Wisco Wednesday: Hope is a Dangerous Thing

A Resilient Road Comeback. An OG Braelon Performance. Madison’s Super Bowl Saturday. 

It feels better to be a Badger fan right now than it has in a long long time. Going into the 2021 season felt kinda like this, but Wisco was 1-3 by week 4. 2019 felt like this, but then Bucky dropped the Illinois game (and got murdered by OSU twice). 

When was the last time Wisconsin had real hope? 2017?

I’m not saying Wisconsin is doing anything special this year, like winning the B1G or beating OSU, but after the Illinois game, there is now hope. Hope can propel a team to play above and beyond their ceiling. Hope can also lead to the lowest of lows if it’s proven to be false. 

Fickell has given me hope; let’s see what he does now. 

Looking Back: 4th Quarter Heroics, Njongmeta’s Statement Game, Opportunity in the West

Wisconsin 25
Illinois 21

Locke 1-0

In his 1st career start, Braedyn Locke brought home a win. It’s only the 4th college football game he’s even been on the field for. 

I hate to knock one guy down to raise another up… but I have 1 Mordecai vs. Locke stat line to share. 

  • Mordecai in 6 starts: 3 TDs – 3 INTs
  • Locke in 1 start: 2 TDs – 0 INTs

What’s one of the most important things you expect from a young starter? Continuous improvement. Locke’s final 3 drives of the game: Field Goal, Touchdown, Touchdown. Over the course of 1 game, he figured something out. Let’s hope he builds on that for next week. 

Braelon Carried the Load

So Locke was good, but Braelon was great.

Braelon Allen delivered a vintage Wisconsin RB performance last Saturday. 29 carries for 145 yards and 1 TD. The backup running back, Acker, had 2 carries. This game was quite literally on Braelon’s shoulders. 

The best example of the coaches finally trusting Braelon:

It’s Wisco’s final drive. The score is 18-21 – Illini are up. The Badgers are at mid-field with 1:28 left on the game clock. It’s 3rd and 10, and Wisconsin did the most Wisconsin thing ever. They ran Braelon Allen. And he picked up 11 yards. The drive continues, the Badgers score, and the Badgers win. I can’t say I expected the Dairy Raid to run the ball on 3 & 10, but they did, and of course, it worked. It’s Wisconsin.

With his inspired performance at Illinois Saturday, Braelon put himself back in the rushing leader conversation in the B1G. He is currently 2nd in the B1G in rushing behind Rutgers RB Kyle Monangai.

Leonhard and Bielema Were on the Losing Side of a Wisconsin Game

Bret Bielema and Jim Leonhard are both ex-Wisco head coaches now working for the Illini (Leonhard was interim, but still). Both just took an L to Luke Fickell and the staff he’s assembled. There’s not much else to say here, but it’s nice to see that the new style and scheme can beat what is essentially old Wisco South now. 

Njongmeta Returns to the Fold

LB Meama Njongmeta has been absent from the field for the last few games for unknown or undisclosed reasons. 

Despite being one of the most hyped players on defense entering the year, a true run-stuffing ILB, he only played 2 snaps vs. Iowa and 1 snap vs. Purdue. He did get 22 snaps vs. Rutgers, but he was still clearly LB #3 behind Chaney and Turner. 

He has insisted it’s not disciplinary or related to anything outside of football why he’s not on the field more. The Linebacker room is just that deep.

Well for the game against Illinois, he was back on top. He had a team high 7 tackles plus 5 assists and 1 sack. Not bad for a guy that’s been riding the pine for 2 of the last 3 weeks. 

The Door is Cracked Open in the West

Quote by an Idiot, “Yeahhhh, Iowa won the West.” 

  • The idiot in question: ME, last week, in Wisco Wednesday.

My defense, from the same article: “Obviously, this is not set in stone, but it’s damn close.” 

Someway, somehow, Minnesota beat Iowa last week. It makes no sense, so I guess it was destined to happen in the B1G West. 

That was PJ Fleck’s 1st win vs. Iowa… EVER.
That was Minnesota’s 1st win At Iowa, since 1999

Not only is Wisconsin now back on top in the West, but if Iowa can lose to the Fighting Flecks, they can lose to anyone. Assuming Wisco drops the OSU game, they would just need Iowa to drop 1 of their final 4 games. That looks way more possible than it did a week ago. I’d even say it’s likely.

And don’t forget about Nebraska, they may have gotten decent when no one was looking. 

P.S. For those upset with the end of the Iowa – Minnesota game. 

