Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (2024)

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (1)

Ben Kenney

July 7, 2024 7:30 am CT

Wisconsin football is just weeks away from kicking off its 2024 football season at home against the Western Michigan Broncos. To be specific: only seven Saturdays remain before that date.

Yes, the season kicks off on Friday, Aug. 30. But a college football-centric timeline is easier measured by Saturdays. For additional context, Wisconsin’s season-opening contest is only 54 days away.

Related: Wisconsin cracks EA Sports College Football 25 video game overall power rankings for 2024 season

The Badgers will enter the season with raised expectations after another full offseason of roster turnover and improvement under second-year head coach Luke Fickell. Expectations aren’t yet at the level of a College Football Playoff appearance, but it’s realistic to expect the Badgers to tangibly improve on both sides of the football after a poor 2023 season.

That improvement may still result in losses to top-ranked teams including Alabama, Oregon, USC, Penn State and Iowa. But the progress will be clear if it exists, regardless of whether the team returns to winning eight or nine games.

Related: Ranking every game on Wisconsin’s 2024 schedule from easiest to toughest

As we inch closer to the season kicking off, here is a preview of Wisconsin’s gauntlet schedule from another lens. A ranking of every game on the slate, ordered by the matchup’s intrigue:

12

Sept. 7 vs. South Dakota

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (2)

Aug 31, 2023; Columbia, Missouri, USA; South Dakota Coyotes running back Mike Mansaray (7) celebrates with offensive lineman Sam Kohls (68) after a touchdown against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:N/A (FCS)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 11

South Dakota may be a better team than Western Michigan, but this Week 2 contest will carry little juice when a showdown with top-ranked Alabama looms the following week. Unless the Badgers are really struggling, this game shouldn’t teach us much.

11

Oct. 5 vs. Purdue

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (3)

Nov 18, 2023; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Purdue Boilermakers head coach Ryan Walters watches his team play against the Northwestern Wildcats in the fourth quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 86 (-6.7)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 10

Wisconsin has not lost to Purdue in more than 20 years — a streak that should not come to a close this season. The matchup is one of the Badgers’ easiest on it schedule and shouldn’t do much to define the season.

10

Aug. 30 vs. Western Michigan

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (4)

Sep 16, 2023; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Western Michigan Broncos quarterback Treyson Bourguet (2) and running back Jalen Buckley (29) in action during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 111 (-13.9)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 12

This game has all the makings of a blowout. Western Michigan was poor in 2023 (4-8) and should be again in 2024. But it is the first game of the season and fans’ first look at Wisconsin’s new offseason additions. For that reason, there will be some pregame hype and build-up.

9

Oct. 19 at Northwestern

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (5)

Sep 3, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Northwestern Wildcats interim coach David Braun shakes hands with Northwestern Wildcats wide receiver Jack Kennedy (1) before the game at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 55 (0.5)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 9

Northwestern should take a significant step back in 2024 after going 8-5 last season. This should be a revenge spot for the Badgers after inexplicably losing to the Wildcats in 2023. The most intriguing part of this contest is where the game is being played and whether more than 100 people will be in attendance to watch.

8

Oct. 12 at Rutgers

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (6)

Sep 3, 2023; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Greg Schiano before the game against the Northwestern Wildcats at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 43 (4.0)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 7

Rutgers is sneaky-good entering 2024. But the Badgers have never lost to the Scarlet Knights (5-0) and have the trip to Piscataway, New Jersey wedged in between games against Purdue and Northwestern. It is the easiest stretch of the team’s schedule and shouldn’t define the season.

Plus it’s a game in New Jersey, which is always challenging to build intrigue for.

Get more (Rutgers) news, analysis and opinions onRutgers Wire

7

Nov. 16 vs. Oregon

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (7)

Nov 18, 2023; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning (center) leads quarterback Bo Nix (10) and Ty Thompson (13) onto the field for the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Mountain America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 3 (29.3)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 1

The home matchup with the Ducks is Wisconsin’s toughest game on the schedule — Oregon projects to be a true national title contender and is in a class with Ohio State at the top of the Big Ten. But it isn’t close to the most intriguing.

