WSUM Sports Roundtable: Recapping an up-and-down debut season for Luke Fickell and the Badgers

  • Post Author
    by Sports director
  • Post Date
    Wed Dec 06 2023

By: WSUM Sports Team

The Badger red team gets ready to snap the football 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)

The regular season for the University of Wisconsin‘s football team is officially complete. After an offseason filled with big promises, the way the Badgers' (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten) season played out probably leaving some fans unfulfilled.

The team began the year 5-2 before three straight losses to Ohio State, Indiana and Northwestern to fall to 5-5. Wisconsin would go on to win its next two games against rivals Nebraska and Minnesota to finish 7-5.

The finish to the year extended a couple of points of pride for the program: it's their 22nd consecutive bowl appearance and winning season, the latter of which leads the FBS.

So, how does the WSUM team feel about the latest season? Did the team's finish give optimism? Or, did the high expectations put a damper on the entire year? Plus, what was the reaction to that College Football Playoff decision that grabbed headlines?

All that, and more, is to come in this week's WSUM Sports roundtable, the first of two this week!

How does it feel to finally get the Axe Back?

Euphoric. I can die a happy man now knowing that the Axe is back where it belongs. -Joey Bonadonna

It is such a relief to have The Axe back. After the past few years of disappointing performances in our rivalry game with Minnesota, putting together a win, and a solid one at that, is huge. Going into it, I felt that the game could go either way, so seeing us win in dominating fashion was a huge relief. -Peter Sellwood

Having the Axe back in Madison is the ultimate feeling a badger fan can have and are looking forward to retaining it for the following season. -Matthew Lodarek

It's refreshing. All of the injuries and disappointing losses of the season are history. The Axe rules all. -Max Kappel

Awesome. Safe to say that it has been long enough without it. I was at the game and it was a very good one to watch, even in the cold conditions. A lot of fair weather fans in Minnesota left once they were down. -Camryn Fjelstad

I was not prepared to be a part of the first student body at UW since the 20th century to lose the Axe in a majority of my four years. Obviously, that's not clinched yet, but at least we won't get swept. Hallelujah. -Anthony Winker

The Stanford Tree better watch out. -Jon Green

Wisconsin finishes the regular season 7-5 and 3rd in the Big Ten West, what's your reaction to that?

In a vacuum, this looks like a very disappointing result but I think coming out with the two wins over Nebraska and Minnesota make you feel a lot better about the state of the program. -Joey Bonadonna

A 7-5 third place finish gives me conflicting reactions. A 7-5 season with the Axe returning to Madison should make one feel good about the season, especially since it is the first year under a new coaching staff and scheme. However, a third place finish in the Big Ten West is pretty disappointing in my opinion; the strength of the West is considered to be among the worst in any college football conference, so coming in any place but first is pretty embarrassing. The strength of schedule this year also was about as easy as it could get with only two ranked opponents all year, so five losses (including a horrible Indiana team) looks pretty rough. -Peter Sellwood

Although the Badgers finished this season with another winning record, it's been a frustrating season for UW, with multiple injuries and failed expectations for this Air Raid offense that had a lot of people in a chokehold before the season even started. But, a bowl game has been acquired and that ends off on a good note for us to get ready for next season. -Matthew Lodarek

Considering the injuries, including lengthy ones to key players like Chez Mellusi and Tanner Mordecai, I'm cool with it. Next season feels like the first one in forever that there won't be otherworldly running back to be the offensive engine, but maybe that means we'll get to see a true Phil Longo passing scheme? -Max Kappel

Injuries were a struggle for the team, especially early in the year with Chez getting injured. That was a big factor to the Badgers success. I think they will have a better record next year, and with this being Fickell's first year as a coach, he has a lot of adjustments to come next year that will be very crucial to a successful season. -Camryn Fjelstad

Rip Big Ten West (2014-2022). A division that never won a Big Ten title game. It does make me a little sick that they didn't win it this year in what feels like their last chance to play in the conference title game for a while. But, I clearly underestimated the rebuilding process here. As long as the future vision comes to fruition, it's fine (I guess). -Anthony Winker

What is your reaction to Wisconsin's bid to the ReliaQuest Bowl against LSU?

