- Travis Haney, ESPN Staff Writer
From May 27-July 3, Insider's college football experts will preview the season for the 25 teams with the best chance to make the inaugural College Football Playoff, based on Brian Fremeau's post-spring projections. This is the entry for the Wisconsin Badgers.
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Projected finish: 9-3 (6-2)
Chance to make playoff: 8 percent
Chance to win the Big Ten: 17 percent
Toughest games: Aug. 30 vs. LSU (30 percent chance of winning), Oct. 4 at Northwestern (62 percent), Nov. 22 at Iowa (47 percent)
Why they'll make the playoff
1. Coaching continuity, comfort
Even with how natural a fit Gary Andersen is at Wisconsin, acclimation is necessary no matter the vocation. The second year on the job is inherently smoother than the first. And while the coach and his staff get used to the environs, the players also get used to the coaches. If all is right and everyone is on the same page, the second and third seasons often set the bar for a program. (Examples: Oklahoma under Bob Stoops, a number of Urban Meyer's career stops, Nick Saban at Alabama and LSU.) What Andersen and his staff did extremely well at Utah State, their previous stop, was evaluating and developing. That figures to serve them well at Wisconsin, where recruiting requires a regional, if not national, focus and wise choices.
2. The Badgers run, as usual
One of the constants in college football is that Wisconsin will have a quality running back, if not two. Despite losing Montee Ball and James White in consecutive years -- and 9,155 career rushing yards between them -- the constant is still constant. Melvin Gordon -- who has 3,238 career yards and a stunning 8.1 yards per carry despite being a secondary (or even tertiary) option -- isn't being talked about enough for national awards, including the Heisman.