Wisconsin mailbag: How Badgers can reach playoff, injuries taking toll on WRs and Nate Reuvers’ redshirt status

Have Wisconsin football, basketball or recruiting questions? We’ve got answers. Join us every Wednesday for the  Land of 10 Wisconsin mailbag  to talk all things Badgers. This week, we discuss what Wisconsin has to do to make the College Football Playoff, the Badgers’ lack of wide receiver depth due to injuries, receiver Jazz Peavy’s status and whether Nate Reuvers will redshirt this season.

Question 1

Answer: The first key for Wisconsin is that the Badgers have to win their final three regular-season games against Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota and then win the Big Ten Championship Game. The Sagarin Ratings are a neat tool I look at because it measures all sorts of analytics. It also lists schedule strength and has the Badgers at No. 68 in that category. Wisconsin has only one victory against a top-30 team (No. 28 Northwestern). That’s not very good considering several other playoff contenders have better schedule strength and multiple victories against top-30 teams.

Wisconsin has a good chance to boost its schedule strength the next two weeks against Iowa and Michigan. Iowa is ranked No. 18 in the Sagarin Ratings and just obliterated Ohio State 55-24. Michigan is ranked No. 20. But, to me, it comes down to whether the teams ahead of Wisconsin in the College Football Playoff rankings will lose.

Alabama or Georgia is almost assuredly going to the playoff from the SEC. If Alabama defeats Georgia in the SEC title game and it serves as Georgia’s only loss, it’s possible the Bulldogs still could sneak into the playoff. That would eliminate a Power 5 conference champion elsewhere. Notre Dame, Clemson and Oklahoma are all in better position to reach the playoff over Wisconsin.

Notre Dame is 4-1 against top-30 teams, Clemson is 5-0 and Oklahoma is 3-1. And let’s not forget about Miami, which is undefeated just like Wisconsin and has its most difficult game remaining this weekend.

This Saturday should help to start separating a few teams. TCU and Oklahoma play each other this week, as do Notre Dame and Miami. The loser of those games presumably drops out of the playoff chase.

All Wisconsin can do is continue to win. And while the Badgers say they aren’t paying attention to how other teams perform, it’s clear they could use a little help to reach the playoff.

Question 2

Answer: Wisconsin is running out of healthy bodies at wide receiver. With Quintez Cephus suffering a right leg injury against Indiana, there are now only three healthy scholarship receivers who are playing: A.J. Taylor, Danny Davis and Kendric Pryor.

Taylor has produced a solid sophomore season with 14 catches for 231 yards and 2 touchdowns. Davis has battled his own injuries this season but has 8 catches for 170 yards with 1 touchdown. Pryor missed the first two weeks after suffering facial injuries from a moped accident during fall camp. But he has rounded into form at just the right time. He caught a crucial 14-yard pass near the sideline on third down against Indiana to keep a drive going. On the ensuing play, tailback Jonathan Taylor scored on a 32-yard touchdown run.

Beyond those three wide receivers, walk-on Jack Dunn is somebody we could see more of in the coming weeks with all the injury issues. Adam Krumholz is another name to watch. Wisconsin has three other scholarship receivers that are freshmen (Cade Green, Emmet Perry and Deron Harrell), but each is taking a redshirt season, and it wouldn’t make much sense to burn those so late in the season.

As for seeing more tight ends or running backs in multiple receiver sets, the coaching staff will have to evaluate all options. I’d expect to see more tight ends than running backs, however, given the talent of Troy Fumagalli, Zander Neuville and Kyle Penniston. The Badgers running backs aren’t really big-time pass catchers. Chris James and Rachid Ibrahim are the tailbacks with the best pass-catching skills. James has 5 catches for 36 yards but has missed time with a left leg injury. Ibrahim has 4 catches for 50 yards.

Don’t forget about fullback Alec Ingold as another potential option. He has major versatility on the field and caught an 18-yard touchdown pass last week against Indiana.

Question 3

Answer: Peavy is listed as out with a right leg injury, but Badgers coach Paul Chryst said a couple weeks ago that Peavy had stepped away from the team for personal reasons. We don’t know if or when Peavy will return, and I don’t have any information to speculate on his status moving forward.

Question 4

Answer: I addressed the Peavy question in the comment above this one. But if you’re a Badgers fan, it is tough to see the way Peavy’s senior season has played out. Last season, Peavy caught 43 passes for 635 yards with 5 touchdowns. He was supposed to be the team’s go-to receiver this season. Instead, he caught 5 passes for 55 yards and wasn’t really a factor early on before taking time off.

As for your other question about backup quarterback Jack Coan, let’s just say that some people are a bit unreasonable when it comes to quarterback expectations. Coan has thrown a total of 3 passes at Wisconsin, all coming late in blowout victories. For starters, it wouldn’t be fair to ask him to suddenly carry the Badgers toward the playoff. Coan’s lack of experience is the obvious reason. But starter Alex Hornibrook still gives this team the best chance to win games.

Obviously, Hornibrook has thrown too many interceptions this season. He has 9 on the season and 8 in Big Ten play, including at least 1 in every conference game. But people seem to forget that he also does some pretty good things. Hornibrook has thrown 15 touchdowns passes and ranks second among Big Ten quarterbacks in pass efficiency rating behind Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.

You can harp on the interception in the end zone under pressure against Indiana. But let’s also remember that he responded by throwing 2 touchdown passes in the game to help Wisconsin come back and cruise to an easy victory. He is completing 64.4 percent of his passes this season, which is better than all but three quarterbacks in the league.

Hornibrook is 16-2 as a starter and has won 15 consecutive starts, which is the longest active streak in the FBS. Is it all because of him? Of course not. But to suggest he has nothing to do with the team’s wins is also ridiculous.

Question 5

Answer: Reuvers appears to be caught in a situation where he is, at best, a fringe rotation player this season behind more experienced frontcourt players. Ethan Happ and Andy Van Vliet are the starters, but Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen and Aleem Ford are all in the mix for playing time alongside Reuvers. Reuvers could prove to be more effective than all of those backups, but he also may require time to get there. The coaching staff has to ask what is worth more, having him play a handful of minutes each game this season or preserving his redshirt?

Reuvers showed some nice touch in Wisconsin’s first exhibition game against Northern Iowa. He played 10 minutes and connected on 3 of 6 shots from the field for 6 points and added 2 rebounds. In the second exhibition against UW-Stout, he played 10 more minutes and checked into the game during the first half before Illikainen got off the bench.

One thing Reuvers needs is to gain strength to bang in the post. This could be a tough decision for Reuvers and the staff to make. He is capable of helping the Badgers, but at this stage, it’s difficult to determine just how much he’ll play ahead of so many other big men.

I asked Badgers coach Greg Grad this exact question following Wisconsin’s 85-56 exhibition victory against UW-Stout on Sunday night. Here’s what he said:

“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him about it, so that’ll be a discussion that will happen this week.”

Wisconsin will have to make a determination before the season opener Friday night against South Carolina State. Stay tuned.

Have a question about Wisconsin football or basketball? Tweet us @Landof10Badgers and we’ll try to answer your question in a future mailbag. Check to see if your question already was answered by reading previous Wisconsin mailbags  here .

The post Wisconsin mailbag: How Badgers can reach playoff, injuries taking toll on WRs and Nate Reuvers’ redshirt status appeared first on Land of 10.

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