The Badgers' safeties — Ryan Aiello and Jim Leonhard — finished 1–2 on the team in tackles in 2002 and return for 2003. Leonhard led the nation in interceptions with 11, led the Big Ten in pass breakups with 25 and was the first sophomore to be voted team MVP at Wisconsin since 1947. Linebacker Jeff Mack, the 2002 Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP, and tackle Anttaj Hawthorne put some teeth in the front seven.
The streak: Wisconsin has had a 1,000-yard rusher for each of the last 10 seasons.
Margin notes: The 2002 Badgers finished ninth nationally in turnover margin at plus-1.29 per game.
Almost perfect: The Badgers are 7–1 in Bowl games under coach Barry Alvarez.
2002 results: 8–6 (2–6 Big Ten)
2002 Bowl Game: Beat Colorado 31-28 in the Alamo Bowl
Returning starters: 6 offense, 8 defense, both kickers
A. 30 at West
S. 6 Akron
S. 13 UNLV
S. 20 North Carolina
S. 27 at Illinois
O. 4 at Penn State
O. 11 Ohio State
O. 18 Purdue
O. 25 at Northwestern
N. 8 at Minnesota
N. 15 Michigan State
N. 22 Iowa
Schedule Analysis: Wisconsin's non-conference slate offers a challenge in the opener at West Virginia, then three fairly easy home games. The Badgers' Big Ten slate is favorable, as Michigan is off and Ohio State and Purdue visit Madison. Of the four Big Ten road games, only Penn State had a winning Big Ten record last year.
Final Word: Coach Barry Alvarez is hoping the team that showed up in the Alamo Bowl victory over Colorado is the one that shows up this season. Lee Evans' health is a big concern, but with experience at quarterback and running back, plus other talented receivers, Evans should be able to work himself back into the mix at his own pace. Wisconsin's linebackers highlight an experienced defense. With Michigan missing from the schedule, 10 wins is a strong possibility and a Big Ten title is not out of the question.
To pre-order the 2003 Athlon Sports Big Ten edition, click on the magazine icon below. The Big Ten and National editions are set to hit newsstands June 6.
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