylor has to improve on. That being said, in his junior year, a number of the fumbles occurred while the Badgers were running the Wildcat offense and also when Taylor was fighting for extra yards.

Still, Taylor’s body of work was just fabulous at Wisconsin and his showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was off the charts in terms of showing off his speed and also impressing scouts with his improving pass receiving skills.

Taylor ran a 4.39 in the 40, which was the best mark of all the running backs at the combine, plus he also looked very natural in catching the football.

NFL scout Chris Landry noted this about Taylor’s performance at the combine:

“Taylor is in a battle for the top running back spot in this class. While D’Andre Swift did not drop the ball this evening (figuratively or literally), Taylor wowed with his performance. He was the only back to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds (4.39 — at 226 pounds). His feet were blurs when required to go over the often dreaded blue pads in drills. Taylor’s cuts were not as quick and effortless as those of Swift, Darrynton Evans or Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but his speed and vision have allowed him to find and exploit holes over the past three years for the Badgers. Despite the lack of receptions early in his collegiate career, Taylor looked natural snatching passes during workouts, grabbing high throws and others that were far from his frame. Scouts will forgive him for running out of his shoe on one rep.”

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota III

In terms of of the 2020 NFL draft, I believe it’s a real possibility that the Green Bay Packers might select Taylor at pick No. 30 in Round No. 1.

Why?

There are several reasons. For one, head coach Matt LaFleur runs the outside zone running scheme for his offense, which was also what the Badgers run under Paul Chryst at Wisconsin.

Taylor mentioned that when he spoke to the media at the combine.

“A lot of guys think Wisconsin football is power football and outside zone schemes, which it is, ” Taylor said. “Coach Chryst did a great job of making an emphasis point to put me in space to be able to showcase that ability.”

Being put in space is something the Packers do on third down with running back Aaron Jones, who is coming off a great 2019 season. Besides rushing for 1,084 yards and 16 touchdowns, Jones showed off his great receiving skills last season, as he had 49 catches for 474 yards and three scores.

Both Jones and fellow running back Jamaal Williams are slated to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2020 season.

That being said, there is a mutual interest in extending the contract of Jones, as the Packers were slated to meet with the agent of Jones last week to talk about getting a new deal done for No. 33 as he enters his final contract year.

So, why would the Packers draft another running back, especially in Round 1?

All one has to do is look at the running game of the San Francisco 49ers which is three-deep (and at times four-deep) in terms of quality depth. LaFleur basically learned the outside zone scheme from working with the current coach of the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan.

LaFleur and the Packers learned a painful lesson in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, as the Niners ran for a whopping 285 yards, with 220 yards coming from running back Rasheem Mostert, as the 49ers beat the Packers 37-20.

San Francisco was second in the NFL in rushing with 2,305 yards in 2019 and had three running backs who ran for at least 540 yards last season. Mostert ran for 772 yards, while Matt Breida ran for 623 yards and Tevin Coleman rushed for 544 yards.

And when there were some injury issues, a fourth running back, Jeff Wilson, ran for 125 yards. Add to that, wide receiver Deebo Samuel was also utilized on end around plays and jet sweeps, as he rushed for 159 yards.

The Packers were 15th in the NFL in rushing last year, but by adding a weapon like Taylor would surely enhance the running game.

Plus, let’s not forget that Jones was shut down in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to knee injuries.

Aaron Jones vs. Seahawks

Williams is a solid back, especially on third down due to his pass-blocking ability and his receiving skills, but he is not the game-breaker that Jones is or Taylor is.

Plus by adding the former Badger, both Jones and Taylor can be utilized at the same time. For instance, Jones could be utilized in the passing or running game like the Niners use Samuel in the slot, while Taylor is in the backfield.

Improving the running game will also help quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the passing game, as play-action passes have a much better rate of success, plus defenses will put more players in the box to stop the run, which opens up deep passing lanes.

Just take a look at the 2016 Atlanta Falcons when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator and LaFleur was the quarterback coach.

The Dirty Birds had a great running back combination with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The two rushed for almost 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Matt Ryan threw 38 touchdown passes versus just seven interceptions for 4,944 yards.

Ryan was named NFL MVP in 2016.

The Packers go into the 2020 NFL draft with 10 picks overall.  The Packers have a first-round pick, second-round pick, third-round pick, fourth-round pick, fifth-round pick, three sixth-round picks and two seventh-round picks.

The Packers have a number of needs going into the draft. The two most glaring needs are at wide receiver and at inside linebacker.

The Packers need to find a bookend to Davante Adams at receiver. Fortunately for the Packers, the 2020 wide receiver class in the draft is one of the deepest in several years. The Packers can select a very good receiver in Round 2 because of the depth in this class.

By the way, Adams was a second-round pick by the Packers in 2014.

The Packers are most likely moving on from Blake Martinez at inside linebacker, as he is an unrestricted free agent. No. 50 is a tackling machine no doubt, but his lack of speed hurts him when he chases down running backs on the edge, as well as in pass coverage.

Both positions can be improved before the draft because general manager Brian Gutekunst is not afraid to go after players he targets in free agency.

All one has to do is look at the haul Gutekunst made in 2019, when he signed safety Adrian Amos, linebacker Preston Smith, linebacker Za’Darius Smith and guard Billy Turner.

Brian Gutekunst at the 2020 Combine

Gutekunst is reportedly interested in a couple of players who could definitely help the Packers. One is tight end Austin Hooper of the Falcons, while the other is inside linebacker Joe Schobert of the Cleveland Browns. Schobert hails from Waukesha, Wisconsin and also played his college football for the Badgers in Madison.

If Jimmy Graham is cut by the Packers, it would free up an additional $8 million in salary cap space. That money could be utilized to help sign Hooper, who had his rookie year when LaFleur was the QB coach in Atlanta.

In the past two years with the Falcons, the 6-4, 254-pound Hooper has caught 146 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The 6-1, 245-pound Schobert made a number of big plays for the Browns defensively, as he had two sacks, four interceptions, 13 passes broken up and two forced fumbles in 2019. Schobert plays the pass much better than Martinez, plus also is a tackling machine against the run, as in 2017, Schobert tied with Martinez and Buffalo’s Preston Brown for the NFL lead in tackles with 144.

There is also speculation that the Packers might be interested in bringing back slot receiver Randall Cobb. The former Kentucky Wildcat played with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, after spending eight years in Green Bay.

That will be an interesting dynamic regarding Cobb, if indeed the Packers are interested in bringing him back. In Dallas, he could be reunited with head coach Mike McCarthy, while if he comes back to Green Bay, he would be back with many of his closest friends, including Rodgers.

Cobb had a good year for the Cowboys in 2019 playing mostly slot receiver, as he had 55 receptions for 828 yards and three touchdowns.

Time will tell what Gutekunst will do in free agency this year, but one thing is for sure, he looks a lot more like Ron Wolf when he headed the front office of the Packers than the man who proceeded him at GM, Ted Thompson.

Wolf utilized free agency freely, while Thompson rarely dipped his toes into those types of transactions. And when he did, it was usually after a player was cut by his former team (see Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers) or by signing undrafted rookie or street free agents.

If Gutekunst can help the team via free agency before the draft, then the Packers don’t have to focus on need as much in Round 1, as opposed to selecting the best player available.

Taylor might just be the best player available at pick No. 30 on the draft board of the Packers, especially knowing what an impact he would have with the Green Bay outside zone running scheme. Not to mention adding another home run threat to the offensive backfield and adding quality depth behind Jones.

When Round 1 of the 2020 NFL draft takes place on April 23rd, don’t be shocked if the Packers select another stud running back to make their outside zone running scheme even more dangerous.

That running back could be Jonathan Taylor.

All-Time Rushing Leaders in Wisconsin Badgers Football History

Jonathan Taylor in the Rose Bowl

Now that it’s official and Jonathan Taylor of the Wisconsin Badgers has announced that he is going to play in the NFL next season after his last game in the 2020 Rose Bowl, I thought I would be post the numbers that the top 15 running backs in Wisconsin history have put up.

The top 15 all rushed for more than 2,500 yards. 13 of them rushed for over 3,000 yards. Six of them rushed for over 4,000 yards. Three of them have rushed for over 5,000 yards. Two have rushed for over 6,000 yards. And one has rushed for over 7,000 yards.

You will note that 11 of the 15 top running backs all came after the Barry Alvarez era started at Wisconsin.

Two of the Wisconsin backs have won the Heisman Trophy. Alan Ameche in 1954 and Ron Dayne in 1999.

Four of the Badger backs have also won the Doak Walker Award. Ron Dayne in 1999, Montee Ball in 2012, Melvin Gordon in 2014 and Jonathan Taylor in both 2018 and 2019.

Here are the top 15 rushers in Wisconsin history:

1) Ron Dayne- 7,125 yards rushing and 71 touchdowns.

Ron Dayne in 1999 Rose Bowl

2) Jonathan Taylor- 6,174 yards rushing and 50 touchdowns.

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota III

3) Montee Ball- 5,140 yards rushing and 77 touchdowns.

Montee Ball in the Rose Bowl

4) Melvin Gordon- 4,915 yards rushing and 45 touchdowns.

Melvin Gordon in the Outback Bowl

5) Anthony Davis- 4,676 yards rushing and 42 touchdowns.

