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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Bleach: A defense – yes, a defense – of Bielema

Saturday, in Ann Arbor, will be a wonderful clash of contrasts.

Good vs. Evil. Power vs. Speed. Stud vs. Whore.

But most importantly, we have the polar-opposite battle of the minds that is Bret Bielema versus Rich Rodriguez. Not to use too much hyperbole, but as the Badgers and Wolverines do battle, two different breeds of coaching will be duking it out for conference supremacy as well.


First, there is the obvious opposition in playing styles.

The Badgers subscribe to the five yards and a spray of FieldTurf method. The Wolverines prefer to spread the field as far as possible and hit defenses with speed from all angles. Wisconsin moves the ball between 320-pound behemoths on the line, who allow running backs like James White to play peek-a-boo with defenders. Michigan prefers quicker, smaller – relatively speaking of course – O-lineman who probably aren’t even familiar with their teammates, they split so wide at the line. Denard Robinson is instructed to run whenever he sees a lane. Scott Tolzien’s 40-yard dash might not even register on a stopwatch.

Yes, it will be highly amusing to see the old school versus new-fangled offense, but the differences between Bielema and Rodriguez run even deeper.

When he first took the job, Rodriguez did little to temper expectations decreeing: “Our goal is to be the best program in the nation.” While there have been worse promises and goals to set – we are looking at you, