But the tweaks the Badgers’ schedule could help them regain the top spot in the Big Ten West Division after two seasons without a division title.
UW travels to Ohio State on Sept. 24, the first Big Ten game of the season for the Badgers. That game originally was slated for Nov. 12. The Badgers haven’t defeated Ohio State since 2010 and haven’t won in Columbus since 2004. It will be a tall task for UW next season as the Buckeyes will have back under center starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist C.J. Stroud along with receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Marvin Harrison Jr. among their offensive weapons.
Purdue will come to Madison as opposed to UW going to West Lafayette, Indiana, for a second consecutive year, and that game now is slated for Oct. 22. Nebraska will host the Badgers on Nov. 19, with UW aiming for an eighth consecutive win over the Cornhuskers. The teams’ 2021 matchup came down to the final play in a back-and-forth, 35-28 win for UW at Camp Randall Stadium.
Before the revised schedule was announced, UW was set for a November stretch in which it would’ve played at home against Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Iowa and home against Minnesota to wrap up the regular season. Those final three games will be some of the toughest on the schedule, so having them in consecutive weeks would’ve added another layer of difficulty.
Dates could change if teams end up playing on a Friday, but for now, Illinois State will visit Madison for the first time in the season opener Sept. 3. Washington State comes to Madison on Sept. 10 to begin a home-and-home series, one that was scheduled before the Big Ten-ACC-Pac-12 Alliance that will see UW playing more of those leagues’ teams in non-conference play down the road. The Badgers are 2-0 against the Cougars, who last played at Camp Randall in 2007.
New Mexico State’s Sept. 17 matchup at Camp Randall will be the first meeting of the programs since 1962.
UW will host former coach Bret Bielema and Illinois on Oct. 1 instead of in the season opener as previously scheduled. Tailback Braelon Allen burst onto the scene last season against the Illini in Champaign, his first extended action in the backfield rotation. Allen had 131 yards rushing and a touchdown in the Badgers’ 24-0 win.
UW will get another chance to conquer its demons at Ryan Field in a matchup against Northwestern on Oct. 8 in Evanston, Illinois. The Badgers have won just one of seven games at Northwestern since 2000.
After being dismissed from the program last season, former UW running back Jalen Berger will face his old team when the Badgers travel to Michigan State on Oct. 15. The Spartans — led by third-year coach and former UW defensive back Mel Tucker — were the surprise of the Big Ten this past season, winning 10 games in the regular season before defeating Pittsburgh in the Peach Bowl. MSU tailback Kenneth Walker III won the Doak Walker Award as the country’s top running back in 2021.
UW will face Maryland on Nov. 5 — previously scheduled for Oct. 15 — at Camp Randall, marking the first time the teams have played since 2017. Maryland hasn’t defeated the Badgers since joining the Big Ten, going 0-3 against UW since 2014.
The best win for the Badgers in 2021 was their 27-7 upset of then-No. 9 Iowa at Camp Randall, but it’ll be a different challenge to beat the Hawkeyes on Nov. 12 at Kinnick Stadium. UW had won four games in a row at Kinnick before falling 28-7 in 2020.
UW’s meeting with Minnesota was kept on Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the Badgers will be looking to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe after Minnesota took it last season. Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck is 2-3 against the Badgers since he took over the Gophers program.
What you need to know about Wisconsin football's 2022 recruiting class
Number of players: 1
Who are they: Myles Burkett (Franklin, Wis.)
Quick analysis: Burkett is the first in-state quarterback for the Badgers to earn a scholarship out of high school since 2003. He’s shown a variety of skills throughout his prep career — good touch on deep passes, arm strength to drive the ball to the outside and enough mobility to extend plays while looking downfield. He led his Franklin squad to WIAA Division 1 state title, finishing his high school career with a win at Camp Randall.
Paul Chryst’s thoughts on Burkett: “He loves football. That’s important for a quarterback. He's got a little football junkie in him that way. Loves competing. And he was fun, he was one of those guys that no matter who you're talking to, he's a connector. He connects other guys in the group, and I think he's just got a lot of qualities that you know are important and things that we value.”
Number of players: 0 declared, 1 possible
Who are they: Cade Yacamelli (Harrison City, Penn.)
