Preview: Georgia Southern at Wisconsin


The teams: The Georgia Southern Eagles (2-0) vs the Wisconsin Badgers (1-1)

The time: 11 a.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wis.

The TV coverage: BTN with Mark Followill and Matt Millen in the booth, and Elise Menaker on the sideline.

The last time: It’s the first ever meeting

The series: 0-0

The line: Wisconsin -20


1) Bouncing back

For the third straight season Wisconsin didn’t reach Week 3 of the season without losing a game. In 2021, the Badgers rallied after a 1-3 start with a loss to Minnesota on the final day of the regular season keeping them out of the Big Ten title. Last year, Wisconsin opened the year 2-3 but never truly recovered as coach Paul Chryst was fired following an ugly loss to Illinois in early October. New coach Luke Fickell would obviously much rather have the former than the latter and that journey starts Saturday. The type of performance we see should tell us a lot about where the season is headed.

2) Run, Braelon, run?

After a huge effort in the season opener against Buffalo, the Badgers rushing attack came up lame at Washington State. That was especially the case when Braelon Allen got the ball, as he ran for 20 yards on just seven carries, the fewest number of runs he’s had since becoming a starter early in the Big Ten season in 2021. Allen wasn’t pleased with the lack of chances and told Fickell as much, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. The junior has gone back-to-back games without 100 yards just twice in his career, so his workload and the success of the run game against a Georgia Southern squad giving up 144 yards per game is one of the more intriguing questions heading into the game.

3) Build on it

As bad as the run game was against Washington State, Tanner Mordecai and the passing game came alive. The SMU transfer threw for 278 yards and a touchdown with seven different players having at least one catch. It was a step in the right direction for Mordecai following a two interception performance against Buffalo. Now, how do he and his wide receivers build on that effort? One way would be to hit on a few more deep passes. They had a couple against the Cougars and just barely missed on several more. Hit on those and the offense could turn into the explosive outfit that many expected under new offensive coordinator Phil Longo.

4) Starting fast

The message all offseason for the Badgers was how they needed to finish better in fourth quarter games after going 1-4 in 2022. Perhaps it should have been about starting fast, something that has not happened in the first two games. Wisconsin held a 14-10 lead on Buffalo after 30 minutes, while the team trailed Washington State 24-6 at one point in the second quarter. As Fickell made clear this week, being able to close out games in the fourth quarter is important but it would be a lot easier to do if the Badgers could get it going from the opening kickoff.

5) Figuring things out

The Badgers defense looked completely lost on the first four drives last week with receivers running free, issues with substitutions and a lack of a pass rush. But Wisconsin found something midway through the second quarter and eventually held Washington State to 15 yards over a six-drive stretch. It was a step in the right direction and should give hope to fans that they can figure things out under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Tressel. It won’t be easy, as Georgia Southern runs a challenging, uptempo offense that is averaging 467 yards per game with Tulsa transfer Davis Brin (562 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) orchestrating things.


— A Luke Fickell-coached team hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2017, his first season at Cincinnati when the team went 4-8

— Georgia Southern came into the FBS in 2014. Since then, the Eagles are 1-2 against Big Ten teams. They got hammered at Indiana in 2017, but gave Minnesota all it could handle in 2019 and ended the Scott Frost-era with a win at Nebraska last year.

— Braelon Allen leads the team in receptions with 13, but ranks tied for fifth in yards (36). It means he’s on pace for 84 catches, which would shatter Brian Calhoun’s school record for receptions by a running back in a season.

— Wisconsin ranks 130th in turnover margin at -5, trailing only Nebraska in the entire FBS.


Zach Heilprin (1-1, 0-2 ATS) ’s prediction: Wisconsin 35, Georgia Southern 20
Ebo (1-1, 0-2 ATS) ’s prediction: Wisconsin 34, Georgia Southern 7
RJ Brachman’s (1-1, 1-1 ATS) prediction: Wisconsin 34, Georgia Southern 21