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Wisconsin Closing Arguments 2023: Air Raids and Dollar Defenses

In Luke We Trust

Imagine this in bronze in front of Camp Randall. Badger fans can hope, no?

I. Opening

I’d love to do the whole “anything new?” routine, but Nebraska, Purdue, and Northwestern all have new coaches; Illinois lost their DC (to Purdue); and Iowa’s nepo baby OC is on a performance system/bingo card setup and there is a gambling scandal across multiple sports in Iowa City. You are forgiven for not caring about all the changes in Madison.

A. Case History

The 2022 Badgers were not good. Not quite as bad as the 2008 and 2001 versions, but “3rd worst team in the last 30 years” is...not good. Paul Chryst was cashiered after being outscored 96-31 by Ohio State and Illinois, and Jim Leonhard’s 4-3 run as interim wasn’t enough to win him the job. Sure, wins over Purdue and Maryland showed that the season wasn’t a complete failure. But the offense had five games scoring 16 or fewer, and the defense struggled whenever it couldn’t generate a pass rush.

Changes were needed.

B. Opening Statement

Wisconsin just doesn’t fire coaches midseason. They really don’t fire coaches at all. Firing Paul Chryst before the season was half over was stunning. Not retaining Jim Leonhard was less stunning, but, still, it was assumed he had done well enough to get the job. Hiring Luke Fickell was stunning. But in a good way.

Skepticism from the outside is understandable. It’s been a lot to process.

II. Discovery

III. Schedule of Events

9/2 vs. Buffalo (2:30, FS1)

9/9 @ Washington State (6:30, ABC)

9/16 vs. Georgia Southern (11:00, BTN)

9/22 @ Purdue (6:00, FS1)

10/7 vs. Rutgers

10/14 vs. Iowa

10/21 @ Illinois

10/28 vs. Ohio State

11/4 @ Indiana

11/11 vs. Northwestern

11/18 vs. Nebraska

11/25 @ Minnesota

IV. Emotional Appeal

On the one hand, yes, UW is basically trying to turn an aircraft carrier inside a phone booth. Teams often require an adjustment period with a coaching chance, and few programs have shifted their offense as radically as Wisconsin has.

On the other hand, the defensive changes aren’t as major as sometimes presented; Fickell is as proven as a hotshot G5 hire gets; the portal haul was very impressive; recruiting has been great; and there really hasn’t been much negative to report.

Hiring said hotshot G5 coach has occasionally not worked out, as Husker fans can attest. But if you look at the list of coaches who took a G5 program to a BCS or NY6 bowl game—Urban Meyer, Chris Petersen, June Jones, Kyle Whittingham, Gary Patterson, Dave Doeren, George O’Leary, Bryan Harsin, Tom Herman, P.J. Fleck, Scott Frost, Josh Heupel, Mike Norvell, Luke Fickell, Willie Fritz—there are more hits than misses.

Just cleaning up penalties and turnovers should be good for two extra wins. And Luke Fickell is not June Jones or George O’Leary. Nothing is certain in life, but there’s every reason to think Wisconsin made an excellent hire, and should be expect to be much better very soon.

V. The Verdict

Our “writers” deserve credit for not lazily defaulting to UW winning the division and/or being the highest rated B1G West team the way writers who get paid did. And I like our “writers.” They strike me as fine people on the whole.

But I hope @thumpasaurus has Badger-related reasons to crack open the Malort this year.


Wisconsin’s B1G record in 2023

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    3-6 or worse (suck it Fickell!)
    (7 votes)
  • 10%
    4-5 (the transition is serious)
    (23 votes)
  • 16%
    5-4 (year 2 will be the real test)
    (37 votes)
  • 25%
    6-3 (beats last year, what comes next?)
    (57 votes)
  • 43%
    7-2 or better (extend Fickell now!!!)
    (97 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now


Wisconsin’s overall record in 2023

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    5-7 or worse (21-year bowl streak ends)
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    6-6 (all this for last year’s record?)
    (13 votes)
  • 13%
    7-5 (deep breath; Rome wasn’t built in a day)
    (29 votes)
  • 21%
    8-4 (proverbial 50 degree day)
    (47 votes)
  • 28%
    9-3 (can’t hurt recruiting)
    (63 votes)
  • 28%
    10-2 or better (let’s talk about that 12-team playoff!!!)
    (62 votes)
218 votes total Vote Now