The Wisconsin Badgers are finally ready to start the season, with their first game set for Saturday afternoon against the Buffalo Bulls at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Badgers have been experiencing nothing but hype heading into Year 1 of the Luke Fickell era, as the team is currently projected to win the Big Ten West, despite going 7-6 last season.
What defines success for this Badgers’ group in Year 1 of the new regime?
Head coach Luke Fickell spoke with the media on Monday ahead of Wisconsin’s Week 1 game, sharing his beliefs on how he would define success in Year 1, which focuses on the end of the season.
“Playing our best ball at the end of the year. I know that’s pretty vague and that’s a way of not answering the question in a lot of ways, but it is. If we’re consistent, if we continue to grow and we’re playing our best ball at the end of the year, I think we’ll have everything in front of us. We’ll have an opportunity in those last three or four weeks to put ourselves in a chance to play for a championship, and that’s what it comes down to.”
However, playing your best ball doesn't just focus on the final few weeks, Fickell clarified. Instead, it’s more about the team’s growth throughout the season to set up a championship team.
“But, if we don’t grow, I mean, we know where you are in week one and where you are in week eight. If we’re in any similar areas in week one to week eight, then we won’t be playing our best ball at the end of the year. And if you’re not, it’s really hard to be successful and look at a season as being successful,” Fickell said.
Still, Fickell understands that there’s a level of development that occurs through the season, meaning he doesn't want the team to over-exert themselves in Week 1, given the goals in mind.
“So, does that mean you kind of rub off and don’t worry as much about the first three or four games? No, that’s not the case. But we know that there’s a progression to this, there’s a process to it. And I don’t want our guys just like our coaches to feel like this week one is when you got to win it.”
Quarterback Tanner Mordecai re-iterated Fickell’s sentiment of a championship when asked about success in Year 1, not backing down from the bold hopes.
“I think success is, you know, Coach Fickell has a goal of winning championships, and that’s our team goal, and accomplishing that will take care of all the other individual goals or anything else that anybody else has,” Mordecai said.
While jumping from a 7-6 team to a national championship is certainly hard, it’s clear that Fickell and Co. are extremely confident in their abilities, which can be both a good and a bad thing when understanding the jump needed for that desire to turn into a reality.