Oct 21, 2023; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis (8) throws a pass against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota, in last shot to secure bowl eligibility, faces Wisconsin

Minnesota’s final chance to secure bowl eligibility arrives when Wisconsin visits for a Big Ten matchup on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis.

The Golden Gophers (5-6, 3-5 Big Ten) missed out on three consecutive chances to qualify for a bowl bid, coming off losses against Illinois, Purdue and No. 2 Ohio State.

The finale of the 2023 regular season is the annual border battle against a top rival that would love to ruin Minnesota’s hopes.

“We’ve just got to know as a team that it’s on the line right here,” Golden Gophers quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis said. “This is a really big game for us. We’re going to go play our best football.”

It’s also a big game for Wisconsin (6-5, 4-4). The Badgers, looking to finish with a winning record on the season and in conference play in the first season under coach Luke Fickell, beat Nebraska last week to snap a three-game losing streak.

With the 24-17 win, Wisconsin became bowl eligible for the 22nd consecutive season. The Badgers can bolster their bowl resume with a road win to end the regular season.

Fickell said he asked the team’s upperclassmen to explain to their younger teammates how important the rivalry game is against Minnesota.

“The guys that have been here so long are the ones who lead us,” Fickell said. “The guys in the locker room who have been in this rivalry are the ones we ask to be in the forefront of it.”

The winning team will receive “Paul Bunyan’s Axe,” a prize that has existed since 1948. The series goes back even further than that, with the programs tied 62-62-8 as they enter their 133rd all-time meeting.

Kaliakmanis will try to finish the regular season on a positive note for Minnesota. He has passed for 1,671 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai also is looking to end on a high note. During an injury-marred season, he has passed for 1,542 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) is sacked by Northwestern defensive lineman Aidan Hubbard (91) during the third quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska and Wisconsin still chasing bowl eligibility

Wisconsin and Nebraska both will attempt to become bowl eligible when the stumbling Big Ten teams meet Saturday night in Madison, Wis.

Wisconsin (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) is coming off an embarrassing 24-10 loss at home to Northwestern. Nebraska (5-5, 3-4) lost at home to Maryland, 13-10, on a field goal as time expired.

The Badgers and Cornhuskers are in a five-way tie for second, two games behind Iowa in the Big Ten West.

The Badgers, picked to win the West in the preseason poll under first-year coach Luke Fickell, have lost three straight. Wisconsin has played in a bowl game in each of the last 21 seasons, the longest active streak in the Big Ten and the third longest in FBS football.

The Wisconsin defense was shredded in the first half by Northwestern, which had touchdown drives of 79, 68 and 90 yards and then added a field goal for a 24-3 halftime lead.

“There’s no answers,” Wisconsin safety Hunter Wohler said. “We just have to play better. We come out soft. We come out flat. We have zero energy on either side of the ball. And we get whooped around the field.”

Tanner Mordecai returned after missing three games with a broken throwing hand and completed 31 of 45 passes for 255 yards, but no touchdowns. Leading rusher Braelon Allen tried to return after missing the previous game with an ankle injury, but left again after gaining 3 yards on three carries.

Nebraska, which last played in a bowl game to conclude the 2016 season, has committed 27 turnovers, for a minus-14 turnover margin. The Huskers had five turnovers in the loss to Maryland, including three in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Heinrich Haarberg came away with an ankle injury against Maryland, and both Jeff Sims and Chubba Purdy played. All three QBs threw at least one interception as the Huskers passed for just 86 yards.

Nebraska coach Matt Rhule said Monday that the starter vs. Wisconsin might not be known until game time.

The Badgers have won nine straight against Nebraska, including all eight since the Freedom Trophy was introduced in 2014. Wisconsin has not lost a home game in the series and is 10-1 vs. the Cornhuskers since they joined the Big Ten in 2011.

“They’re a really good football team with really good players,” Rhule said of the Badgers. “Big, physical, raw, athletic. Luke Fickell’s an excellent football coach.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Braedyn Locke (18) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin hoping offense wakes up vs. Northwestern

Wisconsin will try to regain its offensive stride against visiting Northwestern on Saturday as the Badgers look to remain in contention in the Big Ten West.

The Badgers (5-4, 3-3) will return to Madison after a 20-14 setback last Saturday at Indiana, their third loss in four games. Northwestern (4-5, 2-4) lost to Iowa 10-7 at Wrigley Field the same day on a field goal with 14 seconds left.

Wisconsin is tied with Nebraska and Minnesota, its final two opponents, a game behind first-place Iowa in the West. In their three recent losses, the Badgers have just 30 points, including only 10 in the first half.

Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai has missed the last three games after breaking his throwing hand. Senior running back Chez Mellusi suffered a season-ending broken leg in the fourth game. And against Indiana, leading rusher Braelon Allen (ankle) and senior wide receiver Chimere Dike (leg) were out.

Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell was not sure Monday of the status of Allen and Dike, although both were listed first on this week’s depth chart.

“It’s hard to tell, the pace you are at on a Sunday — what does that translate to a Tuesday, Wednesday, and even push it through to a Saturday,” Fickell said. “So I wish I knew more.”

Redshirt freshman Braedyn Locke completed 21 of 41 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions against Indiana in his third start.

Northwestern quarterback Ben Bryant has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury. Brendan Sullivan has completed 40 of 65 passes for 522 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions over the last three games, but he threw for just 81 yards against Iowa.

Northwestern interim coach David Braun said Monday that Bryant continues to improve but remains uncertain for Saturday.

“Each day we’ll know more, but I’m not willing to sit up here and say he’s not going to be available,” Braun said. “With the progression that he’s shown over the last couple of weeks, I think there’s a possibility that he’s ready to go.”

Wisconsin has won five of the last seven meetings with Northwestern, including 42-7 last season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana's Brendan Sorsby (15) scores a touchdown during the first half against Wisconsin at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Janzaruk-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana ends skid with victory over Wisconsin

Brendan Sorsby threw for one touchdown and rushed for another, and host Indiana held on for a 20-14 win over Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, Ind.

Sorsby completed 19 of 31 passes for 186 yards and a score for Indiana (3-6, 1-5), which snapped a four-game losing streak. Donaven McCulley had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Braedyn Locke completed 21 of 41 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns for Wisconsin (5-4, 3-3). Bryson Green and Will Pauling had one touchdown reception apiece.

Indiana knocked off Wisconsin for the second time in a row, including a victory in the previous meeting in 2020. The Badgers lead the all-time series 41-20-2.

The Badgers got the ball at their own 25-yard line with 1:10 remaining and down by six points. Locke completed one first-down pass in the series but Wisconsin fumbled the ball on a desperation play as time expired.

Indiana opened the scoring with a touchdown on its first possession. Sorsby decided to keep the ball on an option play and scored on an 8-yard run.

The Hoosiers increased their lead to 10-0 on a 27-yard field goal by Chris Freeman midway through the second quarter.

Wisconsin pulled within 10-7 with 4:11 to go in the second quarter. Locke zipped a short pass across the middle to Green, who weaved through defenders and found green space down the left sideline as he raced for a 54-yard touchdown.

Indiana responded on the next possession to grab a 17-7 lead at the half. McCulley made a spectacular, one-handed catch along the left side of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown.

The Badgers cut the deficit to 17-14 on their first drive of the second half. Pauling hauled in an 18-yard pass for his team-high third receiving touchdown of the season.

A 50-yard field goal by Freeman increased Indiana’s advantage to 20-14 with 1:10 to play.

–Field Level Media

Oct 14, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers coach Luke Fickell leads the football team onto the field for warmups prior to the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

No. 3 Ohio State turns full attention to Wisconsin

After a statement-making victory over a previously undefeated Top 10 opponent, No. 3 Ohio State will look to avoid a letdown in Saturday night’s Big Ten clash with Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.