The part where the punt return for a TD was called back with under 2 minutes left. They got the call right. The only mistake was not blowing the play dead after the illegal fair catch signal by the return man. Because it was an illegal fair catch signal (not a normal one) the returner forfeits his right to protection, so they could hit him all they wanted. 

Looking Forward: We Know How This Goes… But, What If This Saturday Is Special?

  • Odds listed were taken from FanDuel at the time of writing.

Game Preview: Ohio State at Wisconsin


Ohio State -14.5




Camp Randall – Madison, Wisconsin

Kickoff Time:

6:30 PM CT

TV Network:


What the Heck is a Buckeye

It’s a Nut 

I’m not kidding. Now you know. It’s a… (if you know how to finish that sentence, we are friends).

Ridiculous Defense

If you have watched any Ohio State football for the last 10 years, you think offense. Possibly the only modern offense in the B1G. Not this year. 

This year, if you have watched any Ohio State football, you’ve seen suffocating defense. Think about it. They held Penn State to 12 points and Notre Dame to 14. Those are good teams, with good offenses. 

They are:
3rd in points allowed – 10 per game
4th in yards allowed – 260 per game
6th in passing allowed – 160 per game
17th in rushing allowed – 100 per game

Maybe the Badgers can run on them? Good luck Longo, you might need it to break 10 this week. 

Marvin Harrison Jr.

If Caleb Williams wasn’t draft eligible this year, Marvin Harrison Jr. would be the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Instead of a QB going #1, it would be a WR. He’s that good. 

Ohio State has become a WR factory in the last few years. If you play WR and want to be a 1st round pick, go to OSU. Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are expected to go in the 1st round this year. 

Last year it was Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the 1st.

Before that, it was Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

And don’t forget about Jameson Williams, who had to transfer from OSU to Alabama to get playing time – and then get drafted in the 1st round

Marvin Harrison Jr. is better than all of them. He practically won the Penn State game last week by himself. He was lined up against expected 1st round CB (and possible top 10 pick) Kalen King all day. OSU’s best guy vs. PSU’s best guy. Harrison Jr. caught 11 balls for 162 yards and 1 TD. His 11 catches were half of Kyle McCord’s 22 completions. 

It might be reckless, but maybe triple cover this guy on Saturday. 

1st Round Picks

The biggest separator between programs like Ohio State and Wisconsin is talent. If you recruit bigger, faster, stronger high school kids, you have a better team. How “talented” a kid is coming out of high school is reflected in a recruiting score that is mostly broken into 3 tiers for FBS programs. 5 stars, 4 stars, and 3 stars. (2 stars and below mostly go to FCS and D-II schools). There are only about 40 five star recruits per year; they represent recruiting services trying to guess the future 1st round picks of the NFL draft. 

There are many exceptions, but overall: More stars = more drafted players. 

Wisconsin has had Five 5*s ever
Backup LT Nolan Rucci is the only 5* on the team right now. 

Ohio State has Ten 5*s today.
10-1 isn’t a bad example of how outgunned Wisconsin is this Saturday.

The best 2024 draft prospect Wisconsin has right now is Braelon Allen, an expected 2nd-3rd round pick.
Ohio State has 7 players currently expected to be drafted above Braelon in 2024, with 4 projected to be 1st rounders (as of today). 

Now you understand what Wisco is up against. Fickell better work some magic, because coaching and home field might be the only edges Wisconsin has this weekend. 

How they’ve done so far:

Ohio State is a perfect 7-0 right now. They should be the #1 ranked team in the country based on this resume. They’ve beaten everyone not named Penn State and Notre Dame by 20+.

Week 1: Won 23-3 at Indiana
Week 2: Won 35-7 at home vs. Youngstown State (FCS)
Week 3: Won 63-10 at home vs. Western Kentucky
Week 4: Won 17-14 at Notre Dame
Week 5: Bye Week
Week 6: Won 17-37 at home vs. Maryland
Week 7: Won 41-7 at Purdue
Week 8: Won 20-12 at home vs. Penn State

It would be nice to see a loss on this resume in the near future. 

What to Watch for the Badgers

Camp Randall, Night Game – Best Words Ever

Camp Randall at night. This could get wild. Not only is it a marquee opponent, but it’s Halloween Weekend in Mad Town. This will be the wildest environment Madison has seen in a long long time.

Don’t believe me?

The last home night game in Madison – 2021 vs. Army
Before that? 2019 vs. USF

Okay, but what about a conference game? – 2018 vs. Nebraska (That’s 0-4 Nebraska).

Come on, there has to have been a good night game in Madison at some point, right?

Yeah, in 2016, vs. you guessed it: Ohio State. That game was the last time Wisconsin was a double-digit underdog at home. They lost 23-30 in OT. 

