Oklahoma State and Wisconsin will meet on the gridiron for the first time on Dec. 27 in Phoenix. In preparation for the upcoming bowl matchup, I dug into the Badgers’ 2022 season.
Here are five thoughts on Wisconsin ahead of the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
1. Luke Fickell Gets Just a Taste of the Big 12
Luke Fickell was set to join the Big 12 next year as the head of Cincinnati’s program, but he’ll have to settle for just a quick sampling of the league in Oklahoma State.
Fickell was announced as Wisconin’s replacement for Paul Chryst after the longtime head coach was let go early in 2022. Interim head coach Jim Leonhard will remain on staff for the bowl game. While Fickell has stated that his top priority is beating Oklahoma State, he will be mostly hands-off in his management of the team through bowl prep.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity for our players,” said Fickell in his announcement press conference. “Oklahoma State is a great program, and I have tremendous respect for Coach Gundy and his staff. Bowl games are great rewards for players and staff, and I can’t wait to start our preparation.”
2. Both Teams Will be Without Their Starting QBs
Like Spencer Sanders for OSU, Wisconsin starting quarterback Graham Mertz elected to enter the transfer portal leaving both teams with very few reps at quarterback entering the bowl game.
Also of note, Mertz makes a lot of sense for Oklahoma State as a replacement for Sanders.
Fickell said on Tuesday that the QB decision for the bowl game has yet to be made and that he will defer to the holdover staff members, namely Leonhard. But the Badgers have fewer options than the Cowboys.
Chase Wolf is a senior who’s been with the program for five years but has totalled only 37 pass attempts during that time. The only other Badger to throw a pass this season is true freshman Myles Burkett. The pair have combined for six completions in 2022. Between Garret Rangel and Gunnar Gundy, OSU owns all three career QB starts entering the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
3. UW Departures Leave Opening for OSU’s Run Game
Wisconsin ranks third in run defense in its conference this year while OSU ranks ninth (out of 10) in rushing offense in its league. But some non-portal departures could give the Cowboys’ hapless run game a break.
The Badgers will be without All-American linebacker Nick Herbig and former All-Big Ten nose tackle Keeanu Benton who have both elected to hold out to prepare for the NFL Draft. Those are two playmakers that OSU linemen won’t miss trying to block.
One of the few bright spots for OSU’s offense over the end of the season was Ollie Gordon’s outburst in the season finale. The freshman is a big play waiting to happen, and he’ll get a chance to strengthen his case for RB1. Can he continue that momentum against a Wisconsin defense sans a couple of big weapons? That will be a big factor in this game.
4. Wisconsin, a Middle-of-the-Pack Big Ten Team
Digging into the numbers on Wisconsin reveals a team that’s been the model of mediocrity this season. Here’s a rundown of where they rank among the Big Ten (14 teams) in most of the major categories.
Scoring Offense – 7th
Rushing Offense – 6th
Passing Offense – 11th
Total Offense – 8th
Scoring Defense – 7th
Rushing Defense – 3rd
Passing Defense – 7th
Total Defense – 6th
TO Margin – 7th
Third-Down Offense – 4th
Third-Down Defense – 8th
Red-Zone Offense – 8th
Red-Zone Defense – 4th
What can you say? The Badgers are 6-6 for a reason.
5. Wisconsin Has Its Own Bowl Streak
The Cowboys are proud of their current program-record bowl streak, and rightly so, but the Badgers have them beat.
Wisconsin owns the third-highest active bowl streak in the country readying for its 21st consecutive bowl game. That’s behind only Georgia (26) and Oklahoma (24). Wisconsin has won seven of its last eight bowl games which ties the most of any FBS team during that span.
Longest Active Bowl Streaks
17 Oklahoma State
13 Mississippi State
Oklahoma State, on the other hand, has been to 17-straight bowl games, good for sixth-highest nationally. The Cowboys have won five of their last six bowl games. OSU does own the edge for bowl win percentage. Among the 40 FBS teams with at least 30 bowl appearances, the Cowboys have the highest win percentage at .656.