Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell watches a drill during fall training camp at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023.

News Articles

No. 19 Wisconsin, with new coach Luke Fickell, hosts Buffalo

The Luke Fickell era at Wisconsin kicks off when the 19th-ranked Badgers host Buffalo in a non-conference game Saturday in Madison.

Fickell was hired away from Cincinnati, where he went 57-18 in six seasons. In 2021, the 13-0 Bearcats became the first Group of 5 team to reach the College Football Playoff, where they lost to Alabama in the semifinals.

Fickell replaces Paul Chryst, who was fired after a 2 -3 start and replaced on an interim basis by popular defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard, a Wisconsin native who played for the Badgers. Leonhard went 4-3 the rest of the regular season and was considered by many to have the inside track.

Fickell, who played at Ohio State and then was a longtime assistant coach with the Buckeyes, spent a decade as the program’s defensive coordinator and was interim head coach in 2011.

“Week 1 is always incredibly intriguing,” Fickell said. “I think obviously in Year 1, it’s even more so. For me, for all of our players. … it’s almost like Christmas morning. You’re preparing for a lot of things, a lot of anxieties. You’re excited about it, but yet there’s a lot of things that you just don’t know from each other.”

Wisconsin, which defeated Oklahoma State 24-17 in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl to close last season, was tabbed to win the Big Ten West in the conference preseason poll, one point ahead of Iowa.

Buffalo finished 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference East last season and 7-6 overall, including a 23-21 victory over Georgia Southern in the Camellia Bowl.

Quarterback is the biggest change for the Badgers, where redshirt senior transfer Tanner Mordecai, a two-year starter at SMU, replaces three-year starter Graham Mertz, who transferred to Florida.

Mordecai, who began his career at Oklahoma, threw 72 touchdown passes in his two seasons at SMU, completing 66.4% of his passes with 22 interceptions.

Junior running back Braelon Allen, a first-team all-conference preseason pick, teams with grad senior Chez Mellusi to power the Badgers signature ground attack. Allen has rushed for 2,510 yards and 23 touchdowns, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, in two seasons.

Allen might not be taking 25 handoffs per game in new offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s system. He arrived from North Carolina with an adaptation of the Air Raid offense expected to lead to more of an aerial display than Wisconsin has traditionally shown.

Senior Chimere Dike led the Badgers last season with 47 receptions for 689 receiving yards and six touchdowns, and the receiving corps was bolstered by transfers Bryson Green from Oklahoma State and CJ Williams from Southern California, along with Will Pauling and Quincy Burroughs from Cincinnati.

The defense will be under coordinator Mike Tressel, who came with Fickell from Cincinnati. Wisconsin allowed 20.2 points and 303.5 yards per game last season.

Junior linebacker Maema Njongmeta, who led the Badgers last season with 95 tackles, including 11.5 for loss, was a first-team preseason all-conference pick.

Center Jake Renfro (foot), another Cincy transfer; tight end Riley Nowakowski (foot); and defensive lineman Isaiah Mullens (knee) are expected to miss the opener.

Buffalo’s offense is led by graduate student Cole Snyder, who began his career at Rutgers. Snyder passed for 3,030 yards last season with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions as the season-long starter for the Bulls.

Redshirt sophomore Mike Washington Jr. was the leading rusher last season with 625 yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

Senior linebacker Shaun Dolac, a first-team all-conference pick last season, led the nation last season with 97 solo tackles. Graduate student safety Marcus Fuqua tied for most interceptions in the country with seven and was a third-team AP All-American.

“So much respect for their coaching staff. Coach Fickell, what he’s been able to do, obviously at Cincinnati, taking a Group of 5 team, I think it was the first Group of 5 team to the College Football Playoffs,” Buffalo coach Maurice Linguist said at the team’s media day.

“Played extremely well, extremely physical. You see high draft picks from their film at Cincinnati. And then certainly so much respect for the Wisconsin program in and of itself. It’s a blueblood. Every year, year in and year out, they’re going to be one of those top 10, top 15, top 20-type programs.”

Wisconsin last played Buffalo in 2006, winning 35-3 in Madison.

— Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

Sportsbooks

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Rated 5/5

Upcoming Games

Aug 24th, 12:00 PM

Florida State (6) -13 -115

Georgia Tech +13 -115

@

Aug 24th, 3:33 PM

Delaware State

Hawaii

@

Aug 24th, 3:33 PM

SMU (22) -20.5 -110

Nevada +20.5 -110

@

Aug 24th, 3:33 PM

Montana State

New Mexico

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Alcorn State

UAB

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Southeastern Louisiana

Tulane

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Northwestern State

Tulsa

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Sacramento State

San Jose State

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Lindenwood

Kansas (23)

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

New Hampshire

UCF

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Southern Utah

Utah

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Lafayette

Buffalo

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Duquesne

Toledo

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Fordham

Bowling Green

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Central Connecticut State

Central Michigan

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

North Carolina +1.5 -110

Minnesota -1.5 -110

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Western Carolina

NC State (21)

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

North Carolina A&T

Wake Forest

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Eastern Illinois

Illinois

@

Aug 29th, 3:33 PM

Coastal Carolina +4 -110

Jacksonville State -4 -110

@

Aug 29th, 7:30 PM

Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Arkansas

@

Aug 29th, 8:00 PM

Murray State

Missouri (8)

@

Aug 29th, 8:00 PM

Jackson State

Louisiana-Monroe

@

Aug 29th, 8:00 PM

North Dakota State +10 -115

Colorado -10 -115

@

Aug 30th, 3:33 PM

Elon

Duke

@

Aug 30th, 6:00 PM

Lehigh

Army

@

Aug 30th, 7:00 PM

Temple +39.5 -110

Oklahoma (15) -39.5 -110

@

Aug 30th, 10:30 PM

TCU -10.5 -110

Stanford +10.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 12:00 PM

Georgia (4) -11.5 -115

Clemson (20) +11.5 -115

@

Aug 31st, 3:00 PM

Portland State

Washington State

@

Aug 31st, 3:30 PM

Colorado State +36.5 -110

Texas (3) -36.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:30 PM

Miami-FL -2 -110

Florida +2 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

James Madison -10 -110

Charlotte +10 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Norfolk State

East Carolina

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Florida Atlantic +11 -110

Michigan State -11 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

North Alabama

Memphis

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Bucknell

Navy

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

North Texas +6.5 -110

South Alabama -6.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Sam Houston State +12.5 -110

Rice -12.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Bethune-Cookman

USF

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Kennesaw State +21.5 -110

UTSA -21.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Merrimack

Air Force

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Boise State -9.5 -110

Georgia Southern +9.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

UCLA -17 -110

Hawaii +17 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Nevada +15.5 -110

Troy -15.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

New Mexico +31.5 -110

Arizona (11) -31.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Texas A&M-Commerce

San Diego State

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

UNLV +3 -110

Houston -3 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Robert Morris

Utah State

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Wyoming +7 -110

Arizona State -7 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Alabama A&M

Auburn

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Furman

Ole Miss (9)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Eastern Kentucky

Mississippi State

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Old Dominion +17 -110

South Carolina -17 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Chattanooga

Tennessee (17)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Virginia Tech -12 -110

Vanderbilt +12 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Southern Miss +24 -110

Kentucky -24 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

East Tennessee State

Appalachian State

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Georgia State +20.5 -110

Georgia Tech -20.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Stony Brook

Marshall

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Grambling State

Louisiana-Lafayette

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Lamar

Texas State

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Southern Illinois

BYU

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

South Dakota State

Oklahoma State (16)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Abilene Christian

Texas Tech

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Penn State (13) -10 -110

West Virginia +10 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Tarleton

Baylor

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

North Dakota

Iowa State

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Towson

Cincinnati

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Tennessee-Martin

Kansas State (18)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Akron +50.5 -110

Ohio State (10) -50.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Eastern Michigan +1 -110

Massachusetts -1 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Kent State +23 -110

Pittsburgh -23 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Miami-OH +3 -110

Northwestern -3 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Western Illinois

NIU

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Ohio +14.5 -110

Syracuse -14.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Western Michigan +23 -110

Wisconsin -23 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

UC Davis

California

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Austin Peay

Louisville (19)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Houston Baptist

SMU (22)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Richmond

Virginia

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Florida International (FIU) +18.5 -110

Indiana -18.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Campbell

Liberty (25)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Nicholls State

LA Tech

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Tennessee Tech

Middle Tennessee

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Southeast Missouri State

New Mexico State

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

UTEP +28 -110

Nebraska -28 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Illinois State

Iowa (24)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

UCONN +24.5 -110

Maryland -24.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Idaho

Oregon (6)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Howard

Rutgers

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Weber State

Washington (2)

@

Aug 31st, 3:33 PM

Indiana State

Purdue

@

Aug 31st, 6:30 PM

Idaho State

Oregon State

@

Aug 31st, 7:00 PM

WKU +32.5 -110

Alabama (5) -32.5 -110

@

Aug 31st, 7:00 PM

Central Arkansas

Arkansas State

@

Aug 31st, 7:30 PM

Fresno State +21 -110

Michigan (1) -21 -110

@

Aug 31st, 7:30 PM

Notre Dame (14) +3 -115

Texas A&M -3 -115

@