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The Wisconsin Football Offense…is a Sleeping Giant

Here’s a look at why the Wisconsin football offense might be on the verge of breaking out.



Wisconsin Badgers Football head coach Luke Fickell vs. Purdue
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell talks to an official during the NCAA football game against the Purdue Boilermakers, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Wisconsin Badgers won 38-17.

There have been plenty of worthwhile criticisms of Wisconsin Badgers Football through their 2023 Campaign. None more so than their Offense, specifically the slow starts that plagued this unit through the first three games of the season.

Two Fridays ago, Phil Longo and Tanner Mordecai marched down and scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, giving life to all the proponents of the “Dairy Raid” that Phil Longo was supposed to bring. It was an offensive scheme whose poor starts had many Badgers Football fans fairly skeptical of it through the first three weeks of the season.

But other than starting hot, which every team WANTS to do…but is easier SAID than DONE. What can this Badger Offense led by Phil Longo do to unleash the full power of the Spread/Air Raid/Dairy Raid Offense on a more consistent basis?

Stick around because you’re about to find out!

Phil Longo Loves 11 Personnel Formations for Wisconsin Football:

Based on an analysis done by StatsBomb around Personnel Usage, the average FBS team utilizes 11 Personnel about 60% of the time. Phil Longo, on the other hand…utilizes that formation grouping about 20% more in 2023 for Wisconsin Football.

That has been the bread-and-butter formation for Wisconsin Football through Week 4!

How has Wisconsin football performed in our most used Personnel Grouping in 2023? Well, let’s dive into the analytics to find out!!!

Wisconsin Badgers Analytics x Personnel Grouping:

I put together some charts that will hopefully help us see how good the Wisconsin Football Offense is compared to 3 “Comps”: Average of Power 5 Teams + 2 Top P5 Teams in the category. In the case of 11 Personnel, I chose Michigan and Oregon to compare ourselves to from a Run-Game perspective. And for the Pass-Game I chose Michigan & USC.

11 Personnel Run-Game:

Wisconsin Badgers football analytics charting

When we look at our Run Game in 11 Personnel and what our YPA is across the Men In Box (M.I.B) spectrum, you can see that, on average, we are better than the Average P5 Team & Michigan by a decent margin. The Wisconsin Badgers are nowhere close to Oregon, but right now, that’s truly ELITE performance. And our dip vs. 8 Man Boxes is hurting our case of being mentioned in that same category.


Wisconsin Badgers football analytics charting

Looking at our Stuff Rate, you can see really good performance vs. Light Boxes (4-6) and better than average Stuff Rates vs. 7 Man Boxes. Where we start to underperform on Stuff Rate is versus 8-Man Boxes. Again, our overall Stuff Rate vs. Average P5 Teams & Michigan stacks up nicely. But we aren’t close to that ELITE level that Oregon is currently playing at.

You’ll see this from the chart below, but I feel like the Wisconsin football Run-Game & Pass-Game could benefit from more passes when we face Heavier Boxes.

Wisconsin Badgers football analytics charting

You can see that UW Football and Michigan Football are running the ball at outsized rates against 7-Man Boxes. This is really impacting Michigan’s efficiency, but it’s also severely impacting our efficiency as well.

This is where I think the PA/RPO & Free Access throws are so vital. If we can take advantage of those schemes when we do face Heavy Boxes (7+ M.I.B), we’ll start to see this distribution curve match Oregon’s & P5 Average curve & with that, we should see some better Run-Game Efficiency:

  1. Lower Stuff Rate
  2. Higher YPA

For me, I think it stems from first exploiting what the defense gives you. In this case, with 3 WRs (11 Personnel = 1 RB 1TE 3WR), you take more of those 3 on 4 Matchups. Even though that ratio advantage is worse, 3/4 < 7/8 the space with which those 4 defenders have to defend makes it a much more difficult challenge, giving the offense the actual advantage.

I think pressing that advantage more frequently is step one of unleashing the sleeping giant!

11 Personnel Pass Game:

Wisconsin Badgers football analytics charting

Unfortunately, our passing attack specifically vs. Heavy Boxes, while in 11 Personnel, has woefully underperformed. So this does throw a wrench into the idea that if we throw more against Heavy Boxes, we will have more success.

But YPA only tells the part of the story. The other half is that vs. Heavy Boxes, our Intended Air Yards/ATT is 9.48, whereas, versus Light Boxes, our Intended Air Yards/ATT is 6.2 Yards.

So we’ve been trying to push the ball much deeper downfield. That…I don’t think is the right strategy in the long run. I’d think you’d want to get the ball out quicker to your WRs in space, which would mean fewer Air Yards/ATT. And a higher On-TGT %.

