DAN VOLTZ Meet the next great Badgers lineman. Freshmen don't usually start for the team, but the 6'4", 288-pound Illinois native (who turned down offers from Alabama and Stanford) is ready to make an impact on a squad that lost two all-conference lineman.
David Gilbert The 6'4", 250-pound pass rusher's return to the lineup is a big reason why the Badgers D will be much improved. Gilbert had three sacks in four games last season before a broken right foot sidelined him for the year. A healthy Gilbert has the talent to be one of the league's premier intimidators on defense.
WE KNOW this much is true: The Badgers will score plenty of points. Over the last two seasons Wisconsin averaged more than 40 per game. Even with quarterback Russell Wilson gone to the NFL and a new offensive coordinator (spread guru Matt Canada) calling plays, the Badgers will again have a formidable ground-and-pound offense, larded by the usual immovable offensive line in front of Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball at running back. New quarterback Danny O'Brien will have plenty of targets, the most appealing of which are wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and tight end Jacob Pedersen. The defense, which surrendered an average of 38.3 points in their three losses last season, figures to be better with an improved pass rush.
THE BADGERS have entered each of the last two seasons as a potential national championship contender, but a few regular-season stumbles (last October it was Michigan State's Hail Mary, 37--31 win against the Badgers) have derailed their BCS championship game hopes. This is the most talented and explosive squad of Bret Bielema's seven teams in Madison. Being the head of the class in the Big Ten with a New Year's trip to Pasadena, however, isn't what it used to be. The powerful offense puts the Badgers in the BCS title debate, but lingering questions about the defense keep them on the outside looking in.