This could be a measuring stick-type win for Wisconsin. But a loss wouldn’t damage Fickell’s reputation, and the game doesn’t mean as much to the narrative surrounding the Badgers season as others in the following weeks do.

Get more (Oregon) news, analysis and opinions onDucks Wire

6

Nov. 29 vs. Minnesota

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (8)

Oct 21, 2023; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck watches a replay against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 41 (4.2)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 8

This is where things get interesting. Many may disagree with this viewpoint, but Minnesota enters the 2024 season with a win total of 4.5 and little-to-no expectations. The Badgers need to win the axe for the season to be a success, etc. But this shouldn’t be much of a challenge in terms of the on-field matchup.

Whether Wisconsin is better and on the right track after 2024 will not be defined by the Minnesota game, at least not as much as the other games on this list.

5

Sept. 14 vs. Alabama

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (9)

April 9, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama head coach Kalen DeBoer coaches his team during practice in the Hank Crisp Indoor Practice Facility at the University of Alabama. Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.-Tuscaloosa News-USA TODAY NETWORK

SP+ Ranking:No. 6 (26.6)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 3

The Alabama game may have more pregame hype than any other on the schedule. It is an intriguing game for many reasons. It’s a big test for Luke Fickell and his program, but also comes against a new-look Alabama in the post-Nick Saban era. I don’t need to explain the gravity of this showdown and what a possible win could do for the Badgers program.

Get more (Alabama) news, analysis and opinions onRoll Tide Wire

4

Sept. 28 at USC

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (10)

Nov 11, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley signals to the offense during the second half against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 23 (11.5)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 5

This top group of games are where the biggest takeaways will come from.

The first is the road trip to USC to begin conference play. It is a marriage of similar offensive styles, with USC’s obviously operating as one of the best in the nation. But it is also a contrast of two defenses on opposite ends of the spectrum. This will be a big contest for whether USC belongs in the Big Ten, and for whether Wisconsin is actually better than it was last season.

Get more (USC) news, analysis and opinions onTrojans Wire

3

Oct. 26 vs. Penn State

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (11)

Dec 30, 2023; Atlanta, GA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin on the sidelines against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 7 (25.6)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 2

The home matchup with Penn State feels like Wisconsin’s best chance at a defining upset win. It also starts a gauntlet stretch to close the season and, if all is going well, could propel the Badgers into the national conversation.

Get more (Penn State) news, analysis and opinions onNittany Lions Wire

2

Nov. 23 at Nebraska

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (12)

Nov 11, 2023; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule during the third quarter against the Maryland Terrapins at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 39 (5.6)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 6

This is where the analyst brain switches on. Wisconsin and Nebraska are two fascinating case studies entering 2024. Both hired new coaches before the 2023 season, both are in a clear building mode, but one has been a perennial contender for 20 years (Wisconsin) and the other has faded into anonymity (Nebraska). If the Cornhuskers win this game and finish with a better record than the Badgers, it’s worth wondering if the program is moving up while Wisconsin’s is moving down.

This is one of Wisconsin’s more important measuring stick games this season — even if it’s against a program it hasn’t lost to since 2012.

Get more (Nebraska) news, analysis and opinions onCornhuskers Wire

1

Nov. 2 at Iowa

Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (13)

Oct 14, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz looks on during warmups prior to the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

SP+ Ranking:No. 26 (10.9)

Difficulty Ranking: No. 4

Take the entire thought from Wisconsin’s contest vs. Nebraska and paste it here, but also consider that this contrasts two styles: Wisconsin’s attempt at ‘modernizing’ and Iowa’s confidence in its age-old approach.

Iowa is 1-0 over Wisconsin in the Luke Fickell era, thanks in part to the Badgers’ inability to solve the Hawkeyes’ stellar defense. This meeting in 2024 will carry significant weight. The winner will look to be on the right path in the Big Ten’s new era, while the loser may see questions asked about its trajectory.

Get more (Iowa) news, analysis and opinions onHawkeyes Wire

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Ranking Wisconsin's 2024 football opponents by level of intrigue (2024)

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