Ohio State (7-0, 4-0) is fresh off a 20-12 win at home against then-No. 7 Penn State, which dropped to 10th in the rankings. The Buckeyes are second in the Big Ten East, a half-game behind Michigan, the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.

Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) overcame a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun Illinois 25-21 behind redshirt freshman quarterback Braedyn Locke, who was making his first collegiate start.

The Badgers moved back atop the Big Ten West, a half-game in front of Iowa, which lost at Minnesota.

“We talked about it on Sunday as a team, that we’ve got to bring it this week,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Tuesday about Wisconsin. “They’re playing well, they’re a good football team, they’ve got a really good opportunity to win their side. And we can’t let last week affect this week.”

Ohio State limited Penn State to two field goals until a touchdown in the final minute. The Buckeyes’ defense held the Nittany Lions to 240 total yards, including 49 on the ground.

“They were 1-for-16 on third down and 1-for-3 on fourth down, so 2-for-19 on third and fourth down is tremendous,” Day said after the Penn State game. “If we could play like this, then this is that champion-level defense, and if we grow as a team, we will be tough to beat down the road.”

First-year starter Kyle McCord completed 22 of 35 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown. Marvin Harrison Jr. had a career-high 11 receptions for 162 yards and a TD and was named the conference’s co-Offensive Player of the Week.

The Buckeyes are ranked fourth in the country in total defense at 260.1 yards per game, and third in scoring defense at 10 points per game.

First-year Wisconsin coach Luke Fickell played for the Buckeyes, then coached at Ohio State from 2002 through 2016, including the 2011 season as interim head coach.

“The first thing, to start off with is, it’s not about me,” Fickell said Monday. “We have some guys on our staff, myself included, who have some obvious history there, whether they went to school there or played there. But that’s not what it’s about.”

“It’s about the players, it’s about our team, it’s about our program,” he said.

Locke started against Illinois in place of injured Tanner Mordecai, who broke his throwing hand the previous week in a loss to Iowa.

Locke completed 21 of 41 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns vs. Illinois, including the game-winning 3-yard toss to offensive lineman Nolan Rucci with 27 seconds remaining. Braelon Allen ran for 145 yards on 29 carries with one score.

Ohio State has won nine straight games against Wisconsin since the Badgers’ last victory, 31-18 in 2010 over the then-No. 1 Buckeyes.

The Buckeyes defeated Wisconsin 52-21 last season, rolling up 539 yards offense while holding the Badgers to 296. Allen ran for 165 yards on 23 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown.

–Field Level Media

Oct 7, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Wisconsin Badgers running back Braelon Allen (0) rushes for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Defense carries Wisconsin past Rutgers 24-13

Ricardo Hallman scored on a 95-yard interception return and Braelon Allen ran for 101 yards and a touchdown to pace Wisconsin to a 24-13 victory over visiting Rutgers in a Big Ten matchup Saturday.

Hallman’s score put Wisconsin up 17-0 at the half. The Badgers (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) led 17-6 after three quarters and extended the advantage to 24-6, as they improved to 5-0 vs. Rutgers in the series.

The Badgers capitalized on a short field for a 39-yard scoring drive, going in front 10-0 on Allen’s 18-yard touchdown run with 4:28 left in the first half.

Rutgers (4-2, 1-2), which went three-and-out on four of its first five possessions, answered with a drive deep into Wisconsin territory. Hallman then stepped in front of Gavin Wimsatt’s pass intended for Christian Dremel in the right flat and returned it nearly the length of the field for the 17-0 advantage.

Wimsatt left briefly with an undisclosed injury, while backup Evan Simon came on to finish a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive late in the third quarter. Simon hit Aaron Young with a 10-yard touchdown toss, but the Scarlet Knights missed the extra point.

Wisconsin responded with a 72-yard drive, capped by Tanner Mordecai’s 3-yard scoring pass to freshman tight end Tucker Ashcraft to make it 24-6 with 10:51 remaining.

