Wisconsin lost to Illinois 34-10. Many speculated whether the loss to Ohio State and Illinois could lead to the decision to fire Wisconsin’s head coach. The next day Paul Chryst was fired following a 2-3 start to the season. He had approximately $20 million left on a contract that paid him through January 2027. Athletic director Chris McIntosh said that Chryst had agreed to take a reduced payout, and it was not an easy decision.
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“I would just comment more holistically on where we’re at,” McIntosh said. “Our program at Wisconsin expects to win championships, and I felt it was the right time to make a change to pursue those.”
Chryst has deep family ties to the Wisconsin Badgers football program, has won 72% of his games, and was just fired halfway through his eighth season. It all started with the Badgers losing against Illinois in 2019 and ending with their loss against Illinois in 2022. There is more than just the coaching staff to blame for the unfortunate start to the season. The style of play hasn’t been creative as offenses have changed. There have been some injuries on the offensive line, turnovers, and no offensive momentum.
Losing to Ohio State, the No. 3 team in the country, was not a big deal, but the special team errors and the lack of offensive creativity were. McIntosh knew that the Badgers needed a change, either a starting lineup roster change or a staffing change. There have been many mistakes over the years that should’ve been fixed. Wisconsin is a Big Ten football team with big expectations, which they have not lived up to this season. The recruiting has been lackluster. Chryst simply ran out of time to find fixes, and it was time for a change.
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The Badgers started the season ranked 18th in the nation but lost to Washington State and back-to-back losses against Ohio State and Illinois. The 24-point loss to Illinois was Chryst’s worst loss at Wisconsin to a Big Ten West opponent. Illinois got 17 points off Wisconsin’s turnovers. Illinois defense sacked Graham Mertz numerous times and held the Badger to 2 yards rushing on 24 carries. Wisconsin was favored to win this game, but an unexpected win left Badger fans shocked and embarrassed as they left Camp Randall.
“We take it personally,” Wisconsin outside linebacker C.J Goetz said. “This program was built on physicality.”
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Illinois outrushed Wisconsin 137-2 was very physical and made few mistakes against the Badger defense. They beat Wisconsin at their own game, the running game. Wisconsin is known for its running game; and strong defense, none of which was shown during the game.
“Something needs to change because that’s not us,” Wisconsin safety John Torchio said. “That’s not the Wisconsin football we all know.”
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Illinois was beating Wisconsin 14-10 at halftime, not a game-ending score, but not the outcome fans were hoping for against Illinois. They scored their two touchdowns after intercepting passes in Wisconsin territory, another disappointing part of the game. Then, Illinois dominated the second half of the game, outscoring Wisconsin 17-0 in the third quarter.
The most shocking statistics from Saturday are Braelon Allen, ranked fifth among all FBS players with 124.3 yards rushing per game. He had just 2 yards on eight carries on Saturday. Allen has been the shining star and savior for Wisconsin’s offense and proved to add to the disappointing performance of the Badgers.
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Again, everyone wants to see something different internally within the Badgers football program. Wisconsin players said after the loss to Ohio State that they had this record last season and still came back strong. There is a significant difference between the performance of the Badgers last year and this year.
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Overall, I am unsure whether this unexpected coaching change will help or destroy the Badgers mid-season. Only time will tell. It will be exciting to see whether this change sparks a necessary fire within the team or not.