7 years later we get to do it again. Let’s see if Fick can flip the ending this time around. 

Big home night games have been a rarity in Wisconsin, savor them when they finally come around. And like OSU in 2016, don’t be surprised if Bucky plays up to their competition in one of college football’s rarest, but most special environments – the Camp Randall night game. 

Run Defense? Part 50

I’m getting sick of writing this, but Wisconsin’s run D needs to wake up. They gave up 223 on the ground to Illinois. They are 62nd in rushing yards allowed in FBS. That is bad. 

Surprisingly, OSU has not run the ball well. They are 99th in rushing offense in the country this year. 

This is a classic matchup of stoppable force meets movable object. Wisco has to win this battle to have a shot in this game. They will have their hands full with Harrison Jr. and OSU’s defense; they can’t get ran on too. 

Locke Can Do This

I am officially aboard the Locke train. 1-0, that sounds a lot like undefeated to me. Plus he’s already got a comeback win under his belt. All that, and he hasn’t even started a home game yet. 

Locke won the backup job so fast last year, it was comical. He might’ve even been the better option over Mordecai. We can make that determination after we’ve seen him finish out the season. Did Locke start perfect vs. Illinois? No, but he finished pretty darn close to perfect. He made big time throws in the 4th quarter look easy. Put him in front of a home crowd, and maybe we get that version of Locke for 4 full quarters. That would certainly help in Bucky’s bid for a historic upset. 

Imagine a Sunday morning after, where the headlines say Wisconsin had the better QB the night before. That’s the game I want to see. 

My Picks*

I am conflicted. My head and heart want to make different picks. And just like in week 1, there’s enough newness at QB for the Badgers that I don’t know what to expect. Does Wisconsin commit to the run? Does Wisconsin stop the run? I don’t know any of these things this week. I would never, ever, bet on this game. But below are my picks- if I had to.


Take Wisconsin +14.5

Maybe I’m a homer. Maybe I think Camp Randall shows up and affects the game. Call it a gut feeling. Wisco doesn’t embarrass themselves. 


Under 43.5

Wisconsin does stop the run, but they might have trouble scoring. Both of these things lead to a low total. 

How I did last week:

Picking the Winner: Won – Wisconsin won
Picking the Spread: Won – Wisconsin covered
Picking the O/U: Won – The Over hit

A perfect game last week. Woot Woot.

Season-Long Record Picking Wisconsin Games:

Picking the Winner: 6-1
Picking the Spread: 5-2
Picking the O/U: 4-3

*These picks are to express my opinion on games from a point spread perspective. I am not advocating for you, the reader, to gamble on any of these games. Please bet responsibly.

For Records Purposes Score Prediction:

Ohio State 27
Wisconsin 14

For the purpose of my season long picks, above is my prediction. As a Wisconsin fan, it is difficult not to have a defeatist attitude going against OSU. There has been a lot of pain in recent years. My heart is not in this prediction though; below is how I feel, as a fan, going into the game. 

#BuckyByAMillion Score Prediction:

Ohio State 21
Wisconsin 22

This just feels right. Fickell was the hire of the offseason, and he proves why vs. his alma mater. 

  • Wisconsin is at home
  • It’s a night game in Mad Town (on Halloween Weekend)
  • Ohio State just played a tough, emotional game vs. Penn State
  • Ohio State is overlooking Wisconsin, they are too concerned with the Michigan cheating story
  • Ohio State has multiple injured players that may or may not play
  • Locke might actually be the guy we’ve been waiting for
  • Vintage Braelon is back
  • Wisconsin just proved they can pull off a comeback if needed

This game looks a lot like a heartbreaking B1G Championship game at first – a la 2017 or 2019. Wisconsin is somehow leading 14-7 at half. Ohio State catches flack from the announcers for having yet another slow start. Then, OSU turns it on a little in the 3rd quarter. Bucky falls behind 14-21, and now we’re entering the 4th quarter. 

This is where a Luke Fickell team differentiates themselves from a Coach Dad team. 

In the 4th quarter, Wisco’s defense gets 3 and out and forces a turnover at some point. Wisconsin gets the ball back with about 4:30 left. They drive down the field (maybe with some help from an OSU penalty or two). Locke throws a TD to Will Pauling with under 30 seconds left. Fickell says we’re going for 2. Braelon races to the outside and trucks a guy to make the pylon. Wisco is up 22-21, they kick off, and McCord is sacked after 2 or 3 plays before a hail mary attempt ever gets off. 


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This article was written by Cole Tollison and edited by Hayden Breene

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