After suffering a humiliating loss at the hands of Donovan McNabb and the Syracuse Orangemen in their season opener, the Wisconsin Badgers sprang back to win 8 of their next 9 games. After defeating Boise State, San Jose State, and San Diego State, the Badgers won consecutive games with field goals as time expired against Indiana and Northwestern. In the course of this streak, the Badgers snapped a long losing streak at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes with a 13–10 win, the first Wisconsin win over a Hayden Fry-coached team ever. After defeating Iowa, Barry Alvarez's team fell apart down the stretch, losing to eventual national champion Michigan, Penn State, and Georgia in the Outback Bowl.
While the Badgers suffered a 3-game losing streak to close out the year, the 1997 campaign set the stage for the incredibly successful 1998 season.