The Wisconsin Badgers reached the lowest point of their season with a 24-10 loss to the Northwest Wildcats on Saturday, falling to 5-5 on the season and leaving the team still in the running for playoff eligibility. bowl with two weeks to go.
There are several takeaways from the loss, including thoughts on the loss, the current state of the football program and an honest assessment of the coaching staff.
For this roundtable, I teamed up again with our football writer Scary Alvarez to answer some critical questions.
Q: What do you think of the Badgers’ loss to Northwestern?
Rohan: Last week, I called Indiana’s loss “easily the worst of the season.” This weekend’s loss is even bigger, as the Badgers have now compiled two embarrassing performances in a row. Right now, the Badgers lack identity and heart on both sides of the football, and the biggest problem is that the same issues have plagued them all season long.
Offensively, it’s the lack of consistent passing downfield, while the recent lack of running game has made this team one-dimensional. Defensively, the team simply lacks a competitive edge to get off to a fast start, leading to holes the team can’t climb out of.
I think the coaching staff deserves to be blamed for these issues because there is a lot of talent on this roster and the reasons why expectations were high this season was due to the easy schedule and last big chance to participate in a Big Ten championship game before. the influx of new suitors.
But the players have definitely regressed, and it starts with their efforts. After the game, we saw head coach Luke Fickell and safety Hunter Wohler wondering how the players would respond to adversity. There is a gap in program buy-in at the moment, and Wisconsin needs to address that at a really low level for its program this season.
Scary: This was one of the most embarrassing performances in modern Wisconsin football history (Alvarez-era forward). Lack of talent in certain key areas is something we can live with, but not an absence of effort. It’s troubling to see so many players not buying in, and it seems like that inflection point could have been four quarters into the Ohio State game. Since then, things have deteriorated very quickly.
I expect a significant number of current Badgers to leave via the portal and our own portal influx to be robust, with an emphasis on defensive playmakers and possibly a veteran quarterback.
Q: What needs to change for Wisconsin?
Rohan: As I mentioned above, the Badgers simply can’t keep making the same mistakes week after week. When this happens, there is a gap between the coaching staff and the players, whether in how they implement the game plan or how the players execute it. Hunter Wohler’s comments make it seem like it’s more the latter, as evidenced by the numerous mission failures and field effort levels. But this lack of discipline needs to trickle down to the top of the program, which is why coaches deserve some accountability for these issues as well.
While I’m not sure any of the issues I’ve highlighted can actually be fixed in two weeks, the Badgers need to become bowl eligible. The last two weeks have significantly diminished my confidence in achieving that goal, but they need to win at least one of the next two games to save the season.
Now, looking ahead, this offseason will be a pivotal point for Luke Fickell at his facility at Wisconsin. It’s very clear that he is fully engaged with the program and is showing some care in resolving the issues at hand, but the Badgers are far from achieving the goals their head coach set out to achieve. set at the time of his hiring.
They’ve taken the necessary steps with strong recruiting classes, but they’ll likely need to hit the transfer portal hard and find the right people to set the tone as they’ll need to prepare for a much tougher schedule in 2024 and beyond. of the. .
Scary: For 2023: The current roster needs to get rid of everything that is harassing them and just join. Hunter Wohler said it best in his heartfelt tirade after the Northwestern game. There are too many guys on this team whose hearts aren’t in it this season and while that’s certainly a reflection on the head coach (and the coaching staff in general, who have had their own issues), it’s is a bad image. I’d say this team’s best football in 2023 is probably behind it, but rallying for a sixth win to earn a bowl and an extra month of practice would be a huge thing going forward. If I had to choose which game to win, I’d take the axe.
For 2024 and beyond: This seems pretty standard, but trust the process. Fickell is probably as surprised as anyone by this team’s failures, but he still has the coaching acumen and track record – including a rebuild where he took his team to the CFB playoffs – to suggest that the program Badger is in good hands. Right now, the recruiting classes of 2024 and 2025 look very good and it was always about reshaping a failing program and system into a winner. Looking back, Fick had a much bigger task ahead of him than it first appeared.
Q: Do you ever consider the hiring of Luke Fickell a failure?
Rohan: Surely not. You may certainly have questions, but there’s no way I’d consider Fickell a failure, given his pedigree, the team he inherited, and his recruiting successes, despite the struggles on field.
I’m still convinced Fickell was a slam-dunk hire and the right move for the Badgers last November, and you have to allow the process to take time. In Cincinnati, after a disappointing first year, he was able to turn things around with an 11-2 season in year two and continued success thereafter. I don’t expect such a turnaround, and Fickell told me Monday that this process has been more difficult, but I expect better things in the future.
I’m not going to make the argument that it’s not entirely his team, but the reason it’s important, even though he has a group of guys he likes, is how much certain players are essential to the development of the offensive and defensive plan. work. Right now, a lot of players don’t fit that profile, which is why I think the portal will be key again this summer to help reshape the program.
The Badgers already have some cornerstones and their high school recruits will ultimately define Wisconsin Football’s success going forward, but they also need to be better in the short term, which is why this offseason is crucial.
That starts at the quarterback position, where I think the Badgers will need to come through the portal for a second straight season, allowing their younger guys to have an extra year of development before they’re ready for Big Ten competition.
Scary: Absolutely not. For some of the reasons mentioned above, he must be given a reasonable amount of time to complete this task. One season isn’t even enough to call it a failure. Look at season #1 for most coaches who take over declining programs and they rarely forge a winner right away.
We may have this conversation again after the 2024 season, but if this Badgers team is competitive (against a much tougher schedule than 2023) and plays with heart, Fickell keeps his 2024 recruiting class intact and has a similar 2025 class, I will do it. say that the program is in good condition.