WSUM Sports Roundtable: Taking the pulse of Badgers football after disappointing first loss of the year

  • Post Author
    by Sports director
  • Post Date
    Wed Sep 13 2023

By: WSUM Sports Team

Badger head coach Luke Fickell coaches his team through a headset at “The Launch” a Red-White spring football scrimmage game at Camp Randall at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on April 22, 2023. (Photo by Taylor Wolfram / UW–Madison)

We are beginning a new series here at WSUM Sports: a weekly roundtable where you can hear the thoughts of the members of the WSUM Sports team! To start things off, we are talking about the University of Wisconsin‘s football team.

Coming off of their first loss of the season against Washington State, the Badgers (1-1) return home a newly unranked team. They'll take on Georgia State next at 11 a.m. at Camp Randall Stadium this Saturday. But how did WSUM Sports feel about the loss last weekend? Does it change the sky-high expectations that were put on this team when new head coach Luke Fickell got to Madison? Find out below.

Did the loss to Washington State surprise you? 

When it comes to Wisconsin athletics, I am hopelessly optimistic. The Buffalo game had plenty of warning signs. Wisconsin QB Tanner Mordecai struggled with turnovers, the defense gave up some explosive pass plays and the run game did not take off until later in the game. I tricked myself into believing these mistakes would serve as motivation for the Badgers to dominate across the board. Instead, all the mistakes that clouded the team in week one appeared once again. -Vincent Hesprich

It shouldn't surprise me, and yet there I was on Saturday night after the game was over, shocked and frustrated with the outcome. I agree with Vince, there were so many warning signs with Buffalo, and Washington State is a sneaky good team. That being said, it still was a bit frustrating, especially when you consider we got a taste of UW's ceiling during that very good third quarter that pulled Wisconsin within a 2-point conversion of a tie game. -Anthony Winker

The loss in Pullman was not a surprise to me. The Badgers have a new coaching staff, philosophy, and roster who had had the tough task of traveling across the country to a now ranked opponent. The new era for Wisconsin was not high and flying in the first game versus Buffalo, and those holes could be and were exposed by a team like Washington State. -Jonathan Green

Before the game even started, there was chatter that Washington State would upset the Badgers. The initial betting line only favored the Badgers by 5.5 points, possibly aided by the general struggles that described the Buffalo game. As in that game, the Badgers got off to a slow start, with the gap proving to be too much for a rally. There's still plenty to be excited about, but I didn't think it would be realistic to expect Fickell to immediately transform the offense and secondary. –Max Kappel

After last year, I saw what this team was capable of, and as a fiend for “PAC-12 After Dark,” I often see the dark magic that occurs in Pullman, Washington. Wisconsin could ill-afford for a slow start and unfortunately, it was an extremely slow start for the Badgers. The second half was very encouraging but the turnovers were too much to handle. We're onto Georgia Southern. -Joey Bonadonna

Last year's loss definitely remained in the back of my mind during the game, however I think the Buffalo game gave me some false hope. I think everyone expected us to drop at least one bad game, but I thought our new additions along with the powerful run game would get the job done. -Matt Kane

Not at all. A program in its second game of a new regime going into an away game against a fringe top 25 team for a night game home opener always has upset potential. Add on the fact that last year Wazzu came into Camp Randal and beat the Badgers, and I was not surprised at all. -David Giardino

On a scale of 1-10, what is your concern level moving forward for this team? 

6. Coach Fickell claimed that his goal was to compete for a national championship in year one and although even the most optimistic Badger fan was hesitant to believe that, the expectation was that this team would show sizable improvements compared to last year's squad. That simply has not been the case and the performance against Washington State indicates that Bucky's rebuild could last more than just one offseason. However, the offense has flashed at times and it is clear that a fully operational Wisconsin team could still be devastating. -Vincent Hesprich

4. I'm still quite bullish on this squad. Obviously the refereeing was a little bit questionable, in the second half especially, but there's still no excuse to not show up for a whole half. The team should learn from this and not let it happen again. Everything the team can accomplish is still out there in front of them – even the CFP if you're that high on them. -Anthony Winker

2. When there is a staff turnover such as what the Wisconsin Badgers saw this past offseason, it takes a bit for them to instill it. In Coach Fickell's first year at Cincinnati, his team went 4-8. Of course, he was able to take the Bearcats to the CFP a few years later. Though, Wisconsin will not use the change as an excuse as Fickell said. This Badgers team is stronger than the Bearcats one, and should be able to regather and win the West when conference play begins. -Jonathan Green

2. Part of that is because of my initial expectations. A running back room featuring Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi can be more than enough to cover up shortcomings in other groups. I wouldn't expect the passing game to suddenly level up, though. -Max Kappel

4. Everything this team wants to accomplish is still in front of them. No championship was won or lost Saturday night. Like I said earlier, the second half play, especially from Mordecai, was extremely encouraging. I think the only thing I'm concerned about is the ability for a full 4 quarter, 3 phase win, which hopefully we'll see this Saturday. -Joey Bonadonna

3. I am not concerned until we lose to Georgia Southern. I still believe that Fickell and company will figure out our offense. I think some difficulty with a new head coach and QB is to be expected.  The defense continues to keep us in games and is another confidence booster for the squad. -Matt Kane

3. The good news for the Badgers is that with the exception of Ohio State this is the best team they will play all year. The Big Ten West is still very weak, and this team showed a lot of fight. It was a really good sign that this team came out in the second half and almost completed the comeback in a very hostile environment especially considering that this is just the second game of Luke Fickell's Wisconsin career. This team will be ok, and barring the Ohio State job becoming available, this program will be ok. -David Giardino

What is your record prediction moving forward? 