Rutgers recovered a fumble at the Badgers’ 21 with 4:42 remaining. Three plays later, Wimsatt hit Ian Strong with an 11-yard touchdown to make it 24-13.

Mordecai completed 17 of 31 passes for 145 yards with one touchdown, while Will Pauling had eight catches for 68 yards.

Rutgers managed just 64 yards on the ground, 43 by Wimsatt.

Wisconsin was playing its first game without running back Chez Mellusi, who sustained a season-ending leg injury two weeks ago at Purdue. Jackson Acker, who had 31 yards on eight carries in the first four games, added 65 yards Saturday on 13 carries.

Wisconsin opened with an 11-play, 54-yard drive culminating in Nathanial Vakos’ 39-yard field goal.

–Field Level Media

Wisconsin Badgers running back Chez Mellusi (1) is tackled by Purdue Boilermakers defensive back Marquis Wilson (16) and Purdue Boilermakers defensive back Dillon Thieneman (31) during the NCAA football game, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind.

Wisconsin ground game piles up 4 TDs in dropping Purdue

Tanner Mordecai and Braelon Allen rushed for two touchdowns apiece, and Wisconsin pulled away for a 38-17 win over host Purdue in a Big Ten Conference opener for both teams Friday night in West Lafayette, Ind.

Mordecai completed 17 of 27 passes for 174 yards and one interception in addition to gaining 58 yards on the ground for Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0). Allen finished with 16 carries for 116 yards.

Hudson Card completed 21 of 38 passes for 202 yards but threw two interceptions for Purdue (1-3, 0-1). Card and Tyrone Tracy Jr. scored one rushing touchdown apiece for the Boilermakers.

Wisconsin jumped to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.

The Badgers struck first on a 14-yard quarterback keeper by Mordecai early in the first quarter.

Mordecai scored again, this time on a dive to the front left pylon, to make it 14-0 with 3:26 to go in the first quarter. It was the senior’s second rushing touchdown of the game and the eighth of his career.

Purdue pulled within 14-3 in the final minute of the first quarter on a 34-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Julio Macias.

Wisconsin carried a 21-3 lead into the half thanks to a 14-yard rushing touchdown by Allen.

On the first possession of the second half, Nathanial Vakos connected on a 38-yard field goal to increase the Badgers’ lead to 24-3.

The Boilermakers cut the deficit to 24-10 on Tracy’s 19-yard rushing touchdown with 8:42 left in the third quarter. Tracy cut toward the right sideline and evaded a defender for the score.

Vakos made another field goal, this time from 22 yards, to make it 27-10 with 3:54 to go in the third quarter.

Card helped Purdue pull within 27-17 on a 6-yard rushing touchdown as time expired in the third quarter.

Vakos drilled a 48-yard field goal to make it 30-17 with 12:52 to go.

Wisconsin capped the scoring on Allen’s 4-yard rushing touchdown with 3:35 remaining. Mordecai caught a pass on a trick play for a two-point conversion.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) throws a pass against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin wary of upset-minded Georgia Southern

Wisconsin will try to bounce back from an upset loss that knocked it out of the rankings when it hosts Georgia Southern on Saturday in Madison, Wis.

The Badgers (1-1) suffered their first loss of the Luke Fickell era, dropping a 31-22 decision at Washington State last Saturday. Wisconsin, which went into Pullman, Wash., ranked 19th, lost three fumbles and its trademark running game managed just 90 yards on 29 attempts.

“It was a tough one to swallow, going on the road and not performing the way we would’ve liked to perform,” said Fickell, who took over at Wisconsin after six seasons at Cincinnati, where he went 57-18.

“We got outplayed, to be honest with you. That’s just being real.”

Georgia Southern (2-0) has scored 83 points in its two victories, including a 49-35 win over UAB last Saturday.

“The reality is you’ve got a 2-0 Georgia Southern team that knocked off Nebraska at home last season,” Fickell said.

