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Wisconsin Football Picked as a Surprise Team by Major Media Outlet

Wisconsin Football was chosen by a major media outlet as their surprise team in 2023.



Wisconsin Badgers football coaches Luke Fickell and Mike Tressel
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell (left) greets Wisconsin Badgers defensive Coordinator Mike Tressel after Fickell spoke to the media during Wisconsin Badgers football media day at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023.

Madison, Wis. — Even though Luke Fickell and Wisconsin football are the talk of the town in America’s dAIRyland — the Badgers are flying under the radar on a more national level. 

Entering the 2023 season, UW checked in at No. 21 in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll — which is pretty standard for anyone who is a religious follower of the program. 

Most casuals across the country expect Wisconsin to be good — but not good enough to break into the elite tier of teams that can compete for a spot in the College Football Playoffs — which is fair given the downward trajectory they’ve been on the last couple of seasons.

But expectations are a little higher this season because of the new coaching staff — and one major media outlet has also taken notice of the impressive overhaul Wisconsin underwent this offseason.

Wisconsin Football Picked as Surprise Team by Phil Steele 

Earlier this month, nationally renowned college football writer Phil Steele went on Greg McElroy’s podcast and shared his admiration for the Badgers.

“I’m going with Wisconsin [as a surprise team],” Steele said. “This is something where, when I started the magazine process, I wasn’t that high on Wisconsin. In fact, I was going with Iowa to win the Big Ten West. But after going over the team in-depth with Coach Fickell and seeing what they have talent-wise…they’re going to be tough.”

The Badgers Schedule is Full of Opportunities 

Steele’s sentiments probably align with most of the Wisconsin football fanbase. The Badgers return 72% of their production from last season, which is third most in the Big Ten. Additionally, Coach Fickell and his staff brought in an impressive transfer portal class that’s expected to contribute heavily this fall. 

Pair all that with a manageable schedule, and you have a recipe for a potential breakout. Personally, I think Wisconsin wins the West and makes it back to Indy for the first time in three years. Their four conference road games aren’t exactly murderers row (Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota). 

Wisconsin’s toughest matchups come at home against the likes of Ohio State, Iowa, and maybe even throw in Nebraska — but the point is the schedule gives Luke Fickell a chance to make some noise in year one. 

I’m not ready to jump on the full-blown optimist train and start talking about Wisconsin football making the playoffs — but I would be insanely happy to be wrong about that.

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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.