2024 Alabama Football Early Opponent Preview, Game 3: Wisconsin

BamaCentral takes a long first look at each of the Crimson Tide's upcoming opponents this season with the Wisconsin Badgers featured next.
Jan 1, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jake Chaney (36) reacts after a stop during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2024; Tampa, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jake Chaney (36) reacts after a stop during the first half against the LSU Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports / Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

When Greg Byrne and Nick Saban teamed up to boost Alabama's non-conference schedule with home-and-home matchups instead of neutral-site games, they didn't know what the future would hold with conference realignment or that Saban wouldn't necessarily be the one coaching in all those future matchups.

But in Kalen DeBoer's first season as Crimson Tide head coach, he will take Alabama on the road for its first game true away game against a Big Ten team since 2010 when the Crimson Tide travels to Wisconsin in Week 3 this season.

The Badgers are entering Year 2 under head coach Luke Fickell. And while Alabama and Wisconsin haven't played since 2015, Fickell faced the Crimson Tide as the head coach of Cincinnati in the 2021 College Football Playoff. After going 7-6 his first full season with Wisconsin, this year will be Fickell's chance to prove whether or not he can make the Badgers a threat in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin hasn't made the College Football Playoff, but the program has been a picture of consistency, finishing with a winning record for more than 20 years straight. Can Fickell take the Badgers to the next level? Adding a marquee home win against Alabama would certainly help the resume.


Wisconsin lost its starting quarterback and running back to the NFL, but brings back its top two receivers from last season in Will Pauling (837 yards) and Bryson Green (480 yards.) Despite losing their previous starter at QB, the Badgers will have an experienced player under center in Miami transfer Tyler Van Dyke, who spent three seasons as the starter for the Hurricanes before entering the portal this past offseason as a grad transfer.

Offensive coordinator Phil Longo runs the air raid offense and will now have more of a quarterback to fit that style in Van Dyke. Last season, Wisconsin tallied 469 pass attempts and 281 completions, which were both program records, but only had 2,842 passing yards between its two quarterbacks combined. Van Dyke threw for 2,703 yards alone last season for Miami.

Sixth-year running back Chez Mellusi was off to a promising start last season with 307 yards and four touchdowns before suffering a season-ending injury against Purdue in Game 4. Along the offensive line, Wisconsin returns both starting tackles in Jack Nelson and Riley Mahlman, plus left guard Joe Huber, but there will be new faces at center and right guard.


Fickell is a defensive-minded head coach and produced some of the best passing defenses in the country at Cincinnati after spending more than a decade as a defensive assistant at Ohio State. Last season, Wisconsin finished 19th in the country in scoring defense at 18.9 points per game.

Senior safety Hunter Wohler led the team and was 21st in the nation with 120 tackles last year and also had two interceptions. Defensive back Ricardo Hallman led the team with seven interceptions. Those two players headline an experienced defensive backfield alongside Nyzier Fourqurean, Kamo'i Latu and Austin Brown.

Alabama will be facing a familiar foe at linebacker with Arkansas transfer Jaheim Thomas, who led the Razorbacks with 90 tackles last season, including 10 in their game against the Crimson Tide. Thomas will play alongside returning Wisconsin starter Jake Chaney. Redshirt junior outside linebacker Darryl Peterson will be looking to build on a strong 2023 campaign with 47 total tackles and a team-leading 4.5 sacks.

Curt Neal and James Thompson Jr. will anchor things up front for the Badgers.


Coming in the third week of the season, this will be the first big matchup for Alabama and Wisconsin. Both teams will face non-Power 4 opponents in their first two games of the season and should be 2-0 heading into the meeting on Sept. 14.

Wisconsin opens the season with three straight home games, including this matchup against the Tide, and Alabama's first two games are at Bryant-Denny Stadium, so this will be the team's first road test. This is also the time of year where teams are still figuring things out as Alabama infamously started Tyler Buchner at quarterback in Week 3 a year ago.

The Badgers will likely still be breaking in transfer quarterback Tyler Van Dyke, while Alabama presumably will be rolling with returning starter Jalen Milroe, which could provide an edge for the Crimson Tide in a hostile environment.