Wisconsin rallied from a 24-9 halftime deficit against Washington State to within 24-22 late in the third quarter, but was stopped on the two-point conversion. The Cougars recovered a Chez Mellusi fumble midway through the fourth quarter and turned it into a clinching 57-yard scoring drive.

SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai completed 25 of 40 passes for 278 yards with one touchdown against the Cougars, but he also lost two fumbles on strip-sacks, including one recovered for a touchdown.

Braelon Allen, who rushed for 2,510 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first two seasons, carried just seven times for 20 yards.

“They did a good job of taking away the run and stopping the run,” Fickell said.

The Eagles, picked in the preseason poll to finish fifth in the Sun Belt Conference East Division, are averaging 476.5 yards over their first two games.

Tulsa transfer Davis Brin has completed 65 of 83 passes this season for 562 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He completed 38 of 47 throws for 318 yards and two TDs against UAB.

“This was one of those momentum games that was going back and forth,” Georgia Southern coach Clay Helton told the Statesboro Herald. “With their weapons and Trent Dilfer as their head coach we knew it was going to be a high scoring game.”

Wisconsin has never faced Georgia Southern. Last season, the Eagles stunned Nebraska 45-42, another Big Ten opponent, with Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost fired the next day.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars fans rush there field after a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Washington State won 31-22. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Ward guides Washington State to upset over No. 19 Wisconsin

Cameron Ward threw two touchdown passes and directed a late scoring drive as Washington State held off No. 19 Wisconsin 31-22 in a non-conference game on Saturday night in Pullman, Wash., upsetting a ranked Badgers team for the second straight season.

Wisconsin (1-1), which trailed 24-9 at the half, cut the deficit to 24-22 and took over on the Cougars’ 49-yard line with 9:45 remaining. Badgers running back Chez Mellusi fumbled on the second play, with Jackson Lataimu recovering for the Cougars (2-0).

Ward then directed a 10-play, 57-yard march, capped by Nakia Watson’s 1-yard plunge to put the Cougars up 31-22 with 5:30 remaining. Ward keyed the drive with runs of 23 and 14 yards.

The Badgers’ ensuing drive ended on Tanner Mordecai’s deep incompletion on fourth-and-7 from their own 48.

Watson, who had two touchdowns in last season’s 17-14 upset of Wisconsin, where he played his first two seasons, secured the victory with a 6-yard gain on third-and-7 on the Cougars’ final drive.

Ward completed 20 of 32 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and added a team-high 43 rushing yards on 17 attempts. Lincoln Victor had seven catches for 55 yards and one score.

The Badgers were held to just 90 yards rushing on 29 attempts. Mellusi had 49 yards on 12 carries, but Braelon Allen managed just 20 yards on seven carries. Mordecai completed 25 of 40 passes for 278 yards and one score. Wisconsin, which opened with a 38-17 win over Buffalo, also lost three fumbles.

After a lackluster first half, Wisconsin put together two third-quarter scoring drives to pull within 24-22.

Mellusi scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 35-yard drive to make it 24-16. The Badgers scored again on their next possession when Mordecai hit Skyler Bell with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds left in the quarter. But Mellusi was stopped on the two-point conversion run.

Washington State took advantage of Wisconsin’s mistakes to build the 24-6 halftime lead.

Ward put the Cougars up 7-0 on their second possession, capping an eight-play, 62-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown toss to Kyle Williams.

Nathanial Vakos brought Wisconsin within 7-3 with a 49-yard field goal.

Ward’s second scoring pass, a 1-yarder to Victor, capped an 87-yard march that put the Cougars up 14-3.

Vakos and Dean Janikowski traded field goals, putting Washington State up 17-6 with 7:14 left in the first half.

The Cougars pushed the lead to 24-6 when Ron Stone Jr. sacked Mordecai and Brennan Jackson recovered the fumble and took it 2 yards for the touchdown.

Vakos hit a 29-yard field goal with 21 seconds left in the half.

–Field Level Media

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

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