<
>

Schedule analysis: Wisconsin

Just a few more weeks before the games kick off. Until then, we're looking forward and analyzing every Big Ten team's 2014 schedule.

Up next: Wisconsin Badgers.

Nonconference schedule (with 2013 records)

Aug. 30: LSU* (10-3)

Sept. 6: Western Illinois (4-8)

Sept. 20: Bowling Green (10-4)

Sept. 27: South Florida (2-10)

* -- at NRG Stadium in Houston

West Division games

Oct. 4: at Northwestern

Oct. 11: Illinois

Nov. 8: at Purdue

Nov. 15: Nebraska

Nov. 22: at Iowa

Nov. 29: Minnesota

Crossover games

Oct. 25: Maryland

Nov. 1: at Rutgers

No-plays

Indiana

Michigan

Michigan State

Ohio State

Penn State

Gut-check game: It's right off the bat, in that heavily hyped opener against LSU. Wisconsin has been good but not good enough in most of its recent high-profile nonconference games (South Carolina, Oregon, Stanford, TCU, etc.). Right or wrong, the LSU outcome will color most people's perception of the 2014 Badgers for a long time. Coming out of the gate against an SEC power is not easy for a team replacing basically its entire defensive front seven and most productive wide receiver. Then again, LSU figures to be mighty young at several key spots as well.

Trap game: Bowling Green won 10 games a year ago and is considered by many the preseason MAC favorite. The Falcons did get blown out by Indiana last year and got a new head coach in the offseason (Dino Babers). But this game comes after a bye week early in the season and Bowling Green could prove a little more salty than some expect.

Snoozer: Hey, we don't blame anybody for taking a breather after playing LSU. But that Western Illinois game has all the makings of a classic Camp Randall rout where the Badgers' third-string tailback runs for 100 yards.

Nonconference challenge: Um, see the gut-check section.

Analysis: Much has been made in the past several months about how easy Wisconsin's schedule is after the LSU game. And understandably so, as the Big Ten office bestowed newcomers Maryland and Rutgers as the Badgers' East Division crossover games. Nebraska has to come to Madison, and the hardest true road game on the schedule is Iowa, a place where Wisconsin won a year ago. But assume so many of these games will be layups at your own risk. Northwestern should be much improved and eager to atone for a terrible performance in Camp Randall last season. Maryland's speed at the skill positions creates an interesting matchup. Minnesota should provide a tougher Axe game than in years' past. Still, Wisconsin likely wouldn't trade its schedule for anyone else's in the league, save, perhaps, Iowa. It's all set up for a big run, especially if the Badgers can upset LSU. Can they take advantage of the advantages?