Wisconsin Badgers football analytics charting

This divergence from, in my opinion, a more optimal strategy might be why our efficiency in the passing game versus Heavy Boxes WOEFULLY underperforms not only the AVG P5 Program. But when we compare ourselves to truly ELITE passing offenses (USC & Michigan), we are even further behind!

But can a Personnel change impact some of these woes that we’re seeing?

Should the Badgers adopt more 10 Personnel?:

10 Personnel Run Game:

This was a jaw-dropping chart when I first saw it. Unreal efficiency in the Run-Game while we’re in 10 Personnel!

A lot of it has to do with the fact we see such a heavy dose of Light Boxes, and the “Heaviest” box we’ve seen is a 7-Man box. So, really, it shouldn’t be jaw-dropping to see these types of numbers. One caveat has to be the small sample size (9.73% of Plays) were run from this formation! When you factor in the Run/Pass mix, only about 3% of our plays have been run plays out of 10 Personnel.

Given the fact that this has proven to be an easy way to get Light Boxes for Braelon, we should see more and more of this formation. And given the next chart, it is almost a guarantee to avoid a “Stuffed” Run-Play. Keeping us ahead of the sticks and providing fewer 2nd/3rd & Long situations. Helping us push the ball downfield into more scoring opportunities!!!


I think you’ll see how fearful opponents are of our Run-Game when you look at % of Total ATTs vs. Each M.I.B.

Teams are playing about 18% more 6-Man Boxes against Wisconsin than opponents do on average vs. Power 5 Teams. They are playing 25% more 6-Man Boxes than opponents do vs. USC & Caleb Williams.

Now we know why that is: Caleb Williams is arguably the most dynamic QB to play CFB in the game’s HISTORY. But is Wisconsin that much less efficient than USC out of the same Personnel???

10 Personnel Pass Game:


Well, not until we face 7 Man Boxes are we less efficient. Against 5-Man and 6-Man Boxes, we throw the ball at relatively the same Efficiency out of 10 Personnel!!! But you hardly ever see 7-Man Boxes, and even more rarely do you see Boxes Heavier than 7 against 10 Personnel.

But if we can face more 5-Man & 6-Man boxes by going 10 Personnel, why wouldn’t we do that? Especially given our WR depth and lack of passing attack right now in 11 Personnel.

Getting Dike, Williams, Green, and Bell/Pauling on the field at the same time as Braelon. It becomes a nightmare scenario for B1G Defensive Coordinators. I think it finally puts those Coordinators in the conflict we thought we were making when we went 11 Personnel, but maybe isn’t happening with as much change in leverage as we’d like.

But going into 10 Personnel and getting all of our Plus Playmakers onto the field at once…5%, 10%, even 15% more, I think is the 2nd and final step to wake this “Sleeping Giant”.

It’s time for Wisconsin to AWAKE the Sleeping Giant!:
Wisconsin football; Badgers QB Tanner Mordecai and Bryson Green

Sep 22, 2023; West Lafayette, Indiana, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) celebrates with Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Bryson Green (9) after running for a touchdown during the first half at Ross-Ade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Ask yourself who has the best offense in college football. Objectively? Well, Washington does at 9.23 YPA. But the Huskies run NO offense out of 10 Personnel, and so they do not fit the narrative. Thus, we will go with the true (subjective) answer: USC at 9.22 YPA…a very, very close 2nd (1st).

How much 10 Personnel does Lincoln Riley run? Quite a lot actually.

About 45% of his Plays are out of 10 Personnel. That’s about 5X more 10 Personnel than Phil Longo runs. I don’t think we want or need that much. But doubling our 10 Personnel USG to 20%, I think, could do wonders for our offense.

If we do that and commit to putting defenses in true conflict. Guard our Top 4/5 WRs in space with 4-Man and 5-Man Boxes. Or keep the Box filled with 6-7 Guys. We thought, as fans the amount of 11 Personnel we would be going to under Phil Longo would have created those situations to exploit.

But maybe our QB and WRs aren’t good enough to take advantage of those situations at the ELITE level we were expecting. Our RBs and O-Line have but the Passing Game is still lagging.

Hell, Lincoln Riley doesn’t even think his guys are that good enough to force defenses into intense conflict unless he goes 10 Personnel early and often.

So, to give our guys the much-needed credit they deserve. Everyone needs to use SCHEME to help their guys succeed. And if we want our guys to suceed at the level with which we set our expectations. And we all set a pretty damn high bar for them to clear this season. Going with more 10 Personnel will help. It will help our O-Line, RBs, WRs, and Tanner Mordecai.

So let’s go do it! And go on a run here to end the Season!!!

On Wisconsin!

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Gard Your Fickell is a leading authority on Wisconsin Badgers analytics, specializing in dissecting the intricate data behind football and basketball. With a deep passion for the game and an analytical mindset, Gard Your Fickell offers readers a unique perspective on the Badgers performance.