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Wisconsin football: a way-too-early look at the 2020 schedule

The football season may be over, but the TALKING ABOUT FOOTBALL season never ends!

Boston College v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It’s only 247 days until football season is back for the Wisconsin Badgers! Yes, the Rose Bowl concluded less than 24 hours ago, but don’t mourn the end of college football—a new season will be here before you know it.

And, as I always say since today, every day we’re closer to Wisconsin winning a national football championship.

Week 1: Indiana Hoosiers

Madison, Wis., Camp Randall Stadium

It’s pretty rare for Wisconsin to start the season with a B1G opponent in week one, and it hasn’t happened this millennium. Indiana plays Tennessee later today in the Gator Bowl to see if it can indeed become #Ninewindiana.

Indiana is an improving program, but Wisconsin should win it because the Badgers will be healthy and home.

Forecast: probable win

Week 2: Southern Illinois Salukis

Madison, Wis., Camp Randall Stadium

Southern Illinois is an interesting opponent, as it will be lead by rising Senior and former Badger Karé Lyles.

Lyles transferred from Wisconsin to Scottsdale Community College in 2018. Then, he jumped ship again in 2019 to Southern Illinois to serve as the Salukis’ starter. In 2019, Lyles threw for 1,569 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Salukis. Looks like Lyles wills start at QB at Camp Randall after all.

Forecast: lock

Week 3: Appalachian State Mountaineers

Madison, Wis., Camp Randall Stadium

The Mountaineers had a great 2019 season, finishing in the top-20 with a 13-1 record after beating UAB in the New Orleans Bowl. App State’s 2019 campaign included a Sun Belt championship and a win over just about every Carolina college football team. It beat North Carolina, South Carolina, Coastal Carolina and Charlotte.

App State is not the team you want to face heading into an incredibly tough three-game stretch.

Forecast: probable win

Week 4: Michigan Wolverines

Ann Arbor, Mich., Michigan Stadium

Wisconsin has had some issues at Michigan, but the Wolverines lose Shea Patterson who tended to perform better at home. This is a huge road test that will set the tone for the whole season.

Forecast: lean Wisconsin

Week 5: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Green Bay, Wis., Lambeau Field

In 2019, Wisconsin blew out Michigan who blew out Notre Dame. In 2020, Wisconsin will follow a trip to Michigan by tangling with the Irish at Lambeau. Notre Dame has a fairly easy schedule up to this point and will likely be 4-0 and ranked in the top 20.

Frankly, this game is not a must-win. If Wisconsin loses only one game in 2020, I would pick this one. The B1G should be strong enough that a 12-1 conference champion Badgers should make the College Football Playoff. On the other hand, a win could help forgive a slip-up against a team like, say, Northwestern.

I really do not like how this is placed in Wisconsin’s schedule. At this point, the Badgers will have already faced three strong teams, so we won’t learn a lot about Wisconsin from this game. It’s also in the middle of two critical conference clashes. I would much prefer this game open the season or is placed in between Maryland and Purdue.

Forecast: lean Wisconsin

Week 6: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Madison, Wis., Camp Randall Stadium

The loss to Minnesota in 2018 is still close enough a memory that the Badgers will come out firing. If Wisconsin survives the first five weeks of the season healthy, Wisconsin should be well-positioned to win this one ahead of the bye.

Forecast: probably win

Week 7: Bye

Week 8: Maryland Terrapins

College Park, Md., Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium

Maryland is going to start out 2020 exciting some people with flashy 86-3 wins, but then the wheels will fall off well in advance of Wisconsin’s trip to College Park. Maryland’s been getting some solid recruiting momentum the last few years, but Wisconsin will still be the better team up and down the roster. Coming off the bye week, the Badgers should win this one big.

Forecast: lock

Week 9: Illinois Fighting Illini

Madison, Wis., Camp Randall Stadium

There is no chance Illinois wins this game. Zero. I’ll grow a Lovie Smith beard if the Badgers lose.

Forecast: lock

Week 10: Northwestern Wildcats

Chicago, Ill., Wrigley Field

Suppose Wisconsin survives the first six weeks of the season unscathed—it should then be 8-0 at this point. However, the Badgers will have to face a difficult road game at Northwestern...

::checks notes::

Wisconsin doesn’t have to play this one at the house of horrors known as Ryan Field! What great luck.

Forecast: lock

Week 11: Purdue Boilermakers

West Lafayette, Ind., Ross-Ade Stadium

The Boilermakers suffered a ton of injuries in 2019, and it will be much stronger in 2020. With a healthy Rondale Moore opposite wide receiver David Bell, Wisconsin’s secondary will have all it can handle.

Even if Purdue puts on a passing clinic, the Badgers should be able to win in a shootout.

Forecast: lock

Week 12: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Madison, Wis., Camp Randall Stadium

I’m not sure who is going to be running the ball for Wisconsin in 2020, but whoever it is will have a lovely November afternoon against the Huskers.

Forecast: lock

Week 13: Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa City, Iowa, Kinnick Stadium

The Hawkeyes are riding high off of a 10-3 season and a thorough 49-24 victory over USC in the Holiday Bowl. Wisconsin has been surprisingly successful at Iowa; Bucky seems to be immune to the Kinnick curse. Even though Iowa needs to replace Nate Stanley, this will be a challenging finale to the regular season. Further, a B1G West title will likely up for grabs.

Forecast: lean Wisconsin


If locks are a 95% chance of winning, probable wins are 80%, and leaning Wisconsin is 60%, then here is my win projection for the Badgers in 2020.

Wisconsin football 2020 record projection

Regular Season Record Probability
Regular Season Record Probability
6-6 or worse 1.00%
7-5 3.50%
8-4 11.81%
9-3 25.13%
10-2 29.73%
11-1 22.22%
12-0 6.61%

This projection assumes that games are independent of each other. This schedule, however, clumps several important games early in the season. If Wisconsin gets off to a sluggish start to the season, it could easily have three or four losses heading into the bye week. Conversely, if it starts out like it did in 2019, the probability of going 12-0 skyrockets.

On the other hand, Wisconsin seems to subvert my expectations every season, so I refuse to get my hopes up too much.