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Why the Wisconsin Football Bye Week Couldn’t Have Come at a Better Time



Wisconsin Badgers football; head coach Luke Fickell leads the Badgers onto the field.
Sep 22, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell waits to lead his team onto the field prior to the game at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

In what seems like a blessing in disguise, the Wisconsin Badgers football program heads into its bye week at a crucial juncture in the season.

With a 3-1 record and their Big Ten opener in the rearview mirror, head coach Luke Fickell and his Badgers have much to address during this well-timed breather.

Let’s examine some of the key items the Wisconsin Badgers coaching staff needs to sort out during the bye week.

The Wisconsin Football Running Back Conundrum

The loss of Chez Mellusi to a season-ending injury during the Purdue game cannot be understated and has left Wisconsin football in a precarious situation at running back. 

The challenge now is finding the right balance between mixing in unproven options like Jackson Acker and Cade Yacamelli to complement Badgers star running back Braelon Allen, who has his own injury history to manage. 

I don’t think you can turn to Allen and say, hey, you’re getting 20+ carries a game again because we’ve seen that leads to him wearing down late in the season. The Badgers are uniquely positioned as favorites in the weak Big Ten West, so load management is crucial. 

The bye week provides a valuable opportunity to devise a strategy that keeps Agent 0 fresh and the ground game formidable moving forward.

Wisconsin Football Defensive Woes

Under the guidance of Mike Tressel, the Wisconsin football defense has shown significant areas of vulnerability — some of which are troubling. 

Currently, the Badgers rank 77th in the country in total defense, 51st in rushing defense, 105th in passing defense, and 43rd in scoring defense. 

The Badgers have been plagued by issues like yielding chunk plays, ranking a concerning 94th in the nation. This break allows the coaching staff to dissect and remedy some of these defensive shortcomings, particularly in tackling, where Wisconsin averages 11.25 missed tackles per game, according to PFF — and limiting explosive plays.

Jake Renfro’s Potential Return to the Badgers Lineup

A welcome sight on the horizon is the potential return of Jake Renfro to the Wisconsin football offensive line. 

While Tanor Bortolini has admirably filled in at center, Renfro’s recovery opens the door for repositioning Bortolini to his natural guard role. The impact of this change extends to the entire offensive line, as Bortolini’s slower snaps have disrupted the offense’s timing. 

Renfro brings valuable experience as an All-AAC first-team member and multi-year starting center at Cincinnati. Pro Football Focus notes his impressive record of allowing only four sacks in 602 pass-blocking sets over 1,126 snaps.

As the Badgers utilize this well-timed bye week, Wisconsin football aims to address these concerns, regroup, and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead in their pursuit of a Big Ten West title. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.