Now that national signing day is behind us, we’re one small step closer to the college football season. With spring practices just around the corner, let’s take a look at why Wisconsin Football will have double-digits in the victory column at the end of the season.
Favorable Non-Conference Schedule
Wisconsin football welcomes the Buffalo Bulls to Camp Randall to kick off the 2023 campaign. The Bulls are coming off a successful 2022 season that saw them go 7-6 and win their bowl game. While this is most definitely a game the Badgers should win, Buffalo is an up-and-coming program. They ranked No. 31 in 247Sports portal rankings and returned a large portion of last year’s squad.
The Badgers travel to Pullman, Washington, with a chance to exact some revenge for last season’s upset loss to Washington State. The Cougars went on to finish 7-6 after upsetting Wisconsin football. This game should give the Badgers faithful a glimpse into how well the revamped offense will run for the rest of the season. Even though it’s only the second game of the season, I would consider this a must-win if Wisconsin entertains any dreams of making the playoffs.
The final non-conference tilt is against Georgia Southern. They had a record last year of 6-7 and ironically lost their bowl game to Buffalo. They will be breaking in a new quarterback and this should be a rout. Plenty of opportunities for second and third-stringers to get quality playing time.
Overall, while the out-of-conference portion of their schedule wouldn’t be considered very difficult, it IS an upgrade from 2022, where the Badgers played an FCS school (Illinois St.) and New Mexico St. All three of the opponents this season made a bowl game last year.
Wisconsin Football Has Plenty of Talent Incoming and Returning
Quite a bit of praise has been heaped upon Luke Fickell and his staff because of the high-profile transfer portal acquisitions, and rightfully so. The quarterback position received major upgrades when Tanner Mordecai, Nick Evers, and Braedyn Locke announced their intentions to transfer to the Wisconsin football program. Even though Graham Mertz elected to depart for the Florida Gators, this crop of quarterbacks will soon make Badger fans forget about Mertz.
Just as important, though, as the massive influx of transfer talent is the nucleus that is returning next season. Two-time 1,200-yard rusher Braelon Allen returns, as does his backfield mate Chez Mellusi. This potent 1-2 combo in the backfield could surprisingly be the greatest beneficiary of the new high-powered offense. There should be more open rushing lanes due to the defense’s increased need to defend against the upgraded aerial attack.
In the course of two days, Fickell gave these star-studded QBs two impressive playmakers on the boundary. First to come into the fold was Bryson Green, a two-year player from Oklahoma State. A starter last year for the Cowboys, Green had 48 catches for 723 yards and seven TDs in his career at Stillwater.
The second big name is C.J. Williams from USC. Even though he didn’t see any playing time in his one year with the Trojans, this former 4-star recruit was the 10th-rated wide receiver coming out of California powerhouse Mater Dei in 2022. He marks the second Pac-12 receiver in as many years to join UW (Keontez Lewis was formerly of UCLA).
Not only is Luke Fickell a fantastic salesman in spotting and gathering talent, but he also surrounds himself with quality coaches who know how to get the most out of their player’s abilities. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Deion Sanders may have been a “flashier” hire for Colorado, but Fickell will be the more successful coach.
Players are not the only resource that Fickell spots and gathers. The hiring of Phil Longo was a master stroke, combing one of today’s offensive innovators with one of the next generations’ great head coaches.
A disciple of the late Mike Leach and the “air-raid” offense, Longo’s implementation is different than other forms of this offense. He enables either the pass OR run to be the focal point of the attack, and that decision is unique for every game. This greatly increases the level of difficulty in preparing for Longo’s offenses.
In an earlier article, I took a very optimistic look at the Wisconsin football program’s 2023 schedule. While I had them going 12-0 and playing in the Big Ten championship, in all reality, I do think they should be favorites in all but the Ohio State game. Obviously, the unexpected is expected and will occur, but when healthy, I believe Wisconsin’s talent level can match up with anybody in the Big Ten.
What might be even more impressive about what Fickell is building is that it is designed for the long haul. All of the big names that have transferred in have at least two years of eligibility remaining, and many of them have a full four years of playing left.
That’s why the next couple of seasons are so important. Success begets success, and after Wisconsin posts consecutive double-digit winning seasons, with a playoff appearance sprinkled in there, the stars will keep flocking to Madison.
What a time to be a Wisconsin football fan!
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