This is the type of non-conference matchup Alabama fans have been clamoring for. It will be the first true test for DeBoer as Alabama head coach while serving as an important benchmark game for Fickell. Despite all the transitions Alabama has gone through with Saban retiring, this will still be a game the Crimson Tide is expected to win.

Alabama is the more talented team and will be a road favorite heading into the road matchup at Camp Randall. Wisconsin is a fringe top-25 team heading into the 2024 season, while Alabama will likely be preseason top-10 in the major polls.

This game can still be a big challenge for the Crimson Tide. In 2022, reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young went to Texas in the Tide's first marquee non-conference road game in a long time and escaped with a one-point win. With Alabama coming to town, Wisconsin will undoubtedly have a rocking crowd ready to face the Crimson Tide. Alabama will have to show poise and maturity early on with leaders like Milroe and Tyler Booker on offense to secure DeBoer's first win over a Power Four team at Alabama.

The Game

Date: Sept. 14

Time: 11 a.m. CT


Location:Camp Randall Stadium

Series history: Tied 1-1

Last meeting: Alabama and Wisconsin played the 2015 season opener in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium. The Crimson Tide rolled over the Badgers 35-17 as Derrick Henry ran wild for 147 yards and three touchdowns to kick off his Heisman campaign and Alabama's journey to another national championship.

The Team

Coach: Luke Fickell, second full season, 8-6 record

Offensive coordinator: Phil Longo

Defensive coordinator: Mike Tressel

2023 record: 7-6 (5-4 Big Ten)

2023 rankings: Total offense (70th), Total defense (39th)

Returning Starters

10 (five on offense, five on defense)

Players to Watch

QB Tyler Van Dyke, WR Will Pauling, WR Bryson Green, RB Chez Mellusi, S Hunter Wohler, LB Jaheim Thomas, LB Jake Chaney, CB Ricardo Hallman, OLB Darryl Peterson, PK Nathanial Vakos

Top Newcomer:

Miami transfer Van Dyke is expected to be the guy at quarterback. He has three years of starting experience in the ACC and has almost 7,500 career passing yards with 54 touchdowns.

Biggest Question

Van Dyke had an up-and-down career at Miami. Will the Wisconsin offense be the right fit that allows him to finish his career strong and take the Badgers to the next level in Fickell's second year?

The School

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Founded: 1848

Enrollment: 48,557

Nickname: Badgers

Colors: Badger red and white

Mascot: Bucky Badger

The Program

Last time beat Alabama: 1928

Last time won Big Ten: 2012

National championships: None

Playoff Appearances: None

Conference championships: 14 (1896, 1897, 1901, 1906, 1912, 1952, 1959, 1962, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2010, 2011, 2012)

Bowl record: 19-16

Last season missed bowl: 2001

Heisman trophies: 2 (Alan Ameche in 1954, Ron Dayne in 1999)

2024 NFL Draft:

  • OL Tanor Bortolini (Round 4, Pick 117- Indianapolis Colts)
  • RB Braelon Allen (Round 4, Pick 134- New York Jets)

Last four recruiting class rankings: No. 23 (2024), No. 58 (2023), No. 44 (2022), No. 16 (2021)

The Schedule

Aug. 30: Western Michigan
Sept. 7: South Dakota
Sept. 14: Alabama
Sept. 28: at USC
Oct. 5: Purdue
Oct. 12: at Rutgers
Oct. 19: at Northwestern
Oct. 26: Penn State
Nov. 2: at Iowa
Nov. 16: Oregon
Nov. 23: at Nebraska
Nov. 29: Minnesota

Published |Modified
Katie Windham


Katie Windham is the assistant editor for BamaCentral, primarily covering football, basketball gymnastics and softball. She is a two-time graduate of the University of Alabama and has covered a variety of Crimson Tide athletics since 2019 for outlets like The Tuscaloosa News, The Crimson White and the Associated Press before joining BamaCentral full time in 2021. Windham has covered College Football Playoff games, the Women's College World Series, NCAA March Madness, SEC Tournaments and championships in multiple sports.