It’s the end of June and there isn’t much going on in the world of college sports. It’s as good a time as any to look at the Wisconsin football schedule and speculate wildly on what their record might be, right? The Badgers finished last season at 9-4 overall with a 6-3 record in the Big Ten.
UW lost just about all of their big games last season, falling to Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan and Minnesota, while beating Iowa, Purdue, Nebraska and Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Badgers started the season 1-3, but rattled off seven straight wins, and eight of nine, to end the season and give the team a little momentum heading into the offseason.
While Wisconsin started off last season with their toughest portion of the schedule, this year things are a bit different. Let’s go through the schedule game by game and see if we can’t predict what UW’s final regular season record will be. We will be examining the first half of the schedule today and looking at the second half later in the season.
Week 1, 9/3/22, vs. Illinois State
- The FCS Redbirds went 4-7 last season, 2-6 in the Missouri Valley, and are not projected to be one of the better teams in the conference this year. The MVC is the best conference in FCS, featuring Athlon Sports preseason No. 1 North Dakota State, No. 2 South Dakota State and No. 5 Missouri State (among two or three other ranked teams depending on which poll you look at). ISU will be led by a familiar name at QB, as former Minnesota Golden Gopher Zach Annexstad, who was named starting QB at Minnesota in 2018 as a walk-on true freshman, will be under center. Don’t care about any of that though, this should be an easy Wisconsin win (1-0).
Week 2, 9/10/22, vs. Washington State
- Wazzu finished last season at a surprising, in a good way, 7-6 (6-3 Pac-12) and got rid of head coach Nick Rolovich, who would not comply with a state vaccine mandate, and replaced him with defensive coordinator Jake Dickert. While we have been unable to confirm if Dickert is just B5Q’s own Jake Dicker in disguise, we will be looking into this strongly. Old friend Nakia Watson could be WSU’s starting RB this year, but they’ll be breaking in a new QB (presumably prolific Incarnate Word transfer Cameron Ward) and have questions on the offensive line. The Badgers should win (2-0) this one too.
Week 3, 9/17/22, vs. New Mexico State
- The Aggies are, uh, not a good team. Former Gophers head coach Jerry Kill is now the head man in Las Cruces. They went 2-10 last year, beating only UMass and South Carolina State, but have a number of returning pieces that should lead to an improved record if not one that leads to bowl eligibility. Check out friend of the blog Patrick Mayhorn’s Group of Five newsletter, The Outside Zone, for his preview of NMSU. This should also be a pretty easy win for Wisconsin (3-0) as they head into conference play the following week.
Week 4, 9/24/22, at Ohio State
- As they say, “business is about to pick up” in Week 4. Wisconsin’s first Big Ten game and first road game of the season comes against...the Ohio State Buckeyes. A preseason favorite to make the CFP and win the Big Ten, the Buckeyes are stacked again in 2022. QB C.J. Stroud, RB Treveyon Henderson and, well, all of the WRs are NFL players.
The defense was, weirdly, kinda bad last year but they still have a ton of talent and brought in new DC Jim Knowles (formerly of Oklahoma State) to make some changes, so it should be back to a top-tier unit. This probably goes the same way a lot of Wisconsin/Ohio State games go: the Badgers keep it close in the first half then end up losing by 14+ points (3-1 overall, 0-1 B1G) as OSU’s overall talent takes over.
Week 5, 10/1/22, vs. Illinois
- After the embarrassing loss to the Illini in 2019, the Badgers have won two straight against their neighbors to the south. This year’s matchup in Madison should be extra fun for fans as it will be former Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema’s first return to Camp Randall Stadium since he left for the Arkansas job after 2012. The Illini won five games in Bielema’s first season in charge and they’ll be aiming for a bowl game in year two of his reign. The Badgers shutout Illinois last year and I don’t see anything that would change the result drastically this year (4-1 overall, 1-1 B1G).
Week 6, 10/8/22, at Northwestern
- The Badgers end the first half of their season with a trip to a true house of horrors...Ryan Field. UW and the ‘Cats have split the last four matchups, with each team winning two at home, and Wisconsin has a 6-4 record against NU over the last 10. Northwestern was dreadful last year, going 3-9 overall and 1-8 in conference, but these Pat Fitzgerald teams never seem to have two similar seasons in back-to-back years. Northwestern has a solid offensive line, anchored by preseason All-American LT Peter Skoronski.
There are questions throughout the rest of the roster, however, and getting them in the first half of the season is probably a good thing for Wisconsin. I never like picking games at Northwestern, but Wisconsin SHOULD eke out a victory (5-1 overall, 2-1 B1G) here in a game you’ll regret watching as soon as it starts.
The second half of the season preview will come later this week.