Anthony Davis

6) James White- 4,015 yards rushing and 45 touchdowns.

James White

7) P.J. Hill- 3,942 yards rushing and 42 touchdowns.

P.J. Hill

8) Billy Marek- 3,709 yards rushing and 44 touchdowns.

Billy Marek II

9) Brent Moss- 3,428 yards rushing and 34 touchdowns.

Brent Moss 1994 Rose Bowl

10) Terrell Fletcher- 3,414 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.

Terrell Fletcher

11) John Clay- 3,413 yards rushing and 41 touchdowns.

John Clay

12) Alan Ameche- 3,212 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns.

Alan Ameche III

13) Corey Clement- 3,092 yards rushing and 36 touchdowns.

Corey Clement

14) Larry Emery- 2,979 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns.

Larry Emery II

15) Rufus Ferguson- 2,814 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns.

Rufus Ferguson

Wisconsin Badgers: Their History Playing in the Rose Bowl

Wisconsin Rose Bowl Logo

On January 1, 2020…the Wisconsin Badgers will be appearing in their 10th Rose Bowl when they face the Oregon Ducks.

Going into the game, Wisconsin has a 3-6 record in the nine games they have played in Pasadena.

This will be the second time the Badgers have faced the Ducks in this iconic game. Wisconsin has also faced USC, UCLA and Stanford twice in the Rose Bowl.

Here is a quick rundown of the previous Rose Bowl games.

  • 1953 Rose Bowl: USC 7, Wisconsin 0
  • 1960 Rose Bowl: Washington 44, Wisconsin 8
  • 1963 Rose Bowl: USC 42, Wisconsin 37
  • 1994 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 21, UCLA 16
  • 1999 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31
  • 2000 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9
  • 2011 Rose Bowl: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19
  • 2012 Rose Bowl: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38
  • 2013 Rose Bowl: Stanford 20, Wisconsin 14

Yes, the history of playing in Pasadena started in 1953 for Wisconsin. That was also the first bowl game the Badgers ever played in, even though they had some very successful teams previous to that point. But back then, only the Big Ten conference champion was allowed to play in the Rose Bowl, or any bowl for that matter.

The Badgers were 6-3-1 during the 1952 season and were 4-1-1 in the Big Ten conference. That mark gave the Badgers the Big Ten title.

The Badgers were coached by Ivy Williamson in 1952. In seven years as head coach of the Badgers, Williamson had a sparkling 41-19-4 record.

When the Badgers took on the Trojans in the 1953 Rose Bowl, they would be facing the No. 1 defense in the country.

The Badgers knew a little bit about playing defense back then, as their 1951 team had the “Hard Rocks” defense, which was also ranked No. 1 in the country.

On offense, the Badgers had a sophomore running back by the name of Alan Ameche, who led the Big Ten in rushing that year with 721 yards. No. 35 would later go on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1954.

Alan Ameche

Alan Ameche of the Wisconsin Badgers with the Heisman Trophy.

As a whole, the Badgers offense was very good. The Badgers led the Big Ten conference in total offense (415.5 yards per game), rushing offense (256.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (26.3 points per game).

In the actual Rose Bowl, with 101,500 fans in attendance, the Badgers had 353 total yards, including 133 rushing yards by Ameche.

The Badgers were dominant on the ground during the game, as Wisconsin had 211 yards rushing compared to just 48 for USC.

But the Badgers were never able to score versus the Trojans, as they were shut out 7-0. The Badgers had two terrific opportunities to score, but a turnover ended one drive inside the red zone, while another was stopped on fake field goal attempt at the two-yard line of the Trojans.

Rose Bowl MVP Rudy Bukich of USC threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to future Green Bay Packer Al Carmichael for the winning score in the third quarter.

In the 1960 Rose Bowl, the 7-2 Badgers faced the 9-1 Washington Huskies. The Badgers were coached by Milt Bruhn, while the Huskies were coached by Jim Owens.

Going into the game, the Badgers were ranked No. 6 in both the AP poll and the Coaches poll, while the Huskies were ranked No. 8 and No. 7 respectively.

The Badgers were led that season by quarterback Dale Hackbart, who ran more than he threw and was named All-Big Ten by UPI (United Press International). Hackbart rushed for 387 yards, which led the team, and also scored six touchdowns.

The leading rusher in the Big Ten in 1959 would be future Green Bay Packer Bob Jeter of Iowa, who rushed for 609 yards, while another future Packer, Herb Adderley of Michigan State, finished fourth in the conference in rushing, as he toted the rock for 419 yards.

Both Jeter and Adderley would become excellent cornerbacks in the NFL, with Adderley being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hackbart was joined on the All-Big Ten team by guard Jerry Stalcup (AP & UPI) and offensive tackle Dan Lanphear (AP & UPI).

The outcome of the game was never in doubt, as Washington had a 17-0 lead after the first quarter. The Huskies never looked back, as they crushed the Badgers 44-8.

Washington was led by quarterback Bob Schloredt and halfback George Fleming, as they were named co-Players of the Game.

Wisconsin scored it’s lone touchdown on a 4-yard run by halfback Tom Wiesner and that was followed up by a two-point conversion on a Hackbart pass to Allan Schoonover.

In the 1963 Rose Bowl game, the Badgers would face the Trojans again.

That epic contest between the Badgers and Trojans is one of the most famous bowl games ever played.

In the 1962 regular season, the Badgers were 8-1, which included being 6-1 in the Big Ten. Besides winning the Big Ten title that year, the Badgers also beat Notre Dame 17-8 that year at Camp Randall Stadium.

Like in the 1960 Rose Bowl, Wisconsin was coached by Milt Bruhn in this “Granddaddy of Them All” game. Bruhn had a rocky start and finish in his tenure as head coach of the Badgers, but overall his teams were a respectable 52-45-6, which included the two Rose Bowl appearances.

The Badgers had a prolific offense in 1962, which was led by quarterback Ron Vander Kelen and tight end Pat Richter.

Vander Kelen led the Big Ten in passing and total offense that season. Richter led the Big Ten in receiving yardage for the second straight season in 1962.

Going into the 1963 Rose Bowl, the Badgers were ranked No. 2 in the country, while the Trojans were ranked No. 1. There were 98,696 fans there to witness this classic contest.

USC got off to quick start led by quarterback Pete Beathard and the Trojans were up 21-7 at halftime. USC increased that lead by 42-14 early in the fourth quarter.

That’s when things got real interesting.

Pat Richter

Pat Richter running downfield after catching a pass in the 1963 Rose Bowl game.

Vander Kelen led a stirring comeback for the Badgers. Wisconsin scored 23 straight points to pull within 42-37, but time ran out for Bucky in a thrilling fourth quarter.

Vander Kelen completed 17-of-21 passes in just the fourth quarter alone. For the game, Vander Kelen ended up completing 33 of 48 throws for 401 yards, while Pat Richter finished with 11 receptions for 163 yards and a touchdown.

Vander Kelen was co-MVP for the game, along with Beathard.

It would be 31 long years before the Badgers returned to Pasadena to face the UCLA Bruins on their home field on January 1, 1994.

That trip to SoCal was due to the hiring of Barry Alvarez in 1990 as head coach by athletic director and star of the 1963 Rose Bowl, Pat Richter, as well as chancellor Donna Shalala.

It was not an easy process for Alvarez and his coaching staff to turn things around for the Badgers, as Wisconsin had not had a winning season since 1984 and was just 1-5 in bowl games overall in their history.

One of the coaches on the staff of Alvarez was Kevin Cosgrove, who initially was inside linebackers coach, but later became the defensive coordinator for nine years under Barry.

When I talked with Cosgrove, he mentioned the plan that Alvarez had getting the football program up to speed.

“As with everything Barry always did, he had a plan,” said Cosgrove. “When he got that job, he pretty much knew who he was going to hire. Barry put together a strong staff, and then the first couple of years he fined tuned it, and turned it into a great staff.”

But it still wasn’t easy. But the hard work by the coaches and players catapulted the Badgers to being co- champions (along with Ohio State) of the Big Ten and also the 1994 Rose Bowl.

“It was amazing just seeing where the program was when he took over. Attendance was down. Interest in the Badgers was nil,” Cosgrove said. “I think the Badgers averaged 30,000 fans a game the year before we got there. But we gradually pumped it up until it became sell out after sell out. But naturally that first Rose Bowl was something special. The thrill of getting there, when you consider all the things we had to do to build that program.”

Alvarez was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1993, while the team itself was led by running back Brent Moss, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Moss rushed for 1,637 yards and scored 16 touchdowns.

At the Rose Bowl, there were 101,237 in attendance and the stadium looked to be filled with 70 percent Wisconsin fans.

Moss rushed for 158 yards and scored two touchdowns, while quarterback Darrell Bevell shocked the crowd by scampering for a 21-yard touchdown run.

On defense, the Badgers allowed 500 total yards to the Bruins, but also forced a whopping six turnovers and that was the difference in the game, as the Badgers won 21-16 in their first ever victory in Pasadena.

Brent Moss

No. 33 Brent Moss of Wisconsin runs through a tackle in the 1994 Rose Bowl game.

Moss earned the Rose Bowl Most Valuable Player Award.

It took another five years before the Badgers returned to Pasadena and this time it was against the Bruins of UCLA again.

Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio State were all co-champions of the Big Ten in 1998, but the Badgers were the team that went to the Rose Bowl because they had gone the longest period of time without an invitation to Pasadena.

Both the Badgers and the Bruins were 10-1 going into the game.

The Badger offense was led by running back Ron Dayne, who rushed for 1,525 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Cosgrove had assembled one of the best defenses in the country.

In the 1998 season, the Badgers were ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense.

That defense would be going up against an explosive offense led by quarterback Cade McNown.

In the game, the defense of UCLA just could not stop the running game of the Badgers, as Dayne rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns. The Bruins did have 538 total yards in the game, but the Badgers did force two key turnovers, including a 46 yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Jamar Fletcher.

The Badgers were leading 38-31 when the Bruins were trying to score the game-tying touchdown. But that all ended on a fourth down sack of McNown by defensive tackle Wendel Bryant.

Both Fletcher and Bryant were freshmen and both were recruited out of St. Louis by Cosgrove.

The bottom line, the Badgers had their second straight Rose Bowl win, with both victories coming against UCLA.

Dayne earned the Rose Bowl MVP Award.

Ron Dayne

No. 33 Ron Dayne of Wisconsin runs down the field in the 1999 Rose Bowl game.

The Badgers would be going to Pasadena the very next year as well, as they would face the Stanford Cardinal in the 2000 Rose Bowl game.

The 1999 Badgers started out 2-2 and it looked like the team had no chance to win the conference or to get to the Rose Bowl again. But behind the play of Dayne, who ended up winning the Heisman Trophy (and the Doak Walker Award) and also the steady performance of freshman quarterback Brooks Bollinger, the offense started clicking.

Dayne rushed for 2,034 yards and scored 20 touchdowns, while Bollinger threw eight touchdown passes versus just two interceptions. Bollinger also rushed for 454 yards and six touchdowns.

The big threat at receiver for the Badgers was Chris Chambers, who had 41 receptions for 578 yards and four scores.

Cosgrove put together another outstanding defense, as the D was ranked 15th in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

It led to the Badgers winning their second straight Big Ten title and this time outright.

In the 2000 Rose Bowl, the Badgers looked like they were sleep-walking early in the game and were trailing 9-3 at halftime. Alvarez, who had to watch the game in the press box due to a knee infection, something he had done for a number of weeks, hobbled down to the locker room and went on a tirade as he yelled at his team.

That fiery speech woke the Badgers up and Wisconsin outscored Stanford 14-0 in the second half and Bucky and the boys prevailed 17-9.

Dayne once again was fantastic, as he rushed for 200 yards on 34 carries and also scored a touchdown, which once again earned him the Rose Bowl MVP award.

Bollinger added a score with a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Ron Dayne II

No. 33 Ron Dayne of Wisconsin rushes for yardage in the 2000 Rose Bowl game.

When it was all said and done, the Badgers had won back-to-back Rose Bowls under Alvarez, as well as their third Rose Bowl win in seven years.

It would be over a decade before the Badgers returned to Pasadena.

In 2010, the Badgers under head coach Bret Bielema, were co-champions of the Big Ten along with Ohio State and Michigan State. The Badgers once again earned the trip to the Rose Bowl because they had gone the longest period without an invitation.

In the 2011 Rose Bowl, the 11-1 Badgers would be facing a team not in the Pac-10 conference for the first time, as the Oregon Ducks were going to be playing in the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. That meant that the next top-rated BCS team would play the Badgers in Pasadena.

That team turned out to be the 12-0 TCU Horned Frogs.

The Badgers had a number of players make All-Big Ten in 2010. On the first team there were guard John Moffitt, tackle Gabe Carimi and defensive end J.J. Watt. The second team had quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay and defensive back Aaron Henry.

Carimi was named Offensive Lineman of the Year in the Big Ten, while running back James White was named Freshman of the Year.

In the Rose Bowl game itself, the contest was very tight in terms of the score. The Badgers led 3-0 on a Phillip Welch 30-yard field goal. TCU came back to take the lead 7-3 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Bart Johnson.

The Badgers re-took the lead 10-7 on a one-yard touchdown run by Clay. But that was the last time Wisconsin had the lead. Dalton scored on a 4-yard touchdown scamper, while Welch kicked another field goal for the Badgers and TCU led 14-13 at halftime.

TCU went up 21-13 in the third quarter and Wisconsin finally was able to score with 2:00 left in the game on a Montee Ball 4-yard touchdown run which made the score 21-19.

Ball rushed for 132 yards in the game.

The Badgers went for a two-point conversion with an empty backfeld, which made no sense to me. Wisconsin had gashed TCU on this drive due to their running game and you at least want to show the threat of a running play on the conversion.

Clay had rushed for 59 of his 76 rushing yards on this drive alone.

Montee Ball

No. 28 Montee Ball scores a touchdown in the 2011 Rose Bowl game.

But in the end, Scott Tolzien had his pass broken up in the end zone on the two-point try, as TCU hung on and won 21-19.

Bielema and his 10-2 Badgers made it back to the Rose Bowl again in 2012 after beating Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten Championship Game, 42-39.

The Badgers were led on offense all season long by quarterback Russell Wilson, who had off the chart stats. Wilson threw 33 touchdown passes compared to just four picks for 3,175 yards.

No. 16 also ran for 338 yards and six scores, plus caught a touchdown pass from Ball.

Ball put up Heisman-type numbers, as he rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns, plus caught 24 passes for 306 yards and six more scores.

Wilson was named the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year in the Big Ten, while Ball was named the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year in the Big Ten.

The Badgers had a number of other players receive honors in 2011, which included Wilson, Ball, guard Kevin Zeitler, tackle Josh Oglesby, linebacker Chris Borland and defensive back Aaron Henry being named to the Coaches first team.

All of those players except Henry were on the Media first team

Linebacker Mike Taylor and defensive back Antonio Fenelus joined them on that first team.

Ball finished fourth in the Heisman voting, while Wilson finished ninth.

In the Rose Bowl, the Badgers would be facing the 10-2 Oregon Ducks, who were one of the highest scoring teams in the nation under Chip Kelly.

The game was like watching the Indianapolis 500, as the action was fast. Wisconsin had 508 total yards, while Oregon had a whopping 621 total yards.

The Badgers scored first on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. Oregon quickly the game at 7-7 on a LaMichael James one-yard run.

Wisconsin re-took the lead on a 4-yard run by Wilson, but Oregon quickly tied it up again at 14 apiece when De’Anthony Thomas scored on a 91-yard run.

Ball put the Badgers up 21-14 on a 3-yard run, but the game was quickly tied again at 21-21 on a 54-yard touchdown pass from Darron Thomas to Kenjon Barner.

Wisconsin went up again 28-21 on a Louis Nzegwu 33-yardd fumble return, but once again Oregon tied the game again on a 3-yard pass from (Darron) Thomas to Lavasier Tuinei.

The score at halftime remained 28-28.

Oregon scored early in the third quarter to go up 35-28 on a (De’Anthony) Thomas 64-yard touchdown run. Phillip Welch got the Badgers to within four points at 35-31 when he hit a 29-yard field goal.

Wisconsin then took a 38-35 lead on a 18-yard touchdown pass by Wilson to wide receiver Nick Toon.

Wisconsin was driving to add to their lead when Wilson threw a costly pick which turned the momentum back to Oregon. The Ducks scored the last 10 points of the game to win 45-38.

Russell Wilson Rose Bowl

No. 16 Russell Wilson of Wisconsin about to throw a pass in the 2012 Rose Bowl game.

Wilson threw for 296 yards and two touchdowns, but also tossed that unlikely interception based on the way he performed all year.

Ball ran for 164 yards and a touchdown in the game. Abbrederis (4-119-1) and Toon (9-104-1) both had big games.

But Oregon was just unstoppable in the game, led by James and (De’Anthony) Thomas, who rushed for a combined 314 yards and three touchdowns.

The 8-5 Badgers went to their third straight Rose Bowl game in 2013, as they defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Wisconsin was in that game even though they finished third in the Leader Division. That was because both Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible due to NCAA sanctions.

However, after the Big Ten title game, Bielema shocked Badger Nation by accepting the head coaching job at Arkansas prior to the Rose Bowl.

That meant that the now athletic director Alvarez would be be interim coach for the game against the 11-2 Stanford Cardinal, coached by David Shaw.

The Badgers were led offensively by Ball, who rushed for 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns. No. 28 was also All-Big Ten, All-American and also won the Doak Walker Award as the best running back in the country.

The Badgers had a great multi-talented ground game, because besides Ball, Wisconsin also had James White (806 yards and 12 touchdowns) and Melvin Gordon (621 yards and three touchdowns).

The quarterback situation was a different story. The season started with Danny O’Brien (a transfer from Maryland) behind center, but that didn’t work out. Joel Stave took over and had the Badgers playing much better in the passing game, but he broke a collarbone.

Curt Phillips then took over at quarterback and it was he who started behind center in the 2013 Rose Bowl.

Defensively, the Badgers were led once again by linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor.

In terms of being named All-Big Ten by the Coaches, Ball was joined by wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, tackle Rick Wagner, tight end Jacob Pedersen and Borland at linebacker.