Quick analysis: This is the hole in the Badgers’ recruiting class thus far and it could be addressed between the early signing period and the February National Signing Day, or the Badgers could be looking to the transfer portal. Chryst said if it was the NFL draft, he wouldn’t consider running back to be a need in part because Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo will be back next season assuming they recover well from their injuries.
Cade Yacamelli, a three-star athlete prospect, played running back in high school and could be the answer here, but it would behoove the Badgers to find another to increase the depth at the position that has five scholarship players heading into next season. Yacamelli said on “The Camp” podcast that UW offensive line coach Joe Rudolph said the Badgers coaches are thinking he’ll start his career as a running back. His acceleration helps him break big plays.
Paul Chryst’s thoughts on Yacamelli: “Cade’s fascinating to us that way … I think that running back certainly is one (position) that he could be (effective in). Also think he could be effective, in some form or fashion in a receiving type of role. Feel like he could do some things on defense. … I don’t know. Running back, I think he's got a chance to be a good one there. But that's where it's exciting when he gets on campus.”
Number of players: 3 declared, 1 possible
Who are they: Cade Yacamelli (Harrison City, Penn.), Tommy McIntosh (DeWitt, Michigan), Vinny Anthony (Louisville, Kentucky), Cole Toennies (Middleton, Wis.)
Quick analysis: UW landed a group of highly productive receivers who could change the makeup of the position group. McIntosh is 6-foot-5 and runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. He can and will challenge defenses vertically and will create size mismatches for the Badgers to exploit on the outside. Anthony showed tremendous hands and ball skills as a prep star, and a sharp set of route-running moves to get open. Yacamelli played in the slot in high school, but primarily played running back. His burst and change of direction should find a way on the field on offense.
Alvis Whitted’s thoughts on McIntosh and Anthony: “Competitive, number one. Athletic, both of them. Tommy’s size, can be a matchup problem, 6-5, 210, can run, athletic, great catch radius. Comes from a great program that won a state championship since he's been there. … Vinny is just a playmaker. He's a guy that can make plays on the ball. When he's in his area, he'll make a play on the ball. And obviously good speed, change direction, has run after the catch ability and a competitive guy.”
Number of players: 1
Who are they: J.T. Seagreaves (Monroe, Wis.)
Quick analysis: Seagreaves impressed Badgers coaches at camps this summer and shot up their tight end list to the point he was the only one they chose to take in the class. The athleticism the 6-foot-6 prospect possesses is undeniable, and he uses it on the football field, basketball court and on the track as a sprinter. The first-team AP all-state pick adds more depth and competition to a group that has recruited well in recent cycles, but may take some time to learn the position after playing running back, H-back and defensive line in high school.
Mickey Turner’s thoughts on Seagreaves: "I don't think he'll struggle physically to catch up. He's got the natural speed and explosiveness. He'll keep filling out and get a little stronger, but he's not too far off there. And then mentally, he's extremely smart. So it's kind of how fast can you pick up that playbook. ... He's not some guy where he's super raw and it's gonna take a couple years. I think (he'll contribute) as quick as he progresses."
Number of players: 4
Who are they: Barrett Nelson (Stoughton, Wis.), Joe Brunner (Whitefish Bay, Wis.), Drew Evans (Fort Atkinson, Wis.), John Clifford (Watertown, Wis.)
Quick analysis: UW has been stacking strong classes along the offensive line, and this year’s group, while smaller in number, has a lot of upside. Nelson, the brother of starting UW guard Jack Nelson, has a huge frame at 6-foot-6 and has the same punishing playstyle as his brother. Brunner, the top-ranked recruit in the state, combines an incredibly quick step with a 6-6, 300-pound body and blows defenders off the ball. Evans and Clifford, both walk-ons, are the kind of prospects UW has done well with in that they play with tenacity, but need a bit of physical development to be ready for the Big Ten field.
Joe Rudolph’s thoughts on Brunner: "He has fun, man. I mean, that dude loves playing the game like he gets after people's ass and he don't make any apologies about being a physical dude on the football field. And that's fun. And I think guys love to play with guys like that. And you need that personality. He's athletic, he's strong naturally, carries a great size, proportional size, you don't realize how big he is until you're just kind of right up on him."
