The Wisconsin Badgers begin the 2021 Football season on September 4th in a packed Camp Randall ready to Jump Around as they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.
The 2020 season was weird in so many ways. For the Badgers it was unusual because they failed to prove their true potential. They started the season against Illinois and Michigan who they demolishing by a combined score of 94-18. Following that, their next three games were an embarrassing showing on offense as they were only able to muster up 20 points.
They were able to finish the season with an overtime win against Minnesota and a win in their bowl game. The middle of the season was a disaster that raised a lot of questions about this team following the Jonathan Taylor era.
They are heading into the 2021 season with the determination to prove they are worthy of being ranked 12 in the AP Poll. Beyond that, they want to show they are powerful enough to get back to the Big Ten Championship.
Here are three of the biggest games of the season for the Badgers.
Week 1: Penn State
This week one matchup could determine the feel of the entire season for both teams. Both teams come into week one ranked in the AP Top-25 poll. Penn State sits at 19 and Wisconsin stands strong at 12. After the way last season went it is kind of difficult to justify both being ranked.
Right now it does not matter how the season went, but it is engrained in players and coaches brains.
For Penn State, their season started with an insane overtime matchup against the Indiana Hoosiers who came away with the win on a wild two point conversion. This game determined the rest of the season for both teams. Indiana took off for one of their best seasons in years and Penn State could not catch a break. Penn State is very much aware of the importance of week one games.
On the other side, Wisconsin has their most valuable asset returning for this game. No, it is not a player or coach, but rather a stadium packed with dedicated Badger fans. The energy in Camp Randall with a big crowd is unmatched in college football. The Badgers started last season with a blowout and the thousands of Badger fans are hoping to finally witness one in person again.
It is always a battle when these two teams face off and they are both looking to bounce back from a brutal previous season making it that much more intense. To add to the pressure, Penn State is on a four game win streak in this matchup and Wisconsin is looking for their first win in a decade.
Week 4: Notre Dame
Wisconsin versus Notre Dame is poised to be one of the marquee matchups of the entire college football season. The anticipation has been growing since it was announced a couple years ago that these two would face off in back-to-back years. The plan was to play in Lambaeu Field in Green Bay in 2020 and Soldier Field in Chicago in 2021. Sadly the game in Green Bay was cancelled due to COVID and pushed back to 2026.
With things back to normal in 2021 the stage is set for them to go toe-to-toe in Soldier Field on September 25. This will be another battle between ranked teams as Notre Dame starts the season at nine. By the time these two meet they may both be in the top 10.
What makes this game especially interesting is that it is the battle of Badger quarterbacks. Following a spectacular 2019 season Jack Coan went into the transfer portal. It became clear that Graham Mertz was going to be the Wisconsin QB during his time with the Badgers. Coan transferred to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and was recently announced as the starting QB for the 2021 season.
Coan has shown he can dominate on the field, but Graham Mertz is yet to truly prove himself. This game is not just about the two great teams. It is also a chance for each QB to prove their worth to the Badgers.
If Wisconsin can come away with the win they will almost automatically be thrown into playoff talks. This is a must win for both teams and it will probably be a fight that goes all 12 rounds.
Week 11: Northwestern
Since 2016 the Big Ten West has either been won by the Badgers or the Northwestern Wildcats. It is interesting that whoever wins the game between these two goes to the Big Ten Championship.
It is hard to say Northwestern beat Wisconsin in last seasons matchup. Those who witnessed that game will agree that Wisconsin beat themselves. They lost 17-7, but would have won it easily if it were not for a comedy of errors that never allowed them to get in the position to win.
Each of the last seven matchups have been decided by two touchdowns or less meaning it is never an easy game. The Badgers are hoping to change that and go back to how it was in three of four game between 2006 and 2013 when Wisconsin won with a combined score of 146-38.
The most interesting aspect of this rivalry is that since 2000 the Badgers are 6-2 in games in Madison and 1-6 in Evanston Illinois. Thankfully for the Badgers this game will take place in Madison surrounded by 80,000 die hard Badger fans.
Wisconsin obviously will have a chip on their shoulder as they look to redeem themselves. If history is an indicator, the chances of this happening are higher than if they were back in Evanston.
This Wisconsin Badgers team is coming off of one of their worst seasons in a while and with fans back and a more normal schedule they are ready to get back out on the field to show what Wisconsin Football is all about.
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