The Media first team had Ball, Abbrederis, center Travis Frederick, Wagner and Mike Taylor at linebacker.

In the actual 2013 Rose Bowl, Stanford had an early 14-0 lead after the first quarter. But the Badgers pulled to within 17-14 at halftime on a Ball 11-yard touchdown run and also a 4-yard pass from Phillips to Jordan Fredrick.

But those were the last points of the game for the Badgers as they lost 20-14.

The Badgers ran for 218 yards in the game, including 100 by Ball, but could not get much of a passing game going, as Phillips only threw for 83 yards.

That loss, the third setback in a row for the Badgers, put Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl record at 3-6 going into the 2020 Rose Bowl game against Oregon.

Overall, the Badgers are now 16-14 in bowl games, while current head coach Paul Chryst is a perfect 4-0 in bowl games, which includes wins in both the Cotton Bowl and the Orange Bowl.

Chryst is also now 4-1 versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers, including a big 38-17 victory this season, which basically set the table for the Badgers going to the Rose Bowl.

Jonathan Taylor 2020 Rose Bowl Jersey

Jonathan Taylor of the Wisconsin Badger before the 2020 Rose Bowl game.

And like they have in previous Rose Bowl games (with Dayne and Ball), the Badgers will have a Doak Walker Award winner on the field with Jonathan Taylor running the football. Taylor has actually won that award now two years in a row.

Taylor has rushed for 6,080 yards in his three-year career at Wisconsin and has scored 50 touchdowns. No. 23 has also caught 40 passes for 364 yards and three more scores.

Anyway, we will soon find out how the 10-3 Badgers do against the 11-2 Ducks (led by quarterback Justin Herbert), but it should be a dandy.

If the game anything like the high-scoring 2012 Rose Bowl between these two teams, look out!

Somehow I don’t believe that will be the case, as the Badgers are ranked No. 8 in total defense, while the Ducks are ranked No. 23 in total defense.

No matter, it’s always fun to watch “The Granddady of Them All” on New Year’s Day.

This will be the 10th time for Badger Nation.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers: Three Big Prizes Await the Winner of Saturday’s Game

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota II

When the 9-2 (6-2) Wisconsin Badgers take on the 10-1 (7-1) Minnesota Golden Gophers this Saturday afternoon at TCF Bank Stadium, three big awards will be at stake for the winner of the game.

For one, the winner will win the Big Ten West title and the right to play Ohio State in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis on December 7.

Another honor that will go to the victorious team is the right to have possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Finally, the winner of the contest will have the series lead in a border battle that dates back to 1890 and is the longest, uninterrupted rivalry in FBS Division I college football.

The series is currently tied 60-60- 8.

The Badgers have only led in the overall series just once and that was when the Badgers beat the Gophers 31-0 at TCF Stadium in 2017.

Up until that point, Wisconsin had never led in the series. Not once in 127 years. Wisconsin can do that for just the second time with a victory on Saturday.

In terms of the Paul Bunyan Axe, that reward for winning has gone on since 1948. Wisconsin leads by a 43-25-3 margin over Minnesota over that time.

But because of Minnesota’s somewhat shocking 37-15 win over Wisconsin last year at Camp Randall Stadium, the Gophers now own the axe. But a win on Saturday afternoon will see the Badgers running across the football field to retrieve what was theirs for 14 straight years from 2004 through 2017.

Winning back the axe and taking the overall series lead are both great goals and will mean a lot. But the biggest prize will be in winning the Big Ten West.

The game will see two of the better coaches in the Big Ten going at each other for the fourth time and the third time in Big Ten play.

I’m talking about Paul Chryst of the Badgers and P.J. Fleck of the Golden Gophers.

The first time these two coaches met was in the 2017 Cotton Bowl, when the Badgers met the Western Michigan Broncos, who were coached by Fleck at the time. Western Michigan was 13-0 going into the game, while the Badgers were 10-3.

Wisconsin won the game 24-16.

Shortly after the game, Fleck accepted the head coaching position at Minnesota.

In 2017, the Gophers finished 5-7 under Fleck, and then 7-6 in 2018 which included a win against Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit. That bowl appearance was set up by the surprising win over the Badgers last year in Madison.

In 2019, the Gophers have turned heads in the FBS and the Big Ten with their performance thus far under Fleck. Overall as a head coach at Minnesota thus far, Fleck is 22-14 and 1-0 in bowl games.

Chryst has been the head coach at Wisconsin since 2015 and currently has an overall record of 51-14. That includes two Big Ten West titles, plus the Badgers are 4-0 in bowls under Chryst, which includes wins in the Cotton and Orange Bowls.

In addition to that, Chryst has twice been named Big Ten Coach of the Year (2016 and 2017).

Fleck is a favorite to win that award this year.

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

All that being said about the coaches going into this game, it will be the players who will determine the outcome of this important contest.

The 10th-ranked (AP) Gophers are ranked 45th in total offense in the FBS and average just under 432 yards a game. Minnesota is ranked 42nd in rushing offense (184.5 yards per game) and 53rd in passing offense (247.1 yards per game).

Running back Rodney Smith leads the way in the running game, as he has rushed for 1,063 yards and has scored eight touchdowns. Mohamed Ibrahim (425 yards and six TDs) and Shannon Brooks (386 yards and two TDs) also get touches toting the rock.

When running the wildcat formation, the Gophers utilize Seth Green to handle the snaps. Green has rushed for 88 yards and five touchdowns.

Quarterback Tanner Morgan is sixth in the FBS in passing efficiency and is having a great season. Morgan has thrown 26 touchdown passes versus just five interceptions for 2,679 yards.

The two main weapons that Morgan utilizes are wide receiver’s Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman. Johnson (66-1,025-10), while Bateman (51-1,023-10) receptions almost mirror each other in production.

Minnesota will be facing another fine defense from Wisconsin put together by defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.

The 12th-ranked (AP) Badgers are seventh in the FBS in total defense and have allowed just over 268 yards per game. Wisconsin is also eighth in scoring defense, as they give us just a tad over 14 points per game.

The defense is once again led by the talented linebacker corp that Leonhard always seems to put together. Chris Orr is tied for fifth in the FBS with 11 sacks, while Zack Baun is tied for 14th with 9.5 sacks.

Orr leads the Badgers in total tackles with 64 and is followed by fellow linebacker Jack Sanborn with 57. Baun is next with 53 tackles.

The Badgers are ninth in the FBS in rushing defense and their opponents average 98.5 yards per game. Wisconsin is also sixth in passing defense and have allowed an average of just under 170 yards per game.

The Badgers have 10 interceptions and two of those have been returned for touchdowns. Safety Eric Burrell leads the way with three picks, plus has 39 tackles. Sanborn also has two interceptions.

In terms of offense, Wisconsin is ranked 37th in total offense (just over 441 yards per game) in the FBS, which includes being ranked 14th in rushing offense (just over 250 yards per game) and ranked 101st in passing offense (just over 191 yards per game).

The offense is led by running back Jonathan Taylor, who is second in the FBS with 1,685 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns.

Taylor has 5,856 yards rushing is his three-year career at Wisconsin so far and has 47 career rushing touchdowns. That is tops all time in NCAA history in terms of rushing yardage in just three years of play.

Taylor is second all time in terms of yards rushing in Big Ten history and Wisconsin history.

The only running back in front of him in both cases is Ron Dayne, who won the Heisman Trophy with the Badgers in 1999 and had 7,125 yards rushing in his career.

Jonathan Taylor vs. Minnesota

By the way, in two games versus the Gophers, Taylor has rushed for 269 yards and a touchdown.

When No. 23 needs a break from the action, Nakia Watson (321 yards rushing and two TDs) normally takes over on rushing downs, while Garrett Groshek (176 yards rushing and two TDs) comes in during passing situations.

The Badgers also utilize the jet sweep quite often and receivers like Kendric Pryor (136 yards rushing), Aron Cruickshank (122 yards rushing), Danny Davis III (86 yards rushing) and A.J. Taylor (34 yards rushing) have all been used in that role.

In addition, the Badgers have been using the wildcat at times recently when running the ball. Last week against Purdue, both Cruickshank and Groshek handled the snaps in that formation and Cruickshank scored on a 27-yard jaunt against the Boilers using the wildcat.

When throwing the football, quarterback Jack Coan has been very efficient for the most part. In fact, Coan is ranked 14th in the FBS in passing efficiency. Coan has thrown 15 touchdown passes versus just four picks for 2,029 yards.

Coan likes to throw to his backs, and both Taylor (20-164-4) and Groshek (24-191) have been very effective in that role.

When looking down the field, Coan’s favorite targets are wide receiver Quintez Cephus (40-606-5) and tight end Jake Ferguson (26-310-2).

Coan also utilizes (A.J.) Taylor (21-257-2), Pryor (18-252) and Davis III (25-195-1).

The Badgers will be facing a Minnesota squad which is ranked 10th in the FBS in total defense and gives up just a tad over 300 yards per game. The Gophers are tied for 27th in scoring defense, as they allow an average of 21 points per game.

Linebacker Carter Coughlin (4.5) and defensive lineman Sam Renner (4) lead the Gophers in sacks.

The key player for Minnesota on defense is defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., as he leads the team in tackles with 76, plus has seven interceptions. No. 11 also has three sacks.

