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Wisconsin Football Defense Has Glaring Issue to Iron Out

Mike Tressel and the Wisconsin football defensive unit have a glaring issue they need to fix.



Wisconsin Badgers Football -- Mike Tressel defensive players celebrate during Georgia Southern game
Sep 16, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Georgia Southern Eagles defensive back Shemar Bartholomew (17) and linebacker Maema Njongmeta (55) celebrate following a fumble recovery during the fourth quarter against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

As the Wisconsin Badgers football team exits the bye week with a 3-1 record and a 1-0 start to their Big Ten campaign, one glaring issue stands out like a sore thumb for a unit in transition – chunk plays allowed. Defensive coordinator Mike Tressel and head coach Luke Fickell have their work cut out for them as they aim to address this pressing concern for the home stretch.

Wisconsin Football Needs to Prevent Chunk Plays

The statistics don’t lie. When comparing this season to the previous one, the Wisconsin Badgers have seen a significant shift in their ability to prevent chunk plays — defined as plays that gain 10 or more yards. Last year, UW ranked among the top 20 teams in this category, but this season, they’ve slipped to the bottom 30 in all of college football.

What’s particularly concerning is that this issue isn’t limited to one facet of their defense. They currently sit at 88th in the nation regarding rushing chunk plays allowed and 87th in passing chunk plays allowed. It’s a multifaceted problem for Wisconsin football that demands attention and correction coming out of the bye week.

The challenge for the coaching staff is clear – they need to tighten up their defense on multiple fronts. Whether focusing on run defense to limit big gains on the ground or shoring up pass coverage to prevent explosive passing plays, the Badgers have their work cut out for them.

To throw my two cents in here — I question whether the Wisconsin football team currently has the talent to play the man coverage scheme they’ve been tasked with running this season.

On the flip side, tackling has also been a massive issue. UW is averaging 11.25 missed tackles per game, according to PFF — when paired with a lackluster defensive line — I would bet against the run defense taking a noticeable step forward.

Final Thoughts on Mike Tressel & the Wisconsin Badgers Defense 

With the Wisconsin football team sitting atop the Big Ten West and in a position to push for a conference championship appearance in a down year, addressing this glaring issue becomes paramount. 

It’s a challenging task, but if corrected, it could help the Badgers take a leap from a bend don’t break — turnover-reliant defensive unit — into one that Mike Tressel envisioned when he accepted this role. 

As the bye week unfolds, all eyes will be on Mike Tressel and the rest of the defensive coaching staff as they work tirelessly to iron out this critical issue and try to reach their full potential. 

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Dillon Graff is a Substack newsletter best-selling author, publisher of AllBadgers, 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's BadgersWire, Athlon Sports, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, Bucky's 5th Quarter, and FanSided.