After almost ten months of waiting, Wisconsin football will return to Camp Randall on September 2, as the No. 19 Badgers welcome the Buffalo Bulls to Madison.
The 2:30 p.m. kickoff will be just the second all-time meeting between the two teams — the Badgers previously topped the Bulls 35-3 in November 2006. However, the Bulls’ return to Madison could be even worse this year.
The Badgers will look to bring the heat in their season opener. Luke Fickell, hired at the end of last season, has all of the pressure possible on his shoulders. After a tumultuous season — quite unlike the Wisconsin teams that we are used to seeing at Camp Randall — his hiring was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise forgettable season.
Fickell is not the only one expected to be great on Saturday, though. He brought Phil Longo, offensive coordinator from UNC, and Mike Tressel, defensive coordinator from Cincinnati, with him to the Badgers staff. These three coaches, along with a plethora of assistants, recruiters and other personnel, are expected to bring a new Air Raid offense to the program.
While star running back duo Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi will still eat up the ground game behind a strong, experienced offensive line — who, by the way, are also playing under a new coach this season — there is no doubt the air raid offense is sure to take over Madison.
SMU transfer Tanner Mordecai is poised to be the leader of the offense and is already in consideration for the best quarterback in college football on preseason watchlists. Adding in transfer receivers C.J. Williams, Bryson Green and Will Pauling to an already stacked wide receiver room including Chimere Dike and Skylar Bell should prove to be a perfect recipe for air raid success, at least in the season opener against Buffalo.
However, the Bulls are not to be dismissed easily. They bring multiple All-MAC preseason players to the defensive side of the ball who specialized in creating turnovers last season — a +12 margin good for 10th in the nation. The Bulls will bring an aggressive approach to the secondary, especially due to the traction Wisconsin’s air raid tactics are gaining nationally.
On the offensive side of the ball, Buffalo’s kicker Alex McNulty may be the most bedazzling part of the offensive unit. McNulty is set to be one of the top kickers in the nation this season after finishing fourth in the nation in field goals made last season with 24.
After that, the Bulls aren’t expected to bring much to face the Badgers’ star-studded defense. The likes of Jason Maitre, Kamo’i Latu, Maema Njongmeta and more should have no problems dealing with Buffalo’s offense. They do return Cole Snyder at quarterback and will bring back a solid running back core, but Snyder’s favorite targets from last season have all moved on from the Bulls.
In all, Badger fans should expect the Fickell era to launch with a bang, so long as Camp Randall Stadium is packed with Wisconsin fans, students, alumni and more.
No pressure though, Coach Fickell.