Initial reaction? Well 7-6, good season, kept the winning season streak alive, let's move onto 2024. Current reaction? Bowl games increasingly don't mean anything, so Jayden Daniels and Malik Nabers probably won't be there for LSU. Let's see what this Mike Tressel defense can do against LSU's second-string offense. I am also interested to see how the offense bounces back with the losses of Braelon Allen, Chimere Dike and Skyler Bell. I'd imagine those will be the big losses but things can change between now and January 1. -Joey Bonadonna

This is dumb. With all due respect to Wisconsin, LSU deserves an actual opponent for their game, and Wisconsin deserves a chance to play in a competitive game. The No. 13 team in the country should not be playing an unranked team in their bowl game, and this isn't just me being a salty Badgers fan. -Peter Sellwood

This will be the 22nd straight bowl appearance for the program. LSU is a scary opponent, and it's something (a difficult SEC opponent) we're going to see more of in the near future. It's never fun to watch a game with several key players missing due to the NFL draft, but it's always nice to watch your favorite team in January. -Max Kappel

This game is pretty up in the air with key players sitting out for the bowl. I think that the Badgers have a chance to come out on top if they play like they did against Minnesota, but without Braelon Allen, the Badgers will need to find another way to get good yardage versus a very good LSU team. -Camryn Fjelstad

Nonsense, my colleagues. Wisconsin will win this game! Why? Well, because Malik Nabers and Jayden Daniels probably won't play. So, have a little faith! -Anthony Winker

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With conference realignment looming, which team are you most excited to see in the Big Ten next year?

All four of the incoming programs are going to look extremely different next year so it's a little hard to project. If I had to pick one right now though, I'd have to go with Oregon. I trust Dan Lanning to have the most consistent product in 2024. Plus, cool uniforms. -Joey Bonadonna

If Caleb Williams returns to USC, then I would be extremely excited to see USC battle the juggernauts of the Big Ten. If not USC, then I'd like to see Washington because then we can finally prove who the better UW is. -Peter Sellwood

UCLA and USC is an exciting rivalry that will be added to the Big Ten. Because of the two Rose Bowl games Wisconsin lost to Oregon in 2011 and 2020, they're the team I'm most excited to see join the conference. I hope it can be an exciting matchup in the future. -Max Kappel

All the historically good schools coming to the Big Ten shall put an interesting spin on the conference for those schools to potentially match up against the two powerhouses of Michigan and Ohio State. One of those schools are currently in the College Football Playoff, meaning that the Big Ten shall become one of, if not the best, football conferences in the nation. -Matthew Lodarek

USC and Oregon are both very good teams I am looking forward to watching. They both bring a lot of good talent and that will be a good thing to see, loss or not. -Camryn Fjelstad

I'm very excited for Oregon to get here. The Badgers need to get some revenge for that ridiculous Justin Herbert game the last time these two teams met. -Anthony Winker

BONUS: Was the CFP correct?

Yes. This truly came down to Jordan Travis' injury. If he was healthy, I have no doubt that they'd be in. However, the quarterbacks that came into relief were not all that encouraging in their last two games. Alabama had the much better win this week. These two semifinal games are going to be really intriguing. As much as it sucks for Florida State, this was the right decision. I imagine they'll be back in the 12-team format and they'll have a shot to go on a run in the future. -Joey Bonadonna

Ehhhh. It wouldn't be the CFP without an SEC team in there, so Alabama making it makes at least a little sense. However, omitting an undefeated conference champ in Florida State is just dumb. So what if they have to start a backup QB? They've got a great defense and they still found a way to win their conference championship game. There are loads of other stats that could back up Florida State's case, but in the end, they should have made the CFP. My personal top 4 would be Michigan, Washington, Texas, Florida State. -Peter Sellwood

Yes and no. I don't mind Alabama getting the nod, but my main question is why Florida State is not number six behind Georgia? If they are truly worse than Alabama, as the committee says, are they really better than Georgia? -Jon Green

The selections of Michigan, Washington, and Texas are great teams to be in the College Football Playoffs, but the always controversial Alabama snuck in after winning against the top-ranked team in Georgia, being ranked over the undefeated Florida State who also won their conference title. -Matthew Lodarek

I don't exactly know if it was the right decision, but once Jordan Travis got injured, the Seminoles went downhill, and relying on a third-string QB, they were not the same team they were with Travis. Michigan, Washington, and Texas were deserving, but as much as Alabama had a great year, I still think that Florida State should get their shot at Michigan. They do deserve it since they kept a perfect record which is both difficult and impressive. -Camryn Fjelstad

Hell no. The committee just set an absolutely awful precedent here and that's that the games don't matter. Sure, Alabama will probably give Michigan a better game than Florida State would without Jordan Travis. But, you can not leave out an undefeated, power 5 champion. You just can't. They deserved the chance to try to win a national championship and the committee took that chance away from them. If I'm Florida State, I don't take the field for the Orange Bowl. -Anthony Winker

Contributors: Jon Green, Joey Bonadonna, Anthony Winker, Camryn Fjelstad, Matthew Lodarek, Peter Sellwood, Max Kappel.