The Wisconsin Badgers are ready to kick off their season, hosting the Buffalo Bulls at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 P.M.
Much has been made about the Badgers and their new-and-improved team featuring a strong coaching staff and a new-look offense, but there's a lot around the organization to be excited about.
That all comes to a start on Saturday, when the Badgers kick off the Luke Fickell era at home with a game against Buffalo.
While the Badgers are expected to win by a significant amount, according to oddsmakers, there are still some key players that will be counted upon to ensure the game goes according to expectations.
Who is my “X-Factor” for the Badgers against Buffalo?
This week, the “X-Factor” doesn't come from the high-octane offense that the Badgers are expected to run, but rather the defense, and he isn't even a starter.
It’s outside linebacker Jeff Pietrowski, who will be making his first appearance as a Badger, and comes to Madison after two seasons at Michigan State, where he accumulated 5.5 sacks in 2021 before an injury limited him in 2022.
Pietrowski showcased his pass-rushing potential during spring practices with solid speed and some nice moves, but isn't as strong, limiting him on early downs.
However, the Badgers need the most help with their pass rush, as they lost both Nick Herbig and Keeanu Benton in the offseason, and Pietrowski enters the room with some much-needed experience.
The other candidate to provide extra pass-rushing ability is Temple transfer Darian Varner, but it’s currently unclear how he’ll feature in the gameplan in Week 1 after spending much of the offseason healing from an injury.
The Badgers are expected to win by a decent margin, according to oddsmakers, but having a successful pass rush would go a long way into aiding their success, and Pietrowski should feature in a role that will allow him to go after the quarterback in the linebacker rotation.