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Wisconsin to open 2026 season against Western Michigan

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The Badgers 2026 non-conference schedule takes shape with the addition of the Broncos.

81st Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Western Michigan v Wisconsin
Last time UW played WMU the stakes were a little higher.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Mark your dang calendars because this one is a, well—it’s a college football game that presumably involves your favorite team if you’re reading this article.

The Wisconsin Badgers announced on early Tuesday afternoon that they will be opening up the 2026 football season on Sept. 5 against the Western Michigan Broncos at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. Woo?

The Badgers most recently played the Broncos in the 2017 Cotton Bowl Classic, UW’s first of two consecutive New Year’s Six bowl appearances. You may remember a titanic battle between P.J. Fleck’s undefeated MAC champions and Wisconsin, who were probably disappointed to be playing a non-power five school in a big bowl game.

PUKE. Anywho, Wisconsin won that game and, as astutely pointed out in UW’s press release on Tuesday, it has beaten the Broncos four out of the five times they have met on the gridiron.

Stadium college football insider Brett McMurphy reported on Tuesday as well that Wisconsin will pay Western Michigan $1.5 million for the matchup.

The rest of the 2026 non-conference schedule has yet to be finalized, but the Badgers do also have a home date currently scheduled with head coach Paul Chryst’s former team, the Pitt Panthers, on Sept. 19.

While I doubt a game against Western Michigan really gets the blood pumping, the Badgers do have a number of intriguing non-conference games on the horizon. They face off with Notre Dame at Lambeau Field in 2020 and Soldier Field in 2021, Washington State gets a home-and-home series in 2022 (Madison) and 2023 (Pullman, Wash.), and Virginia Tech FINALLY is on the schedule in 2024 (Madison) and 2025 (Blacksburg, Va.).

Kids who are currently going through puberty will be taking the field for the Badgers in this game and will probably be mentioning Graham Mertz’s back-to-back-to-back-to-back national titles as their reason for choosing Madison as the place for them to play college football.