Every year, there’s a game that fans have circled on their calendars from the moment the schedule comes out. After a rather lackluster Wisconsin home football schedule a year ago, this year’s lineup features several must-attend games.
But for those students just getting to know Badger sports, there are a handful of other games outside of football that you’re not going to want to miss. If you haven’t circled these games on your calendar, you might want to break out a pen.
Wisconsin vs. LSU (Football): Although the first game of Wisconsin’s schedule is far from the friendly confines of Camp Randall, this is possibly one of the biggest games in recent Badger football history. University of Wisconsin has had high profile match-ups in the past, including in the Capital One Bowl this past January against another SEC team, South Carolina. But a regular season game like this one — and the season opener at that — makes this game extremely meaningful. Not only does this game mean a lot for the Wisconsin football program, but it also carries with it a great deal of weight with it for the Big Ten as a whole. The Big Ten has been relatively weak lately, and this is a big statement game for the entire conference if Wisconsin wins. Playing in a big time environment in Houston and against a very viable playoff team in the Tigers makes this not only one of the best games of the semester, but a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Wisconsin vs. Penn State (Volleyball): The one unfortunate thing about this National Championship game rematch is that it falls on a Wednesday, but even homework isn’t a good enough reason to miss what could very well be the Big Ten’s top two volleyball teams in action. Wisconsin returns with all but one key player from last season’s run to the championship game, and although the Badgers got swept in straight sets at the Field House last year against Penn State and then fell to the Nittany Lions again in the NCAA final, they are a year older and wiser this season. If you get a chance to be a part of the student section known as the Block Party, this is the game you’ll want to go to.
Wisconsin vs. Penn State (Women’s Soccer): Penn State is the team to beat every year in the Big Ten, but this game goes much deeper than just a disdain for the Nittany Lions. Before coming to Wisconsin, Badgers head coach Paula Wilkins coached at Penn State and brought the program to the College Cup, college soccer’s version of the Final Four, on multiple occasions. Wilkins beat the Badgers quite often while at Penn State, but now in her eighth season with Wisconsin, she is tasked with leading her new squad against her former one. A season ago, the Badgers fell one goal short against the Nittany Lions, but with a starting 11 that will be almost exactly the same from a year ago, Wisconsin has a good chance to give PSU a run for the money and the Big Ten title.
Wisconsin vs. Indiana (Men’s Soccer): Last season, while playing the defending National Champions at the McClimon Soccer Complex, the Badgers had an improbable comeback. They scored three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes to knock off the Hoosiers in one of the greatest games in Wisconsin men’s soccer history. After making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995, the Badgers’ game this year against Indiana could again determine their postseason fate. Even if you’re not a soccer fan, the primetime start on a Saturday night at McClimon only adds to the luster of a game worth attending.
Wisconsin vs. Nebraska (Football): Besides the opening game of the season against LSU, this is the game most students and Badger fans have circled on their calendar for football season. With the new alignment in the Big Ten after the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, the Badgers and Cornhuskers find themselves together in the West and what could be a yearly matchup for the division crown. There could be a surprise or two in the rest of the West division, but expect this mid-November game at Camp Randall to decide who goes to the Big Ten Championship game. The first game between these two in Madison was one to remember, and that should be the case again come Nov. 15.
Wisconsin vs. North Dakota (Men’s Hockey): There’s a saying that goes, “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.” In a nutshell, that is the Wisconsin-North Dakota hockey rivalry at its finest. After the teams split from the WCHA this past season, the Badgers made sure to get North Dakota back on the schedule for two games at the Kohl Center — and there should be plenty of physicality and hockey in between. The Badgers will enter the series with an eye on retribution after UND knocked them out in the first round of the NCAA tournament this past spring, and considering the long history between the schools, expect plenty of good hockey both nights and a great atmosphere surrounding the ice. If you’ve never been to a Wisconsin hockey game, this would be a great first taste of how special they are.
Wisconsin vs. Duke (Men’s basketball): Duke is a university renowned for not only its academics, but probably more so, its college basketball program under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The first time the Blue Devils came to town back in 2009, the Badgers handed them their first ever Big Ten-ACC Challenge loss, and the atmosphere was rocking at the Kohl Center. After what happened in only the second-ever meeting between the two teams, don’t expect too many tickets to be available for the Dec. 3 matchup.