Wisconsin: Week 4 Opponent
Game Day: Friday, September 22nd
Location: Ross Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
Kick Time: 7 PM EST
Legal Name: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Location: Madison, WI
Type of School: Public Land Grant University
Historical Football Facts
Inaugural Season: 1889
Overall Win/Loss/Tie Record: 735-512 - 53
Conference Affiliations: Big 10
Conference Championships: 14 (1896, 1897, 1901, 1906, 1912, 1952, 1959, 1962, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2010, 2011, 2012)
Bowl Record: 19-15
Seasons Ranked in Final AP Poll: 26
AP National Championships: 0
Most Recent Appearance in Final AP Poll: 2019
Mascot: Bucky Badger
Notable Football Alum
2022 Season Facts
Head Coach: Paul Chtyst (2-3), Jim Leonhard (4-3), Luke Fickell (1-0)
Overall Record: 7-6
Conference Record: 4-5
Points Per Game: 26.3 (77th)
Points Against Per Game: 20.2 (17th)
Highest AP Ranking: 19 (Week 1)
Best Win: vs Purdue (35-24)
Worst Loss: vs Washington State (14-17)
Post Season: W vs Oklahoma State (24-17)
Luke Fickell: Head Coaching Information
Head Coaching Experience: 7 Seasons
Career Record: 64-25
Bowl Record: 3-3
Teams: Ohio State, Cincinnati, Wisconsin
Best Finish: 13-1 (2021)
Key Losses From 2022
Graham Mertz - QB
Mertz was supposed to be “the man” for the Badgers. The guy that finally paired a live arm with their road grader offensive line. The former 4* recruit never quite lived up to the hype. He wasn’t bad, at least not all bad, but he wasn’t good either. Last season he completed 164/286 passes (57%), for 2136 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He decided to enter the portal, and interesting enough, it looks like he’s got the inside track to Florida’s starting QB job. I guess will find out if he was an average quarterback or a good quarterback in a bad quarterback system. Either way, new head coach Luke Fickell plucked a couple quarterbacks out of the portal to fill the void.
Joe Tippmann - C
Tippmann, out of Fort Wayne, is the latest Badger lineman to come off the assembly line. A 2 year starter at center for the Badgers, he took over the starting center job in 2021, and started 22 games. He was honorable mention All Big-10 in 2021 and 2022 before entering the NFL draft and being drafted by the Jets with the 65th overall pick. Wisconsin is never bereft of options on the offensive line, but losing this type of experience and talent in the middle of the line is tough to plug and replace without losing something, at least initially.
Keeanu Benton - DT
Benton played played 4 seasons at nose tackle for the Badgers and started every regular season game in ‘21 and ‘22. The 6’4”, 320 pound space eater anchored the center of the Wisconsin 3 man front, but unlike most nose guards, was also a disruptive force in the opposing backfield. In ‘22 he registered 35 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the 44th overall pick.
Nick Herbig - LB
The Big10 won’t bemoan the loss of Herbig to the NFL, he terrorized quarterbacks the last two seasons. In ‘21 he 61 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and 9 sacks. Last season the outside linebacker put up 47 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks on his way to be named First Team All-Big10 and a 3rd Team AP All-American. That’s production Wisconsin won’t be able to replace with one player, but Luke Fickell’s scheme should help get pressure on the quarterback through other means.
Key Additions For 2023
Tanner Mordecai - QB
Wisconsin is the 3rd stop for Mordecai. The former 4* prospect out of Waco, Texas originally signed with Oklahoma out of high school in 2018. After 3 seasons of mop up duty in Norman behind Lincoln Riley’s parade of 5* quarterbacks, he decided to try his luck at SMU.
In 2021 he started 12 games for the Mustangs, completing 308/433 passes for 3628 yards, 39 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in Garrett Riley’s system. He also ran for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns on 74 rushing attempts, leading Sonny Dykes squad to an 8-4 record. The offense did their part, averaging 38 points a game.
With Riley and Dykes off to TCU last season, it was reasonable to expect some regression from Mordecai, but the now 5th year quarterback put up another impressive season, completing 288/443 passes for 3524 yards, 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Once again the offense did it’s part in Dallas, averaging 37 points a game, but the defense still couldn’t figure it out, giving up 34 points a game. Subsequently, the Mustangs went 7-6 in Rhett Lashlee’s debut coaching season.
I’m interested in this fit. SMU was an air raid team under both Dykes and Lashlee. He completed more passes (288) than Mertz attempted (286) in ‘22. Veteran offensive coordinator Phil Longo comes over from North Carolina and will call the plays for Luke Fickell in ‘23. He doesn’t mind throwing it around either. Last season Drake Maye attempted an eye popping 517 passes for the Tarholes (excuse me, Tarheels). This is going to be a big transition for the normally ground bound Badgers. On occasion, an identity change like this one takes a while to pay dividends.
Jake Renfro - C
Tippmann was heading out the door while Fickell was coming in, and Luke decided to bring his center from Cincinnati with him to fill the center spot. It makes sense, in general, the center is the quarterback of the offensive line. Fickell trusts Renfro, and that trust was hard won. Renfro started 6 games at center in 2020 as a true freshman and 13 games as a sophomore in 2021 before missing all of 2022 to injury.
He was named to the All-AAC first team in 2021, and looks to be recovered from the knee injury that ended his 2022 season before it began and the stress fracture in leg that has limited early in his Wisconsin career. The Badgers need Renfro to be right. If he is, they don’t lose much despite losing Tippmann to the NFL.
Darian Varner - DE
Fickell plucked Varner, a Temple transfer, to beef up his pass rush. The 6’2, 260 pass rusher was named All-ACC last season as a redshirt Sophomore, after putting up 35 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks in 10 games for the Owls. That’s certainly not Herbig production, but he won’t be asked to replace that production on his own. He’ll be a plug and play starter on the Badger defensive line.
Jason Maitre - DB
Maitre comes over from Boston College after playing both corner and safety for the Eagles over his 4 seasons in Chestnut Hill. He started his career at corner, starting 6 games as redshirt freshman and 6 games as a sophomore before moving to safety in 2021 and starting 7 games. The 5’10”, 190 pounder took off in 2022, starting 12 games, recording 42 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, a sack and an interception.
His skill set and experience at both corner and safety should make him an ideal for Wisconsin’s nickel back position this season. He’ll be closer to the line of scrimmage and will be asked to both cover and help in run support.
This is a tough one. I don’t know what to expect from Wisconsin and it’s making me question everything I know about the the world. It certainly appears like they are going to air it out with the addition of Mordecai at quarterback and Longo at OC. How does a Wisconsin team recruited to run over teams transition to running around them?
Does the one/two running back combination of Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi get anywhere close to the combined 342 carries the received last year? What do late season games in Wisconsin look like with a team attempting to throw the ball?
If I had the answers to these questions I’d be working for a sports book in Vegas. If you’re interested in checking out an early season game, check out Wisconsin @ Washington State on September 9th. That’s the only real test they’ll have until they hit West Lafayette for a Friday night game under the lights.