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Wisconsin Football: Matchup to watch vs Northwestern Wildcats

With the swirling headlines around the Badgers following Paul Chryst’s firing, there’s a new matchup to watch in Week 6.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers have had a whirlwind of a season, as they dropped to 2-3 following an embarrassing loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini.

In a surprising move, the Badgers fired head coach Paul Chryst, effectively ending his tenure after a 67-26 record through seven seasons.

Now, with emotions likely running high in the locker room, the Badgers must right the ship and change the outlook of their season as they face off against the Northwestern Wildcats(1-4) in their third conference game of the year.

With that said, let’s visit the matchup to watch against the Northwestern Wildcats.

Jim Leonhard vs Pat Fitzgerald

In this week’s edition of “Matchup to watch”, there needs to be a shift given the circumstances, as I’m focusing on the coaching battle between Jim Leonhard and Pat Fitzgerald.

This season, the Badgers have been outcoached and out-disciplined in a majority of their games, with the offensive gameplan being predictable at times, while the defense has been shaky over the past two weeks.

Now, the Badgers turn the head coaching duties to Jim Leonhard, who confirmed in his weekly presser that he will resume calling plays defensively alongside his new responsibilities.

With the amount on Leonhard’s plate, especially at a low point in the season, it’s going to be intriguing how he’ll manage his responsibilities, especially those off the field such as recruiting.

Now, Leonhard, a first-time head coach, will face off against the experienced Pat Fitzgerald, who has run the helm at Northwestern since 2006.

When asked about where the Badgers need improvement to get out of their current hole, Leonhard spoke to discipline, addressing that the Badgers need to play clean football, which was a similar message that former head coach Paul Chryst iterated.

However, the message hasn’t translated to the field, as Wisconsin has often been on the wrong side of the penalty battle, which cost them a game against Washington State and played a big factor in Week 5 as well.

Can Leonhard instill a change in the culture that will resonate on the field or will the results be similar to what’s been shown thus far?

Additionally, after two shaky defensive performances, can Wisconsin get back on track defensively against a struggling Northwestern team, and will the offense muster enough momentum put the defense in good situations?

These are questions that’ll have to be answered on Saturday and could ultimately define Leonhard’s tenure as the interim head coach if similar issues continue to plague the Badgers throughout the season.