Wisconsin is hoping to see a better season in Year 2 of Luke Fickell after some evident growing pains in 2023.

In the end, the Badgers finished the year with a 7-6 overall record and a loss to LSU in the ReliaQuest Bowl. While keeping the bowl streak intact in Madison is important, Wisconsin rarely held up in games against tougher competition.

One good sign for the Badgers is that Wisconsin is among the national leaders in returning production for the 2024 season. ESPN’s Bill Connelly recently completed his returning production rankings with Wisconsin at 20th with 71% of its production back for another season.

Within the B1G, Nebraska (No. 3), Northwestern (No. 6), Rutgers (No. 8) and Minnesota (No. 19) were the teams ahead of the Badgers. However, Connelly is high on the Badgers for their breakout potential after a strong SP+ finish in 2023 (29th) and their returning production for the season ahead.

Here’s what Connelly had to say about the Badgers:

Year 1 did not really go as planned for Luke Fickell in Madison. The defense was strong, as is typically the case for both a Fickell defense and a Badgers defense, but the shift in offensive philosophy, from pure ground-and-pound to an approach with more passing and tempo, was bumpy. Wisconsin ranked just 86th in offensive SP+, its worst ranking since 2004. But an experienced offensive line, a remodeled linebacking corps and the addition of Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke to replace outgoing Tanner Mordecai could all help the 2024 season go a little smoother.

Tough schedule awaits

While Wisconsin’s roster might be poised for a breakout, the schedule that awaits the Badgers is not an easy task. The nonconference schedule concludes with a visit from Alabama and new head coach Kalen DeBoer, and Wisconsin gets some of the new heavy-hitting Big Ten members out of the gate.

This fall, the Badgers will hit the road to face USC and will also face Iowa and up-and-coming Nebraska on the road. The B1G slate also features home games against likely preseason top-10 Oregon and Penn State in what will be a brutal schedule for Fickell and his team to navigate.