Number of players: 2
Who are they: Curtis Neal (Cornelius, N.C.), Tristan Monday (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Quick analysis: Neal looks like he could be a ready-made replacement for nose tackle Keeanu Benton, whenever Benton chooses to move on to the NFL. He needs to get a little bit quicker off the ball, but his hand-fighting and aggression on the defensive line are assets Ross Kolodziej can utilize quickly. Monday is an athletic defensive end prospect that will eventually help the group as a pass rusher. He is able to get off blocks because his feet never stop churning through contact. He’ll need to add weight to play defensive end in UW’s scheme.
Ross Kolodziej’s thoughts on Neal and Monday: “Curtis, just explosive get-off, violent at the point of attack. When you watch his quote unquote highlight tape, it’s 10, 12 minutes of what looks like the same play over and over and over again. … His consistency with that, the effort, the passion for playing the game, that's a big piece. … Tristan, if you really watch the tape, he is really good with his hands. He's got very tight strike, really understands inside hand placement and position … there’s some things there that you can drill and try to teach … but guys that can have that almost innate sense of and can feel a blocker’s weight and momentum against them. There’s some really good qualities you’re excited about.”
Number of players: 4
Who are they: Aidan Vaughan (Wixom, Michigan), Zach Gloudeman (Spring Green, Wis.), Luna Larson (Baraboo, Wis.), Austin Harnetiaux (Seattle, Wash.).
Quick analysis: Vaughn is the only scholarship player in this group and he is a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker. He’s put on tape the physicality that defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard values with his linebackers and he is fast to the ball. Gloudeman, Larson and Harnetiaux are walk-ons, but all turned down Division I scholarships to attend UW after highly productive prep careers. Larson was one of the best players in Wisconsin last season, attacking the line of scrimmage in the way UW’s inside linebackers do.
Jim Leonhard’s thoughts on Vaughn: “Very instinctual. Really kind of new to the linebacker position, in all reality, but still just very instinctual, always around the football. … It's impressive the instincts he has in the box with a lot of things moving around him despite the fact that he wasn't a linebacker his whole life.”
Number of players: 5
Who are they: CB A’Khoury Lyde (Wayne, N.J.), CB Avyonne Jones (Southlake, Texas), S Austin Brown (Johnston City, Ill.), S Deven Magli (DeForest, Wis.), S Jackson Trudgeon (Madison)
Quick analysis: Both Lyde and Jones show good range and impressive length as cornerbacks, a position at which UW will need some new faces to step up next year. Lyde missed most of the season with a knee injury, but Jones has shown good instincts on jumping routes. UW added some variety to its safety group with the prospects of the 2022 class. Brown, who accepted a scholarship offer, is a physical, downhill player that can be a force in the run game while making plays on balls in the air. Magli and Trudgeon are walk-ons, but Magli decommitted from a scholarship at North Dakota to play at UW. They both show the playmaking ability on balls in that air that Leonhard values.
Hank Poteat’s thoughts on Lyde and Jones: “Avyonne Jones, he’s very explosive. When I watch him attack the ball in the air, he does a really good job at that. … Does a lot for his team, comes from a really good program, and the way they prepare them for this level, I thought they did a good job. When you talk ball with him, he really understands the game and he did a lot for them as far as getting the front set and doing a lot of communication in the back end. … A’Khoury Lyde, liked him because he played multiple things, played on the offensive side of the ball. That carried over on defense, that offensive skill set, to be able to make a play, ball skills and really change the game. Those are the type of athletes you want playing at the cornerback position, having ball skills. … He has that mentality that I always talk about, being a dog and being aggressive, he does that.
Number of players: 1
Who are they: K Gavin Lahm (Kaukauna, Wis.)
Quick analysis: Lahm is a big-legged kicker who tallied 29 of 32 touchbacks on kickoffs as a senior and repeatedly kicked the ball out of the end zone on those tries. That bodes well for him in the college game where kickoffs are from the 35-yard line instead of the 40. Lahm offers depth as a walk-on and could compete for the kickoff specialist position as a freshman.
Chris Haering’s thoughts on Lahm: “The thing that stood out to us was the way he competed at our summer camp. That was a great chance to see him go against some of the best in the country and compete and do really well under some pressure. … Right now we’re focused on him being a kicker … but certainly like his versatility.”