In a big game like this, special teams play is very important. Cruickshank of the Badgers is 10th in the FBS in kick returns, as he averages 28.4 yards per return and has taken one to the house.

Jack Dunn of Wisconsin is 25th in the FBS in punt returns with a nine yard return average.

No one from Minnesota is in the top 50 in either one of those statistical categories.

Wisconsin is also 4th in kick return defense, while Minnesota is ranked 57th. The Gophers are ranked 2nd in punt return defense however, while the Badgers are ranked 67th.

In terms of blocked punts, the Badgers have one so far in 2019, while the Gophers have yet to block one.

Collin Larsh of Wisconsin is 10-of-15 in field goal attempts, while Zach Hintze of the Badgers nailed a 62-yard field goal last week against Purdue.

Michael Lantz of the Gophers is 6-of-9 in field goal attempts.

Anthony Lotti of the Badgers has 40.2 punting average, while Jacob Herbers of the Gophers has a 38.1 punting average.

Badgers celebrate with Paul Bunyans's Axe

The bottom line is that Saturday’s game should be one hell of a game between these two rivals.

As I mentioned earlier, three big items are on the line.

– The Big Ten West title

– Paul Bunyan’s Axe

– The overall series lead which dates back to 1890

One things is for sure. A member of the rodent family will be winning the Big Ten West.

Will it be a Badger or a Gopher?

Will Chryst be going back the the Big Ten title game for the third time with a chance to win his first Big Ten Title?

Or will Fleck be leading the Gophers to their first ever Big Ten title game?

We will find out Saturday in Minneapolis.

Wisconsin Sports Teams Have Fared Well at Yankee Stadium in the Postseason

lew burdette at yankee stadium in 1957 world series

As I was watching the Wisconsin Badgers pummel the Miami Hurricanes 35-3 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at the new Yankee Stadium in December, I got to thinking about all the great moments other Wisconsin sports teams had at the original Yankee Stadium.

The new Yankee Stadium replaced “The House That Ruth Built” in 2009. That original stadium was considered to be the cathedral of baseball while it existed from 1923 through 2008. The stadium also hosted other sporting events such as college football, as well as NFL football (the New York Giants played there from 1956-1973), plus their were also a number of great boxing matches at the venerable stadium.

In terms of great moments for a Wisconsin sports team, it all started in 1957, when the Milwaukee Braves played the New York Yankees in the World Series.

Game 1 was played at Yankee Stadium and the Braves did not get off to a great start, as Whitey Ford out-pitched Warren Spahn and the Yankees won 3-1 in front of 69,476 fans. But in Game 2, Lew Burdette got the Braves back to even in the series, as he pitched a beauty as Milwaukee won 4-2, as 65,202 fans attended.

But that performance by Burdette was just the beginning of even more excellence as the series continued.

The Braves then won two out of three games played at Milwaukee County Stadium to take a 3-2 lead in the series as it headed back to Yankee Stadium. One of those wins in Milwaukee was another great performance by Burdette in Game 5, as he shut out the Yanks 1-0 in a great pitching duel with Ford.

In Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, New York evened the series at 3-3, as the Yankees edged the Braves 3-2 in front of 61,408 fans.

That set up a winner-take-all situation in Game 7, as the Braves were putting out Burdette on the mound again versus Don Larsen. Milwaukee was led offensively by Bob Hazle, Del Crandall and Hank Aaron, who each had two hits, while Burdette was magnificent on the mound. Crandall hit the only homer of the game, as the Braves won 5-0.

Burdette had his third straight complete game win in the series and his second straight shutout.  In all, No. 33 was 3-0 in the series, pitched 24 consecutive scoreless innings, had an ERA of .067 and was named the MVP of the World Series.

On this offensive side, Aaron was fantastic in the series, as No. 44 hit .393, plus knocked out three homers and drove in seven runs. Third baseman Eddie Mathews added a homer (the game-winner in Game 4) and four RBIs.

As it has turned out, 1957 was the only year the city of Milwaukee has had a World Series champion. And that clinching victory happened at Yankee Stadium.

braves celebrate winning 1957 world series

Then there was the 1962 NFL Championship Game played at Yankee Stadium between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. This would be the second straight year the two teams had played for the NFL title, as the Packers beat the G-Men at new City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) 37-0 in the 1961 NFL Championship Game, as Paul Hornung scored 19 of those points by himself.

The environment at Yankee Stadium was reminiscent of the conditions at the 1967 NFL Championship Game, better know as the “Ice Bowl”, as it was a bitterly cold day (13 degrees), plus the wind was gusting up to 40 miles per hour, which made things feel much colder.

Even with the blustery weather, right guard/kicker Jerry Kramer was awestruck as he walked into the storied stadium.

“It was really a highlight for me walking into Yankee Stadium,” Kramer said. “It was an emotional experience for me. All the great fights and the World Series games that had gone on there. You had the statues of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio in center field.

“You also looked into the crowd and saw the sophisticated sports fans who were booing your ass. Then you look across the line of scrimmage and you see [Andy] Robustelli, [Jim] Katcavage, [Sam] Huff, [Dick] Lynch and that whole group, you definitely get pumped.”

Kramer wasn’t the only one pumped on the Green Bay sideline. Being at Yankee Stadium was also a homecoming for head coach Vince Lombardi, as he was a New York City native and was the offensive coordiantor for the Giants from 1954-1958.

“We knew how badly coach Lombardi wanted to win that ball game,” Kramer said. “And we knew the Giants had been embarrassed the year before in Green Bay. We knew the Giants were going to be loaded for bear that day. But we also knew coach Lombardi desperately wanted a victory, and so we wanted to win for him and much as ourselves.”

Kramer was excited for another reason. No. 64 had missed the 1961 NFL title game due to a broken ankle/leg suffered midway in the 1961 season. But Kramer went on to have his best season in the NFL in 1962.

Kramer was named first team All-Pro by AP, NEA and UPI, while No. 64 was also named to his first Pro Bowl squad.

Not only was Kramer exceptional playing right guard for the Packers, but he also took over the placekicking duties of the Packers during the season after Hornung suffered a knee injury.

For the season, Kramer scored 65 points, which included being 9-for-11 in field goal attempts.

The NFL title game in the Bronx turned out to be extremely physical in arctic-like conditions. The Packers rushed for 148 yards in the game, with fullback Jimmy Taylor getting 85 of those yards, as well as the only touchdown scored by the Packers.

jim taylor in 1962 nfl title game

Taylor and middle linebacker Sam Huff of the Giants brawled all game long. Huff made it a personal mission to stop Taylor, and he hit the bruising fullback after the whistle a number of times in the game. Talking about that confrontation, Kramer said, “Huff probably would have gotten arrested for assaulting Taylor today.”

After the victory by the Packers, middle linebacker Ray Nitschke was named the game’s MVP, as he had been tenacious with his tackling on defense and also recovered two fumbles.

Kramer certainly could have received that honor as well, based on the way he played that day. Besides blocking very well and recovering a fumble by Taylor, Kramer had to kick that day under very difficult conditions, with the gusty wind hampering his efforts.

Kramer ended up scoring 10 points (three field goals and an extra point) in the 16-7 victory for the Packers. After the game, the coaches and the players presented No. 64 with a game ball because of the great performance he had in that year’s championship game.

jerry kramer fg

Then there was the 1981 American League Division Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Yankees. The 1981 season was a strike year in baseball and the season was split into halves. The Yankees won the AL East in the first half of the season, while the Brew Crew won the AL East in the second half of the season. That set up this playoff series to find out who would go on to the AL Championship Series.

1981 was the first time the Brewers had ever played in the postseason. The season was set up by a big offseason trade that saw Milwaukee acquire relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, starting pitcher Pete Vuckovich and catcher Ted Simmons from the St, Louis Cardinals.

Fingers was awesome all season long as he was 6-3 with 28 saves, plus had a phenomenal 1.04 ERA, which led the Brewers to the second-half AL East title. That performance garnered Fingers the AL MVP award, as well as the Cy Young honor in the AL.

In the series against the Yanks, the Brewers did not play very well in the first two games at County Stadium in Milwaukee, as they were beaten 5-3 in Game 1 and then 3-0 in Game 2. That meant all the Yankees needed was just one win at Yankee Stadium to move on to the ALCS.

paul molitor in 1981 al division series at yankee stadium

But the Brewers battled back in Game 3. Randy Lerch went up against Tommy John and allowed just one run over six innings. Fingers came in to finish the game in the seventh inning, and although he allowed two runs, the Brewers won 5-3. Fingers got the victory, while Simmons (three RBIs) and Paul Molitor each had a homer.

In Game 4, Vuckovich allowed only one unearned run over five innings, as the bullpen took over after that, as Jamie Easterly, Jim Slaton, Bob McClure and Fingers finished it out, as the Brewers won 2-1. Vuckovich got the win, while Fingers got the save. Ben Oglivie and Cecil Cooper each had a RBI.

In Game 5, the Brewers started Moose Haas, who would be going up against Ron Guidry. The Brewers got off to a nice start, as they led 2-0. Gorman Thomas hit a homer and Robin Yount had three hits, but the Yankees stormed back and won 7-3.

Still, it was a great experience for the Brewers, as it set the stage for 1982, when Milwaukee advanced to the World Series under manager Harvey Kuenn, who took over for Buck Rodgers early in that season.

