Big Eight Forecast: Sun Prairie football is logical favorite for championship

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John Barry
Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sun Prairie has not lost a Big Eight Conference game since midway through the 2011 season.

The Cardinals have won 21 straight conference games and are coming off back-to-back undisputed championship seasons.

Don't look for things to change in 2014.

Despite heavy graduation losses, Sun Prairie is the logical preseason favorite heading into Friday night's season openers.

The Cardinals welcome back all-state running back Noah Diaz, who rushed for 1,327 yards and scored 14 touchdowns while averaging nearly eight yards per carry.

All-conference quarterback Ryan Curran graduated, but the Cardinals shouldn't miss a beat with Curran's younger brother, J.P., taking over behind center.

Michigan State recruit Craig Evans will be missed on the defensive front, but senior Dcvin Webster is a three-year starter and is being heavily recruited by a number of Division I schools.

Although the Cardinals enter the season as the prohibitive favorite, seven of the 10 Big Eight schools have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.

Middleton has 18 straight playoff appearances, and 19 seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Verona missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2003, but the tradition and talent pool is too steep to keep the Wildcats down for long.

Madison La Follette finished tied for second last year and returns a solid nucleus.

Janesville Craig, Madison West and Madison Memorial are the wild cards in the mix. The other likely Big Eight playoff representative will likely come from the team out of that group that goes 2-1 in the round robin between the three.

—Verona will try to right the ship behind the backfield duo of Eric Schmid and Cameron Tindall. Schmid was all-Big Eight first team last year, while Tindall was honorable mention.

Three of Verona's five losses last season were by seven points or less.

—Middleton never seems to have to rebuild but instead relies on a group of talented underclassmen to step up and perform well at the varsity level. That appears to be the case again this season for the Cardinals.

Depth has defined coach Tim Simon's program and he'll need to find replacements at nearly every skill position.

—La Follette made the playoffs a year ago for the first time since 2007, and with bruising tailback Cahleel Copus returning, should be in line for a second straight berth.

First-year coach Scott Swanson's indoctrination to Big Eight football should be made easier with the return of quarterback Jordan Carlson, who threw for over 1,600 yards a year ago.

—First-year head coach J.C. Dawkins brings a stable of former University of Wisconsin players with him as assistant coaches as he tries to keep West moving in the right direction.

The Regents have made back-to-back playoff appearances.

—Craig will start 21 seniors as it tries to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

The defense has to improve after allowing nearly 30 points a game last season.

—Parker might have the most dominant player in the conference in sophomore Juan Harris, but the Vikings still lack the overall talent necessary to compete at a playoff level.

—East and Beloit Memorial continue to be the bottom-feeders in the Big Eight, but with former Walworth Big Foot coach Rodney Wedig taking over at Beloit, the Purple Knights are probably only two or three years away from being relevant.

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