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Big Ten preview: Wisconsin Badgers

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Wisconsin then-junior running back Corey Clement carries the ball en route to a 21-yard for touchdown during the second quarter against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. The host Badgers won, 48-10. Courtesy of TNS

Wisconsin then-junior running back Corey Clement carries the ball en route to a 21-yard for touchdown during the second quarter against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis. The host Badgers won, 48-10. Courtesy of TNS

Location:  Madison, Wisconsin

2015 Record:  10-3

Head Coach:  Paul Chryst

2016 record so far:  2-0

Record vs. OSU since 2006:  1-7 (0-1 in Big Ten championship)

AP Top 25 Rank: 9th

What’s happened so far in 2016:  The Badgers began the season with a tough matchup against No. 5 ranked LSU. In a strongly contested game, the Badgers stunned the Tigers with a 16-14 victory inside a near-home field environment at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In Week 2, the Akron Zips traveled to Camp Randall Stadium, where the Badgers’ offense overpowered the Zips, cruising to a 54-10 win.

Key offensive player(s):  Wisconsin’s fifth-year senior quarterback Bart Houston has had a strong start to the season. Houston has gone 23-53 for 436 yards passing and two touchdowns in the first two games. Play has been consistent from Houston, especially versus the Zips, with a commanding leadership of the offense.  Senior running back Corey Clement rushed for a combined 197 yards in two starts, scoring three touchdowns thus far. Clement’s powerful performances against the Tigers and Zips appear to point to a successful season. However, he left the Week 1 game in the third quarter with an unidentified minor leg injury.

Key defensive player:  The Badgers’ defense has a familiar name on its side: junior outside linebacker T.J. Watt, brother of Houston Texans’ defensive end J.J. Watt, who also played at Wisconsin. T.J. Watt leads the team with 10 tackles on the season, also recording his first sack against Akron. His disruptive strength, along with his ability to transition from linebacker to defensive line, will put him in a vital role for the Badgers’ defense this season.

Weaknesses:  Wisconsin’s secondary is an area of concern, as three key starters departed after last season. A few veterans fill in for the former starters, but the concern is adjusting to the spotlight of a starting position. The Badgers have a gauntlet of four very tough games, in which they face off against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa in consecutive weeks. Each of those matchups will prove to be a test to the Wisconsin defense and, more specifically, its secondary.

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