The Badgers had their way against the Canes at the new Yankee Stadium on this past December with running back Jonathan Taylor leading the way, as No. 23 rushed for 205 yards and a touchdown.

The game was attended by just 37,821 fans, but most were Wisconsin backers who enjoyed another great moment in the Big Apple. The bowl victory was the fifth straight for the Badgers and gave head coach Paul Chryst a perfect 4-0 record in bowl games.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Wisconsin vs Miami

The Badgers are now 16-14 in their bowl history.

The bottom line is that both old Yankee Stadium and new Yankee Stadium have given the state of Wisconsin some great sports memories. The memories may continue still, as the Brewers are now in the National League and it’s entirely possible that they might match up one day in the near future with the Yankees in the World Series.

That would be apropos. Especially if the Brewers clinched the series at Yankee Stadium.

A Scout’s Take on Miami (FL) vs. Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl

Miami vs. Wisconsin at the Orange Bowl

On December 30th, this upcoming Saturday night, the 12-1 and No. 6-ranked Wisconsin Badgers will face the 10-2 and No. 10-ranked Miami Hurricanes in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. This game will be the 11th time that the Badgers have played a bowl game in the state of Florida since 1995.

Wisconsin has played in the Hall of Fame Bowl once (1995), the Outback Bowl four times (1998, 2005, 2008 and 2015), the Capital One Bowl three times (2006, 2007 and 2014) and the Champs Sports Bowl twice (2008 and 2009).

The Badgers and Hurricanes have met once in a bowl game, as they played each other in the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, as Wisconsin won 20-14.

This will be the first appearance of the Badgers in the historic Orange Bowl game, which dates back to 1935, when the Hurricanes played Bucknell and lost 26-0. This year’s Orange Bowl will mark Miami’s 11th appearance in this classic game.

This will be the 20th time that the Orange Bowl will be played at Hard Rock Stadium. And except for three games at Miami Field from 1935 through 1937, all of the other 60 Orange Bowl games were played in the aptly named Miami Orange Bowl.

The Badgers go into this game with a 14-14 record in 28 bowl games. Here is the complete history of the 28 bowl games Wisconsin has played in:

  • 1953 Rose Bowl: USC 7, Wisconsin 0
  • 1960 Rose Bowl: Washington 44, Wisconsin 8
  • 1963 Rose Bowl: USC 42, Wisconsin 37
  • 1981 Garden State Bowl: Tennessee 28, Wisconsin 21
  • 1982 Independence Bowl: Wisconsin 14, Kansas State 3
  • 1984 Hall of Fame Classic Bowl: Kentucky 20, Wisconsin 19
  • 1994 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 21, UCLA 16
  • 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl: Wisconsin 34, Duke 20
  • 1996 Copper Bowl: Wisconsin 38, Utah 10
  • 1998 Outback Bowl: Georgia 33, Wisconsin 6
  • 1999 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31
  • 2000 Rose Bowl: Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9
  • 2000 Sun Bowl: Wisconsin 21, UCLA 20
  • 2002 Alamo Bowl: Wisconsin 31, Colorado 28
  • 2003 Music City Bowl: Auburn 28, Wisconsin 14
  • 2005 Outback Bowl: Georgia 24, Wisconsin 21
  • 2006 Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin 24, Auburn 10
  • 2007 Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14
  • 2008 Outback Bowl: Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17
  • 2008 Champs Sports Bowl: Florida State 42, Wisconsin 13
  • 2009 Champs Sports Bowl: Wisconsin 20, Miami (FL) 14
  • 2011 Rose Bowl: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19
  • 2012 Rose Bowl: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38
  • 2013 Rose Bowl: Stanford 20, Wisconsin 14
  • 2014 Capital One Bowl: South Carolina 34, Wisconsin 24
  • 2015 Outback Bowl: Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31
  • 2015 Holiday Bowl: Wisconsin 23, USC 21
  • 2017 Cotton Bowl: Wisconsin 24, Western Michigan 16

I did a complete bowl history story about the Badgers last year, which you can read here. As I mentioned earlier, before this year, the Badgers have played in 10 bowl games in the state of Florida since 1995. I’ve been to six of those games, seeing as I live in the Tampa Bay area.

It started in 1995 at the Hall of Fame Bowl when Barry Alvarez and the Badgers took on the Duke Blue Devils.

Because I was a college buddy of defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove of the Badgers, I was able to see the Badgers work out at Tampa Stadium in practice a day before the game.

Cossy

Kevin Cosgrove

A couple of friends and I also sat next to the coaches’ wives at the actual game as Wisconsin beat Duke 34-20.

That was the first game in which Cosgrove was the defensive coordinator for the Badgers under Alvarez. He replaced Dan McCarney, who had left to become head coach at Iowa State.

Cosgrove stayed on as defensive coordinator through the 2003 season. He coordinated those great defenses on the 1998 and 1999 Wisconsin teams that won back-to-back Big Ten titles and the Rose Bowl.

In 1998, the Badgers were ranked fourth in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense. In 1999, they were ranked 15th in the country in total defense and fifth in scoring defense.

Running back Ron Dayne of the Badgers was the MVP in both the 1999 Rose Bowl game and 2000 Rose Bowl game, when he rushed for a combined 446 yards and five touchdowns.

My fondest memory of watching the Badgers at a bowl game was being at the team hotel (Westin Tampa Harbour Island) after the Hall of Fame Bowl and smoking a victory cigar with a number of the coaches (including Alvarez and Cosgrove) overlooking the Hillsborough River from the balcony.

Cosgrove is now the defensive coordinator at New Mexico under head coach Bob Davie. The Lobos went to back-to-back bowl games in 2015 and 2016 after not having been to a bowl game since 2007.

Under Alvarez, the Badgers were 8-3 in the bowl games they played under him from 1994 through 2006. As an interim head coach at the 2013 Rose Bowl and the 2015 Outback Bowl, Alvarez had a 1-1 record.

I was at the 2015 Outback Bowl when Alvarez and his Badgers were victorious. Running back Melvin Gordon ran for 251 yards and three touchdowns as the Badgers beat the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in overtime.

Before Alvarez arrived in Madison in 1990, the Badgers had only appeared in six bowl games. But Barry and his Badgers compiled a 118–73–4 from 1990-2005 and that led to to 11 more bowl appearances.

Barry Alvarez and Paul Chryst

Barry Alvarez and Paul Chryst

Getting back to this year’s Orange Bowl now. This looks to be a defensive battle.

The Badgers are first nationally in total defense (253.2 yards per game), second in rushing defense (92.6) and third in scoring defense (13.2).

The Wisconsin defense had six players who were either on the first or second All-Big Ten team this season. The first-team selections were All-American linebacker T.J. Edwards (coaches and media), cornerback Nick Nelson (coaches and media) and safety D’Cota Dixon (coaches).

The Badgers also had three players named to the second-team All-Big Ten named by the coaches. The players were senior defensive lineman Alec James, senior defensive lineman Conor Sheehy and senior linebacker Garret Dooley.

The Hurricanes meanwhile, produced 30 turnovers this season on defense, which is tied for third in the country. Because of that, Miami uses the Turnover Chain on their sideline. That chain goes around the neck of the player who comes up with a takeaway.

Junior defensive back Jaquan Johnson has a team-high four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Junior defensive back Michael Jackson also picked off four passes. All told, sixteen different Miami players have come up with a turnover.

Wisconsin is tied for 11th in the country with 26 turnovers created.

Overall on defense though, the Hurricanes are tied for 38th in the country in total defense (359.8 yards per game) and 17th in scoring defense (19.9).

On offense, Wisconsin is led by freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, who has rushed for 1,847 yards, which is tops in the Big Ten and fourth in the FBS. Taylor has also scored 13 touchdowns.

Taylor was also named first-team All-Big Ten at running back by both the coaches and the media. In addition to that, Taylor won the Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year award in the Big Ten.

In the passing game, sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook has thrown 21 touchdown passes versus 15 interceptions for 2,386 yards. No. 12 was also named Honorable Mention Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

Hornibrook’s primary weapon in the passing game is senior tight end Troy Fumagalli, who has 43 receptions for 516 yards and four touchdowns. Fumagalli was named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media. In addition to that, Fumagalli won the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award in the Big Ten.

Troy Fumagalli

Troy Fumagalli

After a season-ending leg injury to sophomore wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who had 30 receptions for 501 yards and six touchdowns at the time of his injury, Hornibrook has relied on three other young wide receivers who have played well.

Sophomore A.J. Taylor, freshman Danny Davis and freshman Kendric Pryor have combined for 55 receptions for 881 yards and seven touchdowns. All have been utilized on reverse run plays, and Pryor has been especially effective, as he’s run for 63 yards and two touchdowns.

Everything on offense for the Badgers starts with their massive offensive line.

Four of the offensive linemen were honored for their play this season. Named to both the coaches and media’s first-team All-Big Ten squad were junior guard Beau Benzschawel (6’6″, 317) and junior offensive tackle Michael Deiter (6’6″, 328).

