20 on '20: Breaking Down Wisconsin's Updated Football Schedule

Jake Kocorowski

As Wisconsin football student-athletes started "voluntary athletics activities" on June 15 -- AllBadgers.com wanted to begin a series dedicated to the program entering the 2020 season.

I had some questions as to the parameters, however. Do we highlight breakout or "most important" players according to a specific set of standards?

Perhaps we look at the biggest concerns with a team returning many starters and contributors but has specific questions needing to be answered at key positions?

As an update based on recent trends, will we actually have a season to cover? (Admittedly, maybe that is why I slowed down this compilation.)

In that light, AllBadgers.com presents its "20 on '20" series where we dissect (you guessed it) 20 topics pertaining to the football program. For those needing to catch up, here is the series so far:

AllBadgers.com's 20 in '20 Series:

No. 14: Wisconsin's Updated 2020 Football Schedule

Now that the updated 2020 Big Ten football schedule is released, here comes the analysis and breakdowns.

Wisconsin and all other conference schools are slated to play 10 games -- six against division opponents and four against the others in the Big Ten.

Head coach Paul Chryst and everyone in the program will say they take one game at a time. That is absolutely the approach needed as FBS, Power Five, Big Ten football is competitive and requires focus on one opponent.

Here is the full schedule:

  • Sept. 4: Indiana
  • Sept. 12: At Northwestern
  • Sept. 19: At Nebraska
  • Sept. 26: Minnesota
  • Oct. 3: At Maryland
  • Oct. 10: Purdue
  • Oct. 17: Bye
  • Oct. 24: Illinois
  • Oct. 31: At Michigan
  • Nov. 7: Bye
  • Nov. 14: At Iowa
  • Nov. 21: Rutgers

Luckily, we outside the program can look ahead. In AllBadgers.com's humble opinion, Wisconsin is in an advantageous spot to repeat as Big Ten West division champs.

Extra Cross-Divisional Game in Wisconsin's Favor

Wisconsin received a non-divisional treat when it did not draw Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan State for their fourth Big Ten East game. That would belong to Rutgers. 

Greg Schiano will be in rebuilding mode in Piscataway -- which includes bringing in former UW wide receiver/kickoff returner Aron Cruickshank as a transfer. What should be the expectations for the Scarlet Knights, and just how will the team look for what is currently scheduled as the regular season finale?

For that matter, the entire Big Ten East slate for the Badgers helps without taking on the Buckeyes, Nittany Lions or Spartans. 

However, I feel Indiana will be a really interesting season-opening draw (AllBadgers.com hopes to chat with AllHoosiers.com in the near future on a preview). Maryland under Mike Locksley went 3-9 in 2019 and lost its final seven games, but will there be an improvement? 

There is Michigan, which at the moment feels like the "toughest" opponent on paper due to the talent on the roster for the Halloween matchup. More on Jim Harbaugh's program in the section below.

'Toughest' Opponent(s)?

Again, Wisconsin will never overlook any foe on his schedule. Depending upon when games are played (if there are any modifications due to player safety), injuries and more, that could drastically change matchups as well .

For now and what's on paper, two of UW's last three games stick out the most. The cross-divisional matchup at Michigan on a rescheduled Oct. 31 pops out immediately, as it was arguably the toughest contest against a Big Ten East foe before the conference went league-only with its fall sports. 

The Wolverines' defense could be a stout unit once again, but how its offense operates without quarterback Shea Patterson and members of the offensive line (Cesar Ruiz, Ben Bredeson and Jon Runyan, Jr.) from 2019 will be something to watch.

Then there's Iowa. The Heartland Trophy will be on the line, and the Hawkeyes themselves need to replace the NFL-bound quarterback Nate Stanley and defensive lineman A.J. Epenesa, there is always magic within Iowa City that has thwarted superior opponents. Luckily for Wisconsin at the moment, and if everything continues as scheduled, it would be coming off of a bye week for that November contest.

Earlier, there is the rivalry matchup between Wisconsin and Minnesota on Sept. 26. It will be the third straight divisional contest for Chryst and his program after road trips to Northwestern and Nebraska. Though star wide receiver Rashod Bateman announced his intention to opt out of the 2020 season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, the Gophers still hold talent at quarterback in Tanner Morgan. 

The Badgers, in our opinion, still hold a significant edge. However, rivalry games can be weird, as we have seen at least a couple of times in this annual battle between UW and Minnesota.

Six Straight Weeks of Games to Kickoff the Scheduled Season

Again, I mind you, this is what is slated at the moment. A lot can change between now and then depending upon the ongoing pandemic and just what the conference decides down the line. 

However -- Hoosiers at home to kick it all off, then Wildcats and Huskers on the road. Gophers come into Madison thereafter to wrap up September, followed by a trip to College Park to face the Terrapins before the Badgers attempt to derail the Boilermakers prior to the first bye of the year.

That streak of games will be interesting to watch, as by that time if everything goes to plan, Wisconsin will have played four Big Ten West opponents. Early road contests will be tasks that are most definitely winnable, though playing inside Ryan Field has been abysmal in recent memory outside of the 2016 season.

UW should be favorites in its first seven matchups and could be undefeated before playing Michigan inside "The Big House."

Say It with Me: Flexibility

You heard that word a lot during the Big Ten Network's broadcast release of the scheduled conference season, but it's true. Here's what was seen verbatim in the release from Wednesday morning:

*The schedule starts as early as the weekend of Sept. 5 with final games slated for Nov. 21 to align with academic calendars
*The 10 games would be played over at least 12 weeks with each team having two open dates
*The schedule is structured to maximize flexibility:
**Games can be collapsed into bye weeks
**Uniform bye week on Nov. 28
**Cross-division games are currently scheduled for all schools in Week 1 (Sept. 5) and Week 12 (Nov. 21)
**Schedule constructed in a way that allows season to start as early as the weekend of Sept. 5, but also provides the ability to move the start of the season back to Sept. 12, 19 or 26 through strategic sequencing that allows games to be moved to a latter part of the schedule
*Big Ten Football Championship Game remains scheduled for Dec. 5 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, though it could be moved as late as Dec. 19
*Teams can begin preseason practices on Friday, Aug. 7, or earlier if permitted under NCAA guidelines related to first dates of scheduled competition

Though the Big Ten reminded everyone in the very same release that "issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur," the conference set it up to be very malleable if called upon.