Beating the crap out of Michigan will never get old.
I now know how the barbarians must have felt when Rome was finally sacked. Like Rich Rodriguez, Romulus Augustus was probably bitching about holding calls as his troops were getting steamrolled.
And dominating the Wolverines is just the latest of accomplishments for Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema.
In a season that can largely be viewed as a success, Bielema has managed to keep Paul Bunyan’s Axe in Madison for the sixth year in a row, produce another dominating young Wisconsin running back and he taught the defense to tackle — something he forgot to do in 2008. Not to mention he has the fans feeling good about the team instead of calling for his head for the first time since 2006.
With a Badger win Saturday and an Ohio State loss, Wisconsin would grab a share of the Big Ten title — something they haven’t managed in a decade.
Most importantly, the Badgers washed the Fleischmann’s-esque taste from their mouth when they embarrassed UM in the second half last Saturday. And I mean, I thought Tate Forcier might cry embarrassed.
A smile of relief was spread across almost every player’s face after that game. The 2008 season — and all of the frustration that came with it — could finally be put to bed.
I could go on in this vein for 600 more words, but unfortunately, Ebenezer Scrooge is my great-great Grampy and I have a little greed in my body.
Despite all of these decent accomplishments, the 2009 season will be remembered as the “what if” year for me.
As in, what if the Badgers had managed to beat a mediocre Ohio State team for the first time under Bielema?
What if junior quarterback Scott Tolzien hadn’t summoned his inner Jay Cutler, throwing two pick-sixes that drove this alcoholic state to drink even more?
What if Bielema had hired/delegated a special teams coach, preventing the game from getting out of hand when OSU took a kickoff to the house?
Perhaps I should just be happy 2009 wasn’t a repeat of 2008, but Ohio State and their overrated quarterback keep popping up in my mind.
To recap for those who have forgotten:
UW lost 31-13 at the Horseshoe despite doubling OSU’s total yardage 368-184.
The Badgers moved the chains 22 times in the game. The Buckeyes managed eight first downs.
Wisconsin held the ball for 42:47. Terrelle Pryor and Ohio State’s offensive offense embarrassed themselves for 17:13.
And despite all of that, not only did the Badgers lose, they got blown out.
I may be imagining it, but I’m pretty sure Bielema started his post game press conference by saying, “WTF?”
The ramifications for this head-scratching loss were huge.
As we can now see, the Buckeyes might be the most mediocre Big Ten champion of all time. They lost at home to a USC team starting a freshman quarterback. That same Trojan team just dropped their third game of the year 55-21 to Stanford last weekend.
Ohio State then proceeded to lose to Purdue. I was going to make a joke involving PETA members, Michael Vick and Wisconsin thrashing Purdue 37-0, but the Boilermakers have suffered enough, haven’t they?
All the stars had lined up correctly this season for the Badgers. UW had an easy schedule, skipping Penn State and hosting Michigan at Camp Randall. The Big Ten is experiencing a down cycle, or at the least a mediocre cycle where no team has stood out as dominant. The title was Wisconsin’s for the taking.
The answers to this “what if” is pretty simple.
Simply by beating a team 21 starters clearly outplayed, UW would be in the lead seat for a Big Ten conference title and a Rose Bowl reservation — a chance that doesn’t come around Madison all that often.
Instead, the two pick-sixes caused Tolzien to lose confidence, and his slide continued with a three-interception game against Iowa.
Even with the iron-clad “1-0″ mindset Bielema instills, Tolzien has thought about the OSU game a little.
“During the bye week I kind of thought [what if],” Tolzien said. “At this point, I’m sure at the end of the season I will be feeling that way, but right now you just got to focus on the next opponent, not let that stuff affect you.”
During the offseason, Tolzien will probably come to these conclusions:
A good season could have been a great one… but he threw two pick-sixes.
Bielema could have shut up his critics permanently… but his special teams gave up a back-breaking touchdown that put the game out of reach.
And finally, what ifs will haunt you… so don’t mess it up next time.
Michael is a senior majoring in journalism. Think he is focusing too much on Tolzien’s interceptions? Think he demands too much? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.