Wisconsin interim head coach Jim Leonhard will make his debut as the top dog Saturday against Northwestern, and expectations are through the roof.
The Badgers fired Paul Chryst after he compiled a record of 67-26 coaching the Badgers. Chryst won 72% of his games with the program, and still lost his job after the team was obviously regressing.
The message has now been sent that Wisconsin's standards are higher than ever before. Fans expect to win, and simply having a high winning percentage won't be enough to save your job. We need Big Ten West and Big Ten conference titles.
That's now Jim Leonhard's job. Fans are excited, energy is high and even before coaching a game as the interim head coach, people have already crowned Leonhard the savior. Again, the savior for a coach who won 72% of his games.
What are reasonable expectations for Jim Leonhard?
While everyone wants to focus on the big picture of where Wisconsin goes from here, let's focus on the next couple months.
It's completely and totally unreasonable to wonder whether or not Wisconsin football is back. The main goal right now is Jim Leonhard getting his fair audition to lose the interim tag.
What does he need to do to keep the job permanently? In my opinion, the Badgers have to finish the season .500 or better.
We do that and it's hard to imagine Leonhard doesn't keep the job moving forward. If Wisconsin goes 6-6 or 7-5, I don't see AD Chris McIntosh looking elsewhere. We go 8-4 to end the season, and there might be parades in the streets for Leonhard.
Anyone who is talking about winning out or is seriously worried about the Big Ten West right now is an idiot. Ignore people like that. The only focus is Leonhard stacking up wins week by week.
What roadblocks does Leonhard face?
While going .500 might not sound too hard, this won't be easy for Leonhard. That's why 6-6 is reasonable. This Wisconsin team is bad.
It hurts my heart and soul to say it, but it's true. Our offense is pathetic. It's so bad that we rushed for two yards against Illinois. Scoring points won't come easy against any defense with a pulse, and Jim Leonhard knows it.
Things are better on the defensive side of the ball, but only slightly. It's a relatively inexperienced defense and there are a lot of pieces from 2021 that had to be replaced. It shows in the worst of ways at times.
That's why thinking we're going to contend for a Big Ten title is comical at this point.
We need to go .500 and make a bowl game. That's reasonable and it starts today with Northwestern. Hopefully, the Jim Leonhard era starts off with a win. The entire state is pulling for him.