Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hughes: Badgers still have Big Ten hopes

Luckily, the Wisconsin Badgers’ season isn’t made of glass
quite like we might have initially thought.

The hopes of a Rose Bowl bid and/or Big Ten title appeared
to be shattered in the wake of Michigan State slapping a nice, big “L” on
Wisconsin’s forehead in the Big Ten opener.

But those cries of disappointment have since been delayed
following the joyous stampede at Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday that ensued
after the 31-18 victory over previously No. 1 Ohio State. For much of the game,
OSU looked as overpowered by Cardinal and White assailants as Camp Randall’s
field security and PA announcer (but I’ll give the latter two a mulligan).


Now that some, or most, of the pieces from the loss against
the Spartans have been repaired, how far does No. 11 Wisconsin now stand from
at least a share of its first conference title since 1999 and a trip to

Right now, three main foes stand between Wisconsin and the
conference crown, and luckily, the Badgers will have the opportunity to
directly cast aside two of them: Iowa and Michigan (with undefeated Michigan
State, obviously, being in control of its own destiny in the Big Ten).

So first, let’s worry about what the Badgers need to do
before we start laying responsibilities on others.

They’ll need to win out, of course – but a trip to Iowa City
is only the first test. Three of the Badgers’ last five games will be on the
road, including matchups against the touch-and-go offense of Michigan and the
surprisingly 2-0 in Big Ten play Boilermakers of Purdue. And then to round out the last of the
home games, Northwestern stops by, who you can always count on to hock a loogie
in your season’s face.

All of the above are doable, as long as the Badgers bring
with them the same kind of mentality that they wore on their sleeves versus
Ohio State. It didn’t take a sober person to realize that coming into last
Saturday’s game, Wisconsin’s determination was unmatched – and that goes for
the players and the coaching staff alike.

They simply didn’t allow Ohio State to be the authority in
that contest. The Badgers went toe-to-toe, got in the Buckeyes’ faces and didn’t
cut any corners.

“They lined up and beat us,” OSU linebacker Brian Rolle said
after the game. “That’s it.”

Sure, a win over OSU might come easier if it’s at Camp
Randall and filled with a crowd so invigorated an engineer probably would have
loved to derive a way to generate electricity from it, but the days leading up
to the game were filled with increased press coverage and pressure, and the
Badgers still played a sound game.

Winning against a gritty team like Iowa in Kinnick Stadium a
week after enjoying the comforts of home will be quite a challenge, but not if
the Badgers adopt the same mind set they had against Ohio State.

And there should be no shortage of determination from the
players or coaching staff in this contest. After the MSU game, the Badger
nation wondered if head coach Bret Bielema would ever get a signature win over
a ranked conference opponent (he was 1-8 in that regard before OSU).

Well, he finally accomplished that, but Bielema still has to
deliver elsewhere.

Now, Bielema is returning to his alma mater in search for
his first signature conference win on the road, and there’s plenty at stake when
considering the rivalry alone. It’s the last time the Badgers and Hawkeyes will
fight over the Heartland Trophy until at least 2013, so if Wisconsin wants to
again experience the high of vexing a conference rival, and if Bielema wants to
silence doubters once more, there’s no better time to avenge last year’s defeat
at home and steal back that bronze bull for a couple years.

If Wisconsin can get past that, then all they have to do is
contain Denard Robinson and run wild on the maize and blue defense when they
visit The Big House, and then land a punch of retribution against Northwestern
at home.

All the while though, they have to keep an eye on Michigan

If Wisconsin wants a piece of the Big Ten pie, MSU need only
lose once, but I was too young to vividly remember the last time the Badgers
were in the Rose Bowl, so I want to see a return to Pasadena more than

The prospect of Michigan State losing twice before season’s
end is better than you might think. Their biggest wins have come against
Wisconsin, Michigan, and Notre Dame – the latter two aren’t even ranked anymore.
Not to mention the fact that the Spartans have only played one game on the road
thus far – against the Wolverines, a cozy hour and 15-minute bus ride away from
home – and struggled early against Illinois last week.

The best chances for Sparty to lose his swagger have already
arrived. Michigan State takes a trip to Northwestern, who is coming off of a
buy week and, like I said earlier, is always ready to play spoiler, which is
then followed by a trip to Iowa City.

I’d like to think the Spartans don’t stand a chance against
the Hawkeyes, especially if the Hawkeyes will be coming off of a loss to
Wisconsin on their home field the week before. If Northwestern can’t do the
dirty deed, then perhaps Purdue can surprise them, or Penn State defends their
home field. It’s certainly plausible.

For a team gaining momentum every week, losing two of the
last five is a bit questionable, but not out
the question. And if Wisconsin adopts that same determined zeal that was
seen against Ohio State and socks Iowa, it could help the Badgers’ last minute
scramble for a rose in more ways than one.

Elliot is a junior
without a declared major at the moment. After the big win against OSU, what do
you think UW’s chances are at winning the Big Ten? Are you optimistic? Email
him at
[email protected]

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