Named to both the coaches and media’s second-team All-Big Ten team was sophomore offensive tackle Dave Edwards (6-7, 315), while freshman center Tyler Biadasz (6’3″, 316) was named third-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

On offense, Miami is led by junior quarterback Malik Rosier, who has struggled somewhat in two straight losses after the Canes started 10-0. For the season, Rosier has thrown 25 touchdown passes versus 11 picks for 2,917 yards. No. 12 has also rushed for 427 yards and five touchdowns.

The main threat in the running game for the Hurricanes is sophomore Travis Homer, who has rushed for 902 yards and seven scores.

The two main weapons for Rosier in the passing game are senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios, who has 52 receptions for 942 yards and nine scores so far this season, while senior tight end Christopher Herndon IV has 40 catches for 470 yards and four touchdowns.

In terms of the head coaches in this game, both have done well in bowl games. Paul Chryst of Wisconsin is 2-0 in bowl games as the head man of the Badgers, as Wisconsin beat USC 23-21 in the 2015 Holiday Bowl, plus beat then undefeated Western Michigan 24-16 in the 2017 Cotton Bowl. Overall, Chryst is 33-7 since he took over the head coaching reins of the Badgers in 2015.

Chryst was 1-1 in bowl games while he was the head coach at Pittsburgh.

This past 2017 season, Chyrst won both the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches vote) and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media vote) in the Big Ten.

Mark Richt of is 11-5 overall in bowl games with both Georgia and Miami, which included a win in last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, when the Hurricanes beat the West Virginia Mountaineers 31-14.

While he was at Georgia, Richt and his Bulldogs beat Alvarez and his Badgers 24-21 in the 2005 Outback Bowl. Since becoming head coach of the Canes in 2016, Richt has led Miami to 19-6 record and overall has a 164-57 coaching mark.

I wanted to get a read on this game by talking with one of the best in the business, NFL Scout Chris Landry. I was able to talk with Landry on Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Steve Carney and Len Martez.

Landry believes the turnover issue will be a key in this game.

“The thing that jumps out at me, when you look at this Miami team this year, is that they played a couple of really good games and in some other games they have gotten by,” Landry said. “I thought that the stretch of the two big wins [Virginia Tech and Notre Dame] kind of set everyone on fire, but then things sort of came back to reality.

“The other thing that jumps out at me is Wisconsin has to protect the football. If they turn the football like they have done in some Big Ten games this year, Miami will make them pay. They [Miami] are very athletic and very skilled. I think Wisconsin, if they are patient, they can run the football, but this Miami defense will play eight-man fronts to limit the run game.

“So can [Alex] Hornibrook make plays? Can they find a way to make enough plays in the passing game to be successful? That’s going to be the key. Plus, this Miami team offensively will be going up against a very good Wisconsin defense which I think is very underrated.

“So I think it will be a good matchup. Miami has a little bit more athleticism on offense, but I like Wisconsin’s defense a little bit better. This should be a really good one.”

A Scout’s Take on the B1G Title Game Between Ohio State and Wisconsin

Buckeyes vs. Badgers

The Wisconsin Badgers completed their unblemished 2017 campaign by defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers 31-0 last Saturday. The victory put the Badgers at 12-0, and it also made them the only undefeated team in a Power 5 conference.

That’s because both Miami (FL) and Alabama lost for the first time last weekend. And because of those two losses, the Badgers have now moved in the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The Badgers are now ranked No. 4, behind only the 11-1 Clemson Tigers at No. 1, the 10-2 Auburn Tigers at No. 2 and the 11-1 Oklahoma Sooners at No. 3. The 11-1 Crimson Tide fell to No. 5 in the CFP rankings, while the 10-1 Hurricanes fell to No. 7. The 11-1 Georgia Bulldogs are ranked No. 6.

The No. 4 ranking in the CFP also means that if the Badgers can defeat No. 8 Ohio State in the B1G Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, they will most definitely be in the College Football Playoff.

In terms of the matchup between the B1G West champion Badgers and the 10-2 and B1G East champion Buckeyes, I wanted to get a read on that B1G title game by talking to one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry. I was able to chat again with Landry on on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show on Wednesday.

When I talked to Landry, I first mentioned how the Badgers were able to get by both Iowa (who beat Ohio State by 31 points) and Michigan, plus also how stout the Wisconsin defense has been the past three games (only 10 points allowed).

“Well, I have been impressed with Wisconsin’s consistency,” Landry said. “I’ve been impressed with their defense and I think Jim Leonhard has done a good job. Those guys are well positioned  and they do a great job with their run fits. And they are very underrated athletically. I think they are very quick and they do a really good job with their pressures.

“Offensively, I do have concerns. They turn the football over too much. It’s not come back to hurt them. They have been able to overcome it. I think Ohio State has to play their best game to beat Wisconsin. I think Wisconsin has a really good chance. I think Ohio State overall has better personnel, but Ohio State has not played consistent football.

“I know that Ohio State is certainly going to be motivated. They have a lot at stake with the Big 10 championship, so that’s not going to be the issue. Maybe that had something to do with the Iowa game. Plus, the injuries on the offensive line and at linebacker made that game a disaster. But this is no chance of them overlooking it.

“But I still say that this Ohio State team has been woefully inconsistent. I don’t think it’s an attitude or an effort, I think it’s a byproduct of some flaws. Some flaws in their offense. Their inability to to consistently perform in the passing game is a problem.

“So, I think if Wisconsin plays a clean game on offense and doesn’t turn the football over, I think their chances are really good and I think they win it. But this is not the game where you want to turn the football over four times. Because that will get you beat. And that will end a magical season for them in quick fashion.”

The matchup between the Ohio State offense the Wisconsin defense should be a key factor in the game.

The Buckeyes are ranked fourth in the FBS in total offense (529.8 yards per game), fifth in scoring offense (43.8 points per game), third in first downs (325) and are 13th in rushing offense (250.3 yards per game).

Ohio State is led offensively by senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was named first-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media. Barrett has thrown 33 touchdown passes versus just seven interceptions for 2,728 yards. Barrett has also rushed for 672 yards and nine more scores.

Barrett also won the Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year award in the Big Ten.

J.T. Barrett

Two other Buckeyes were named first-team All-Big Ten on offense by both the coaches and the media. The players are senior center Billy Price and senior offensive tackle Jamarco Jones.

Price was also named the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award in the Big Ten.

Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins was named second-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media. Dobbins has rushed for 1,190 yards (7.3 average) and seven touchdowns. Dobbins has also caught 20 passes for 130 yards and one more score.

Sophomore guard Michael Jordan was named second-team All-Big Ten by the media.  Third-team All-Big Ten recognition by the coaches went to junior wide receiver Parris Campbell and junior tackle Isaiah Prince.

Honorable Mention recognition by the coaches went to senior tight end Marcus Baugh, sophomore wide receiver K.J. Hill and sophomore running back Mike Weber.

Meanwhile, the Badgers are ranked first in total defense (236.9 yards per game), first in rushing defense (80.5 yards per game), second in scoring defense (12 points per game), tied for eighth in team sacks (3.25 per game), tied for fifth in red zone defense (.700), tied for 15th in interceptions (15) and tied for second in interceptions returned for touchdowns (4).

Junior linebacker T.J. Edwards and junior cornerback Nick Nelson were both named first-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media. Senior safety D’Cota Dixon was also named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches.

The Badgers also had three players named to the second-team All-Big Ten named by the coaches. The players were senior defensive lineman Alec James, senior defensive lineman Conor Sheehy and senior linebacker Garret Dooley.

Senior cornerback Derrick Tindal was named third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches, while junior linebacker Ryan Connelly, senior safety Joe Ferguson, senior linebacker Leon Jacobs, senior safety Natrell Jamerson and junior defensive lineman Olive Sagapolu were all named Honorable Mention by the coaches.

Connelly, Ferguson, Jacobs, Jamerson, Sagapolu and Tindal were also named Honorable Mention by the media.

Obviously something has to give between the explosive Buckeye offense and the stingy Badger defense.

On the offensive side of the ball, Wisconsin does not have the the firepower that Ohio State has there, but the Badgers can still be very effective. Although they are only ranked 42nd in total offense, the Badgers are very good at running the football and can be sneaky good passing the football.

The Badgers are ranked 18th in rushing offense (243.3 yards per game) and second in time of possession (35 minutes per game).

The running game is led by freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, who has rushed for 1,806 yards (7.0 average) and 13 touchdowns. Taylor is just 116 yards back of Adrian Peterson’s all-time freshman rushing record.

Taylor was also named first-team All-Big Ten at running back by both the coaches and the media. In addition to that, Taylor won the Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year award in the Big Ten.

It’s expected that Taylor will get an invite to New York City for the Heisman Trophy award ceremony.

Jonathan Taylor vs. Michigan

Sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook of the Badgers has thrown too many ill-advised interceptions in 2017, but against Minnesota, he looked very sharp, as he threw three touchdown passes without throwing a pick.

For the season, Hornibrook has thrown 21 touchdowns passes versus 13 interceptions for 2,157yards. Even with an uneven season at times, Hornibrook is 14th in the country in passing efficiency with a mark of 155.9.

Hornibrook was named Honorable Mention Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

Hornibrook likes going to senior tight end Troy Fumagalli, who has 38 receptions for 478 yards and four touchdowns.  Fumagalli was named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media. In addition to that, Fumagalli won the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award in the Big Ten.

