20 Year Member
You are doing only a recent look back on Wisconsin and a look forward. Here is UW's non-conference schedule in the 21st Century:
Red signifies the team was ranked
2000: 3-0: W. Mich, Oregon, Cincinnati
2001: 1-2: Virginia, Oregon, Fresno St
2002: 4-0: Fresno St, UNLV, West Virginia, No Illinois
2003: 2-1: West Virginia, Akron, UNLV
2004: 3-0: UCF, UNLV, Arizona
2005: 3-0: Bowling Green, Temple, UNC
2006: 3-0: Bowling Green, Western Ill, San Diego State
2007: 3-0: Washington State, UNLV, The Citadel
2008: 3-0: Akron, Marshal, Fresno St
2009: 3-0: No Illinois, Fresno State, Wofford
2010: 3-0: UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona St
2011: 3-0: UNLV, Oregon State, No Illinois
2012: 3-1: No Iowa, Oregon State, Utah State, UTEP
2013: 2-1: Massachusetts, Tennessee Tech, Arizona St
2014: 3-1: LSU, Western Ill, Bowling Green, So Florida
2015: 3-1: Alabama, Miami OH, Troy, Hawaii
2016: 3-0: LSU, Akron, Georgia State
2017: 3-0: Utah State, Florida Atlantic, BYU
2018: 2-1: Western Kentucky, New Mexico, BYU
2019: 3-0: So Florida, Central Michigan, Kent State
Sooooo ... in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019 ...
Wisconsin has played 64 non-conference games ... 3.2 games per year
Wisconsin is 56-8 in those games ... 87.5% winning percentage
In those 64 games they've played 6 ranked teams ... that's one ranked team every 3 years or so
Wisconsin is 2-4 in those games against ranked opponents ... 33.3% winning percentage
In those 20 years Wisconsin has played 16 teams who are now in a P5 conference. This includes teams like West Virginia, and Cincinnati who were not at the time UW played them.
Wisconsin has played as many non-D1 teams in these 20 years as they've played ranked teams in those 20 years.
Yes Wisconsin has improved their non-conference schedule recently and going forward. But they built their program rise from obscurity (pre-Alvarez years) by scheduling cupcakes for the vast majority of their non-conference schedule.
I guarantee you that NU has played more ranked opponents and more P5 opponents than Wisconsin during the same time period. I also guarantee that Iowa's non-conference schedule during that same time is very similar. And Iowa has the argument that they've played a P5 opponent every season ... if you count ISU as one during those years.
Going forward UW has gotten better but that's because they think they belong with the big boys now. That's because they know to contend for a NC that their non-conference has got to get better.
To each their own -- but I really don't care about 20 years ago. The past 5-6 years, most years Wisconsin had a quality (or elite) non-conference opponent. And going forward the next several, it's the same. Barry Alvarez may have had a different approach, but he's gone now. Wisconsin seems committed to playing ranked and sometimes top 10 opponents in September.
Iowa, however, has been playing garbage for a long time and will continue to do so. When is the last time we saw Iowa play a non-conference game against a team along the lines of Alabama, LSU, or Notre Dame? I sure can't remember that.