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Should Wisconsin be ranked in the Top 25 to begin the year?

The Badgers have made major changes from last year. Is it enough to begin the season in the Top 25?

Syndication: Journal Sentinel Mark Stewart / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Wisconsin Badgers are undergoing a revamping of their program after hiring new head coach Luke Fickell following a disappointing 7-6 season that led to the departure of longtime coach Paul Chryst and beloved coordinator Jim Leonhard.

Holding a great history of having competitive teams in the Top 25, Fickell has a coaching record of 64-25, which includes a victory in his first debut for the Badgers in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl game.

During their 7-6 season, the Badgers had a good defense that only gave up 20 points a game.

The issue was mainly on offense, as they scored 26 points per game, but were plagued by the quarterback position and a bland offense that became predictable.

Enter new offensive coordinator Phil Longo, who represents a significant scheme change offensively, which is exactly what the Badgers need.

Longo, a known expert of the Air-Raid offense, has recently coached Sam Howell, a fifth-round draft pick by the Washington Commanders in the 2022 NFL Draft, and Drake Maye, a projected Top-10 pick next season, while at North Carolina.

Last season, his offense scored 34 points per game, despite the team losing Howell and top running back Ty Chandler.

Now, the offense will be run by transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who has thrown for 7,152 yards and 72 touchdowns in two seasons at SMU.

The Longo offense will not abandon the run, the coordinator shared earlier this offseason. Longo’s offense has always been a well-balanced offense with the air raid principles tied into the scheme.

Enter Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi, who will control the ground attack for Longo and the Badgers' offense.

With the sprinkles of a new scheme, better wideouts, and more talented quarterback play, the offense should field a stronger performance than the abysmal 2022 season.

Defensively, the Badgers should continue to shine, despite losing trusted coordinator Jim Leonhard, who was bypassed for the full-time head coaching role in November.

Luke Fickell runs a similar defense, while possessing strong defensive minds in coordinator Mike Tressel, safeties coach Colin Hitschler, outside linebackers coach Matt Mitchell, and recently hired assistant Jack Cooper, who served as the defensive coordinator at Rhode Island over the past two seasons.

Now, the main question is: should the Badgers be ranked in the preseason top 25?

My answer is yes.

When you have a Heisman candidate in Braelon Allen, new offensive weapons in the passing attack, new philosophy implemented by Phil Longo, and a coach with Fickell’s track record, the Badgers should be ranked in the top 25 during the preseason, despite the failures that the 2022 season brought for the program.

This is a team that should be ranked around 20-25 during the preseason rankings. They should climb fast with the offense and defense they'll put on the field.

However, they are still a year or two away from being a team that will be in the Top 10-15 in my honest opinion. I do think they could reach the latter half due to coaching and the team they have, but Fickell will need a year to fully recruit his team, seen by the recent success in the 2024 cycle and the activity over the next two recruiting classes already.