Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst told reporters following his team’s 40-6 victory against BYU that he wouldn’t spend any time analyzing whether the Badgers’ bye week came at a good time.
All he could do was make sure the staff did a good job of approaching the bye, providing players with rest and reeling them back into game mode for the Big Ten opener against Northwestern on Sept. 30 at Camp Randall Stadium.
That’s as good of a thought process as any when it comes to handling the bye week, which occurs at a different point seemingly every season with different results. Twice since 2008, Wisconsin’s bye has come within the first four games. Three times, it has come in the final four games. And there is no real way to determine how the Badgers might respond to the time off.
Since 2008, Wisconsin is 8-3 immediately following a bye week. Those victories have come against Bowling Green, Northwestern, Indiana (twice), Purdue (twice), Iowa and Maryland. The Badgers have lost to Michigan, Northwestern and Ohio State.
Chryst is 24-6 as Wisconsin’s coach. Yet he was 0-2 in his first two seasons following bye weeks. In 2015, Wisconsin lost to Northwestern 13-7 after a bye. In 2016, Wisconsin played well enough to win but ultimately lost 30-23 in overtime at home against Ohio State.
The timing of a bye this season might prove to be particularly beneficial for Wisconsin after finishing nonconference play. Wisconsin is a heavy favorite to win the Big Ten West division and has time to regroup and heal entering conference games.
Several key players have dealt with injuries. Left guard Jon Dietzen didn’t play against BYU because of a right leg injury. Running back Bradrick Shaw carried only 4 times after missing the previous week with a right leg injury. Tailback Taiwan Deal (right leg), defensive end Chikwe Obasih (left leg) and wide receiver George Rushing (left leg) all have been out.
Chryst will prepare his players as best he can. But whether the bye ultimately helps Wisconsin start fast against Northwestern remains to be seen. If recent history is any indication, it’s a crapshoot.