A look at Wisconsin, which plays USF on Friday at Raymond James Stadium
2018 record: 8-5 (5-4 in Big Ten); defeated Miami, 35-3, in Pinstripe Bowl
Preseason rank: 19
Coach: Paul Chryst (fifth season at Wisconsin, 42-12; eighth season overall, 61-31)
The breakdown: Badgers resident offensive cornerstone Jonathan Taylor ― who has run for 4,171 yards in only 27 games ― will operate behind a markedly different wall of blockers this season. Junior center Tyler Biadasz, a Rimington Trophy candidate, is the only returning starter up front. The incoming replenishments, however, have played a bunch. Among them is 6-foot-6, 330-pound senior right guard Jason Erdmann, who has played in 40 career games. Junior Jack Coan, who made four starts at quarterback last season and completed 60.2 percent of his throws (56-for-93), is atop Wisconsin’s latest depth chart but ultimately could be unseated by ultra-hyped freshman Graham Mertz. The Badgers got a significant boost when receiver Quintez Cephus, suspended all of 2018 and expelled from UW last spring following his arrest on sexual-assault charges, recently was reinstated (he was found not guilty of the charges). Cephus had 30 catches for 501 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but returned to practice less than a week ago. Defensively, UW appears loaded in the secondary, where three starters return from a unit that ranked 40th nationally in pass-efficiency defense (120.46). The top returning tackler, senior outside linebacker Zack Baun, had a team-best eight QB hurries last season.
Odds & ends: A striking similarity between the Bulls and Badgers? Both vowed to get collectively tougher and stronger in the wake of disappointing 2018 seasons. ... The entire Badgers coaching staff from 2018 remains intact. ... Since 1950, Wisconsin has played in only 14 games in which the temperature was 85 degrees or higher, winning nine.
Audible: “(Taylor) is very well-rounded. He has the breakaway speed, he has the ability to run downhill, run it down your throat and get on the edge. So honestly, I can’t really just pick out one (strength). He’s pretty effective at what he does.” ― Bulls defensive end Greg Reaves