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Wisconsin went shopping in college football surplus and came back with an arsenal, fit to spit, pointy feet, ready for rodeos and ready to kick in the Big Ten doors.
In suits and boots, Badgers have had enough. They let the good go so they can grow up.
In seven seasons and five games, former Wisconsin coach Paul Crist compiled a 67–26 record, winning 10 games or more in four of his first five seasons in Madison.
In his best year as head coach, he led the Badgers to a 13–0 regular season, falling just short of winning the Big Ten title in a 27–21 loss to Ohio State. In his final full season as head coach in 2021, he won nine games.
But that was not enough. The man who played quarterback at Wisconsin—and went on to become a tight end coach and offensive coordinator there—helped build and maintain a stable of excellence at Camp Randall that spanned nearly three decades. As a reward, he was sacked after a 2–3 start to the 2022 season.
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But Chris’ success at Wisconsin didn’t propel the Badgers past a Big Ten championship, or a bid to the College Football Playoff, and certainly not a national title.
In a world where TCU finished runner-up for the national title and took 51 to Big Ten champion Michigan, Michigan took 45 points to Ohio State in The Shoe, and Ohio State scored 52 points to Wisconsin, the powers that be Gone.
In a world where the CFP expanded from four to 12 teams and the Big Ten grew to 16 teams – all within a year – Badgers buyers set out to find the man who could get their football team into the thin air of winning a conference title. train, play in the GVB and compete for national championships.
Naturally, they settled on a former Buckeye to lead them.
The reason Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell as head ball coach is precisely because he has done two things the Badgers haven’t: make the College Football Playoff and win a national title.
He did both of those things as an assistant at Ohio State, sure, but more impressively he took Cincinnati to a CFP roster before Wisconsin could even sniff out an invitation. So naturally a program with the third most wins in sports without a national title will be looking for someone who can electrify CFP with a blasphemous Group 5 program.
And he has brought people whom many believe can kill the devil in Georgia.
Fickell bets on two coordinators, Mike Tressel and Phil Longo, who know that if you’re going to play with the big boys in the South, let alone those Texas playboys, you better have a band in there.
Your offense has to be as explosive as Charlie Daniels next to Bob Wiles. Your defense is better at stopping an attack from being dead and thunderous, like Sarah Watkins on “Long Hot Summer Day.”
Tressel’s defense is a carryover from Fickell’s 2021 and 2022 Cincy squads. He began coaching at South Dakota, became a graduate assistant on Ohio State’s national title team in 2002, and left for Michigan State in 2004 with Mark Dantonio.
My understanding is that Tressel’s plan is going to look more like 3-4 for anything larger than 11 employees. Put another way, it would be the same defense that led to All-American, All-Pro and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner and All-American 2021 Thorpe Award winner Kobe Bryant.
And that defense – which I’m sure will run on grain alcohol – will be faster than John Lee Pettimore flying down “Copperhead Road” in a big black Dodge and playing against Longo’s offense in practice.
When Mack Brown said he was coming back to coach at North Carolina, he called Lincoln Riley and Kliff Kingsbury to ask which offensive coordinator to get.
“I want to stay in Oklahoma. That’s the offense I want to run,” he told Sports Illustrated in 2019. Both Riley and Kingsbury told Phil Longo to go.
Longo turned former UNC QB Sam Howell into the top ACC quarterback north of Clemson and made Drake Mays a Heisman frontrunner this season.
In fact, Maye is the sixth QB since 2010 to throw for 4,000 yards and 35 TDs, as well as rush for 650 yards with seven TDs in a season. other people? Kyler Murray, Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and RG3. That’s four Heisman winners and Deshaun Watson.
Now Longo and former UNC O-line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. in Madison. and running games? Longo and Bicknell turned former UNC RBs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams into the best backfield in the game at OU since Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
Think what Longo, Bicknell and Fickell can do with the passing game in the backfield to complement junior Braylon Allen, who has enjoyed back-to-back 1,200-yard, 11-TD seasons.
After joining the team last season when bowl practices began prior to the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Fickell held Allen and Chase Melucci to 38 rushes and 193 yards in a 24–17 victory against Oklahoma State.
Wideout CJ Williams is expected to be one of the Badgers’ top receiving targets. A four-star out of powerhouse Mater Dei, he transferred to Wisconsin after spending his freshman year at USC. Just ask Josh Downes or Daz Newsome what this could mean for Big Ten DBs. Just ask CeeDee or Dede what it could be.
Enter Tanner Mordecai – a man who first signed to play QB for Riley at OU in 2018 – and has back-to-back seasons of at least 3,500 pass yards, 30 TDs and 12 or fewer INTs at Southern Kept for Methodist. Another former Oklahoma QB, Nick Evers took his time behind Mordecai on his way to camp.
If you feel the offense sent by the diabolical love child of Riley’s Oklahoma and Longo’s North Carolina, and defended with more kick-ass than a murder mule, just wait until you Don’t look to Wisconsin chasing shutouts and enforcing the rules.
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