Ah Cupcakes. They have a way of pulling you in. Just when you convince yourself to resist the temptation and restrain to just one, something overpowers you, and one turns into four.
What am I getting at? I like cupcakes? Sure. Do I succumb to the sweet goodness and empty promises? Yes. But so does Wisconsin football. Or it did. I’m not talking about the cupcakes you ogle at through the bakery window. I’m talking about cupcakes with names such as the Terriers, Governors, Zips and Minutemen.
For years Wisconsin has littered, if not filled, its nonconference schedule with less-than-stellar competition that might put up as much of a fight on the field as an actual cupcake.
The program has plenty of good reasons to shy away from stiff competition in the early goings of the season. For one, the Big Ten schedule can be tough enough with the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska filling in the schedule. And a couple of tune-up games can be critical for a team to hit its stride come time to suit up with conference opponents.
Students can’t complain too much about the somewhat lackluster nonconference schedules in past seasons either. Wisconsin’s usual shellacking of these teams gives the student section an excuse to leave after Jump Around and pound a couple more beer bongs or get a few more games of beer pong in with their roommate’s dad before their afternoon naps.
But what if the unthinkable happens and the cupcake fights back? A la the 2008 Cal Poly game where Wisconsin may have left Camp Randall sick to its stomach if not for a missed extra point in overtime by the mustangs.
Just like eating a cupcake when all you are getting is empty calories and a bigger gut, playing a schedule full a subpar competition and a team or two from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is dancing with the devil. If you destroy the team, you did what you were expected to do and then have to answer questions about running up the score. If the game is too close, all of hell breaks loose while fans and reporters run around like chickens with their heads cut off. And if God forbid you lose one of these games, you might as well wave as the season passes out the window.
Not only is playing low-level competition a lose-lose situation, it is expensive. According to foxsportswisconsin.com, the Big Ten alone will pay a combined total of $4,945,000 to play FCS schools in the 2013 season. Wisconsin will be paying its FCS opponent – Tennessee Tech – $500,000 and UMass – an FBS school that went 1-11 last year – $900,000 to play in Madison this season.
Of course, it is expensive to book games with formidable opponents as well – Wisconsin will be paying BYU, who went 8-5 last year, $1 million to come to Camp Randall this season – but at least you are getting what you pay for.
Earlier this year, the Big Ten stepped in and played the mother figure for its programs by putting the most delicious cupcakes out of reach by banning games with FCS schools starting in 2016.
But recently Wisconsin has gone above and beyond in its search for nonconference opponents by booking games with true powerhouses like LSU and Alabama on huge stages like Houston and Cowboys’ stadium.
It seems Wisconsin has grown sick of the taste of cupcakes and is upgrading to the main course. No doubt the program’s three straight Rose Bowl appearances has aided in the University’s quest to schedule marquee nonconference matchups that could set the stage for a special season.
I applaud Wisconsin’s efforts to take a chance and take a shot at some of college football’s titans and see where it measures up because it would be easy for the Badgers to continue putting teams like the Golden Eagles and the Minutemen on the schedule and have a team like the Sun Devils – who went 8-5 last season – as the highlight matchup of the nonconference schedule.
Of course, it is still OK to indulge in cupcakes every once in a while. With a team like LSU or Alabama on the nonconference slate, I don’t care who else fills in the other games, that is already a difficult and strong enough schedule for me.
So with a game already locked up with LSU next fall, I bid a fond adieu to the regular servings of cupcakes as this fall seems to be the final season with only desserts on the menu.
Disclaimer: The Arizona State game at Sun Devil Stadium will be no walk in the park but is still not a game I will get all giddy to watch. It was fun while it lasted but now that the Badgers have been treated to some steak dinners in Pasadena, they may be getting used to the finer meals of the nonconference schedule and go on a diet from cupcakes.
Spencer is a senior majoring in journalism. Think they should bring the cupcakes back? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.