Besides, Fumagalli, Hornibrook also has three young wide receivers that he is starting to utilize more, especially after sophomore Quintez Cephus was lost for the season with a leg injury.

Cephus (30 catches for 501 yards and six touchdowns) was having a great season before his injury and was also named Honorable Mention Big Ten by the coaches and the media.

Sophomore A.J. Taylor, freshman Danny Davis III and freshman Kendric Pryor have all made big plays for the Badgers over the past three weeks in the passing game, plus Pryor has been a threat in the running game as well with two touchdown runs via a reverse.

Like it always has, at least since Barry Alvarez arrived in Madison, the offense starts with the impressive play of the huge offensive line that the Badgers always seem to have.

Four of the offensive linemen were honored for their play this season. Named to both the coaches and media’s first-team All-Big Ten squad were junior guard Beau Benzschawel and junior offensive tackle Michael Deiter.

Named to both the coaches and media’s second-team All-Big Ten team was sophomore offensive tackle Dave Edwards, while freshman center Tyler Biadasz was named third-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

The offense of the Badgers will be going up against an Ohio State defense which is ranked eighth in total defense (291.8 yards per game) in the country. The Buckeyes are ranked 13th in rushing defense (112.8 yards per game) and 15th in passing defense (179 yards per game).

The Buckeyes are also tied for 19th in team sacks, as they average 2.83 per game.

The defense of the Buckeyes is led by sophomore defensive lineman Nick Bosa and senior defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis, who were both named first-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

Fellow defensive lineman, junior Sam Hubbard, was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and the media, while junior defensive back Denzel Ward was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and first-team All-Big Ten by the media.

Sophomore defensive lineman Dre’mont Jones was named third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches. Sophomore safety Jordan Fuller was named third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches, while senior safety Damon Webb was named third-team All-Big Ten by the media.

Several Buckeyes were given Honorable Mention Big Ten status by the coaches, as junior linebacker Jerome Baker, senior defensive end Jalyn Holmes, senior linebacker Chris Worley and Webb were put on that team.

Baker, Fuller, Holmes, Jones and Worley were named Honorable Mention by the media. Sophomore cornerback Damon Arnette joined them as well.

The special teams play of each team received recognition as well. Junior kicker Sean Nuernberger (14-of-17 in field goals), sophomore punter Drue Chrisman and Campbell were named third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches.

Nuernberger and Chrisman received the same honor by the coaches, while Campbell was named to the second team.

Senior kick Rafael Gaglianone (12-of-14 in field goals) was named second-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

In terms of the two head coaches in this game, it doesn’t get much better than the two who will be competing against each other in this title game.

Urban Meyer has an overall coaching record of 175-31 and has won three national championships, two with the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2008 and one with the Buckeyes in 2014. Meyer has put together a 71-8 record since he arrived in Columbus.

Paul Chryst vs. Ohio State

Paul Chryst of the Badgers has a 33-6 record since he took over the head coaching reins in 2015. Wisconsin has also won two straight bowl games (Holiday and Cotton) under Chryst.

In leading the Badgers to a 12-0 mark in 2017, Chryst won both the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year (coaches vote) and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year (media vote) in the Big Ten.

In terms of the title game between the Buckeyes and Badgers, I certainly agree with Landry that if the Badgers can play a complete game without any turnovers, they should be the victors and move on to the College Football Playoff.

Wisconsin Can Go Where No Badger Has Gone Before vs. Minnesota on Saturday

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

The Wisconsin Badgers (11-0, 8-0) have a number of goals that they want to achieve they play the Minnesota Golden Gophers (5-6, 2-6) at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

For one, the Badgers obviously want to stay undefeated, which will keep them in play in terms of being one of four teams in the College Football Playoff. The Badgers also want to win the Paul Bunyan Axe game for the 14th consecutive time in their rivalry with the Gophers.

The Axe game has been going on since 1948, and Wisconsin holds a 42-24-3 margin over Minnesota over that time. Speaking of the rivalry between the Badgers and Gophers, it’s the longest, uninterrupted rivalry in FBS Division I college football.

The overall series between the two teams is now tied at 59-59-8.

All that being said, there is one thing that Badgers can accomplish on Saturday with a victory over the Gophers that has never been done before in Wisconsin football history.

If you are thinking that the answer might be an undefeated season, you would be incorrect. The Badgers have had three undefeated seasons, but all were over 100 years ago. The Badgers were 9-0 in 1901, 5-0 in 1906 and 7-0 in 1912.

Instead, the one thing that the Badgers have never done is lead the series against the Gophers. The two teams first started playing in 1890 and have played 126 times, but not once have the Badgers led the series against their biggest rival.

Wisconsin has an excellent chance of doing that for the first time on Saturday. Certainly the overall statistics of the two teams say they will win the game.

The Badgers are ranked 44th in total offense in FBS, which includes being ranked 21st in rushing offense and 98th in passing offense.

But the big calling-card of the Badgers is their defense, which is currently ranked second in total defense. That includes being ranked first in rushing defense and seventh in passing defense.

The Gophers on the other hand, are ranked 119th in total offense, which includes being ranked 41st in rushing offense and 122nd in passing offense.

Minnesota is much better on the other side of the ball, as they are ranked 28th in total defense. That includes being ranked 61st in rushing defense and 14th in passing defense.

So, as you can see, the strength of Wisconsin on offense is running the ball, while the weakness for the Minnesota defense is stopping the run.

That is one reason the Badgers have a big edge in this game.

When is comes to toting the rock, the Badgers are led by freshman Jonathan Taylor, who leads the Big 10 in rushing and is third in the country in that category, as he has run for 1,657 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Badgers as a team average 239.3 yards per game on the ground, while the Gophers give up an average of 161.7 yards per game trying to contain the running game.

The Badgers aren’t as proficient passing the ball, but sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook may have had his two best back-to-back series of the season against Michigan last week at Camp Randall Stadium, as the Badgers beat the Wolverines 24-10 behind three clutch throws by No. 12 in those two drives.

For the season, Hornibrook is ranked 17th in the country in passing efficiency, as he has thrown 18 touchdown passes versus 13 interceptions for 2,006 yards. That adds up to a passing efficiency rating of 152.4.

Hornibrook is still too prone to throwing an ill-advised pick, but he always seems to bounce back strong like he did last week against the Wolverines after throwing an interception. It was after that pick that No. 12 made three of the best passes he has made all season on back-to-back drives that both led to touchdowns. And all three of those pass completions came on third down.

In the passing game, Hornibrook loves looking for senior tight end Troy Fumagalli, who has 36 receptions for 460 yards and three touchdowns.

But when sophomore wide receiver Quintez Cephus (30 catches for 501 yards and six touchdowns) was lost for the season with a leg injury, many people wondered if the other young receivers on the Badgers would step up.

And step up they have. Sophomore A.J. Taylor now has 18 catches for 315 yards and four scores, including one against Michigan last week.

Freshman Danny Davis III has 13 receptions for 271 yards and one touchdown, while fellow freshman Kendric Pryor has seven for 92 yards and one score.

Pryor has also come up big on the ground, as he has rushed for 63 yards this season and has scored a touchdown on a reverse play in back-to back weeks against Iowa and Michigan.

Between the steady and consistent running game and the effective passing game at times, Wisconsin is second in the country in time of possession, as they hold the ball an average of 35 minutes per game.

Vince Biegel with the axe II

Former Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel leads a contingent of Badgers swinging the Paul Bunyan Axe after the 31-21 victory at TCF Bank Stadium in 2015.

But as I mentioned earlier, it’s the defense of the Badgers that is the dominating force behind the great success the team has had in 2017.

Besides being ranked second nationally in total defense and first in rushing defense, the Badgers are also at or near the top in a number of other defensive categories.

Wisconsin is also ranked second in the country in scoring defense (13.1), plus is ranked sixth in team sacks (37) and is tied for seventh in red zone defense.

The 3-4 defense of Wisconsin is a tough one to solve, as defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard uses multiple looks to confuse the opposing quarterbacks.

It’s hard to believe that Leonhard is just in his second year as a coach and just his first as a defensive coordinator.

Speaking of coaches, Wisconsin has to be absolutely thrilled with the job head coach Paul Chryst has done since he took over in 2015. Since then, the Badgers have gone 32-6, which includes going 10-3 in 2015 and winning the Holiday Bowl and 11-3 in 2016 and winning the Cotton Bowl.

The Badgers opponent in the Cotton Bowl was Western Michigan, who came into the game with a 13-0 record and was coached by current Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. The Badgers won the game 24-16.

Chryst keeps the Badgers on an even keel. The team is well balanced in all phases. That also includes special teams.

Junior Kicker Rafael Gaglianone has made 11-of-13 field goals (.846 percentage) and has been very steady this season.

Sophomore punter Anthony Lotti is averaging 39.8 yards per punt. Plus, the return game is also becoming a force, as junior Nick Nelson returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown last week against Michigan and is averaging 8.8 yards per return.

Bottom line, the game on Saturday against the Gophers is a huge one for the Badgers in a number of phases. The team can stay undefeated heading into the B1G title game next week against Ohio State, plus can retain possession of the Paul Bunyan Axe for the 14th consecutive time.

Not only that, the Badgers can do something that no other team in Wisconsin history has ever done. That is, take the series lead against their biggest rival who they have been playing since 1890.