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Wisconsin finishes 2023 season as highest-ranked Big Ten West team

There aren’t any consolation prizes for finishing 7-6 against a Big Ten West schedule without a scary out-of-conference schedule and avoiding having to play Michigan and Penn State. But with bowl season now complete, Wisconsin does finish the 2023 season as ESPN FPI’s highest-ranked Big Ten West team.

The Badgers sit at No. 40, followed by division champs Iowa at No. 47, Northwestern at No. 58, Nebraska at No. 59, Illinois at No. 62, Purdue at No. 68 and Minnesota at No. 69.

It in no way is a consolation prize. If anything, the end-of-season look at the division makes the 5-4 conference record that much more disappointing. FPI has the Badgers with the No. 60 strength of schedule in the nation, in a year before everything changes and the conference path gets exponentially tougher. Next year’s slate is a gauntlet starting with a home game against Alabama in early September.

Either way, Wisconsin’s ReliaQuest Bowl loss to LSU was somehow a moral victory entering the offseason. WRs Will Pauling and Bryson Green both went off, we finally saw Phil Longo’s offense work as advertised and Luke Fickell seems to have the program heading in the right direction.

But whether expectations were too high this season, injuries killed all momentum or whatever reason people point to, the postseason look does not help the feeling around the program’s pedestrian showing this season.

Story originally appeared on Badgers Wire