8-4. It would be the shock of the season if Wisconsin beat Ohio State, and Iowa looks like a poor matchup for Bucky. Although I would expect Wisconsin to take the remaining games, it just takes one poor performance to let another winnable game slip away. -Vincent Hesprich

9-3. I was predicting 10-2 at the beginning of the year, and Wazzu was not a game I was expecting this team to drop, so add that loss to the prediction. Ohio State looks vulnerable this year, but I still think they beat the Badgers, and then Wisconsin always seems to lose at least one game they have no business losing in the conference slate. I still think they will win the West though. Everybody else looks as bad or worse so far. -Anthony Winker

9-3. The first loss that is possible that comes to mind is Halloween weekend against Ohio State. Outside of that, it can very well be a loss to Iowa or at Illinois. Though, Ohio State is not the team they were last year so far in the 2023 season, and Illinois did not look great in week 2. In the last year of the Big Ten West, and before four PAC-12 teams join the conference, the Badgers should be able to make a bid for the Big Ten Championship. -Jonathan Green

9-3. Nearly every team in the country would lose to Ohio State (even without CJ Stroud), and I'm also accounting for a loss to either a ranked Iowa team or Minnesota on the road. I think the secondary is the biggest issue of this team, so Minnesota's Corey Crooms Jr and Chris Autman-Bell are natural fears. Isaiah Williams of Illinois could also go crazy, but I'll pencil the Badgers in for a win there. -Max Kappel

9-3. I see a loss to Ohio State and one more Big Ten loss. Games like Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and maybe even Nebraska could come down to being dogfights like this past one and I see Wisconsin dropping one of them. I feel Big Ten play will be extremely amplified and every game will be important but this team is still perfectly fine in their race for the Big Ten West. -Joey Bonadonna

10-2. I actually believe that the record will be 9-3 but I want to be a little different from all my colleagues. I think that Ohio State will be a lot closer than a lot of people think but will be a loss. I also think that there is a chance the Badgers drop one of the other Big Ten West games. There's a chance this team goes 10-2 and there's a chance they go 8-4 but at the end of the year I think they will be atop the Big Ten West. -David Giardino

8-4. I think 9-3 is a real possibility, however given the team's track record in close games we're bound to drop a few more. Obviously Ohio State, but other games could easily go either way. -Matt Kane

Bonus: What would you do to help the gameday atmosphere at Camp Randall?

The speakers were a much maligned part of the experience during week one and I totally agree: we need the music to be way louder. I could hardly hear anything coming from the speakers and it was simply too easy to have a conversation. I think every student agrees that if Camp Randall wants to prove its commitment to fans, they must crank that volume all the way up. -Vince Hesprich

The students need to be better. Sure, the stadium entrance is not ideal. Sure, they don't sell alcohol in the stadium (although, that could be changing soon). But still, to barely be like 60% full by the time kickoff comes is not great. They also could be a little louder . . . but I will still stand by the fact that from quarters two through Jump Around, there are not many better student sections in the nation. -Anthony Winker

Don't herd the students in like cattle. Lower the music. Keep fans engaged or louder. Though, my next thought is not in Wisconsin's control. With the new clock rules, I thought college football would be shorter. The average game length last season was roughly 3:20 to 3:30. The home opener for the Badgers was 3:33. Commercials are the problem. The amount of time during a game in which the players are doing absolutely nothing is mind-boggling. NFL games do not feel nearly as long despite similar clock rules and that is because of having slightly fewer commercials. -Jonathan Green

The students need to be more active. The student section has to be more full by kickoff.  I think the university has found success with many basketball games at getting students in the door through certain gimmicks.  I think that students need to be encouraged to stay until the end of the game as a good portion of students leave after Jump Around.  -Matt Kane

It was not DJay Mando's finest hour at the office last week. But to give him credit, everything was different both on field and off in terms of speed of play and presentation. It took a lot of adjustment from everyone involved in pre-game for everything to go smoothly. Give them until game 2 until your overreactions on game presentation. -Joey Bonadonna

Take a page out of the Packers book and shoot off fireworks an hour before the game to tell all the drunks tailgating that the game is starting. The key to getting the atmosphere better in Camp Randall is getting the students in. When we're in the stadium, we have one of the best student sections in the country. The problem is that it is rarely full by kickoff. So give them a little heads up and I bet they'll come. -David Giardino

Contributors: Vincent Hesprich, Anthony Winker, Joey Bonadonna, Matt Kane, David Giardino, Jonathan Green.