The Wisconsin Badgers have enjoyed a lot of success playing a brand of football that was dominant in the Big Ten decades ago. Through 21 consecutive winning seasons and several different head coaches, the recipe has been remarkably similar: run the football, play great defense, and don’t hurt yourself. Despite all the wins the Badgers haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since the 1999 season and last won a Big Ten championship a decade ago. Since their last appearance in the conference championship Purdue, Iowa and Northwestern played for the crown. So, in an attempt to revive the program Wisconsin turned to Luke Fickell as its guide after a tremendous run at Cincinnati. Bucky is the Bitcoin Betting favorite to win the Big Ten West in 2023 with a projected win total of 8.5.
College Football Season Wins Odds
Regular Season Wins for the Wisconsin Badgers
Over 8.5 ( -177 )
Under 8.5 ( +150 )
Being a former player at Ohio State gives Fickell inside knowledge of the Big Ten. Averaging more than 10 victories with a winning percentage over 84 and a trip to the College Football Playoff over the last five seasons at Cincinnati makes him a damn good coach. And with a bunch of starters back from the 17th ranked scoring defense, Fickell is in a good spot to take the Badgers to the next level.
The hiring of Fickell and coordinator Phil Longo suggests a change in offensive philosophy. Don’t get me wrong the Badgers will still run the football with the talent they have. However, a more potent passing attack could help them change the outcome of some games. The Badgers lost to Washington State last year, 17-14. They scored just 10 points in losses to Illinois and Iowa and tallied 16 points in a loss to Minnesota. Granted those teams play a stiff brand of defense, but the inability to produce proved fatal.
I’m not sure if it was because they couldn’t or didn’t want to throw the football, but Wisconsin was one of the worst statistically last year. They ranked 114th nationally averaging just 183.8 yards and QBs combined to complete less than 58 percent of their passes with 11 interceptions. They needed a new QB and got a few in the portal with SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai in line to start. Over the last two seasons Mordecai amassed 7,152 passing and 72 touchdowns with the Mustangs. A new quarterback and the Air Raid scheme will push the pass numbers up.
You can’t completely dismiss the run game, this is Wisconsin after all. And with a premiere back expect better production, though it may come in different ways. Picking up the slack for an inept passing attack, Braelon Allen rushed for 1,242 yards and 11 TDs while also catching 13 passes. Allen continued his torrid pace from his first season in Madison when he ran for 1,268 yards and 12 TDs. Arguably the best back in the Big Ten, Allen may be the best in college football.
A constant with the Badgers has been the play of their defense and with eight starters returning we should see more of the same. Last year the group held opponents to an average of less than 100 yards rushing and placed 11th in the country in total defense. New coordinator Mike Tressel has plenty to work with and a more aggressive pass rush could make this unit elite.
The good news is that the Badgers play in the Big Ten West and likely have to get by Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota to win the division. Unfortunately the Illini and Gophers matchups are on the road, and Bucky doesn’t completely escape the gauntlet with a home matchup against Ohio State on Oct. 28. But there is no Michigan or Penn State or Michigan State, and the non-conference slate is favorable with home games against Buffalo and Georgia Southern sandwiched around a revenge trip to Washington State.
Wisconsin expects a lot more from its football team and hiring Fickell wasn’t just to be competitive in the Big Ten West. There are a lot of moving parts with a new coach, coordinator and QB so there might be some speed bumpst. The schedule does allow for those to be worked out and the defense will keep Bucky in most games. At most I see three losses on the slate and even the worst-case scenario still puts Wisconsin OVER their win total.
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