Is beating the Alabama Crimson Tide a must for Wisconsin?

Every team believes it can recover from an early loss but for Wisconsin losing at home to the Alabama Crimson Tide might be more troublesome.
Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin head coach Luke Fickell recently talked about the importance of the Badgers' third game of the season against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Fickell said, "It’s going to be one of those opportunities where we’ll find out where we are. And you need that. I think as we go into the new era of the playoff system where you have 12 teams, it’s a better outlook looking at it forward and understanding that you need to be challenged early in the year."

The Badgers are coming off back-to-back 7-6 seasons. Casting a more negative light on those poor seasons is the fact in the 2023 season, Wisconsin lost four of its last six games. Given Wisconsin's difficult 2024 schedule, it is possibly facing another 7-6 season. Most Wisconsin fans believe the Badgers will be improved in Fickell's second full season. Balanced against that optimism is Wisconsin's regular season could produce six losses.

Many Wisconsin fans seem reconciled to losses against Alabama, Penn State, and Oregon. The greater problem comes from four road games in which no wins are guaranteed. Two Saturdays after playing the Alabama Crimson Tide, Wisconsin goes to Los Angeles to play Southern Cal. The LA Memorial Coliseum gives the Trojans little or no advantage, but the Wisconsin site, Bucky's Fifth Quarter gives the Badgers a 39% chance to beat Alabama, but just a 36% chance to beat USC.

The Badgers should be favored in road games at Nebraska and Rutgers, but an early guess is the spread will be less than a touchdown in each game. Wisconsin fans may hope for an upset at Iowa, but the Badgers might have a better chance of beating Penn State in Madison.

Teams always expect to recover from an early season loss. In Wisconsin's case losing to Alabama in September and later home losses to Penn State and Oregon, would mean the Badgers might have to win three or four Big Ten road games in order to reach a goal of eight wins in the regular season.

The Alabama game cannot be called a must-win for Wisconsin, but it has more importance than just an early test of Wisconsin measuring itself.

The Wisconsin site, Badger of Honor predicts it will take a bowl game win for Wisconsin to improve on last season's record.

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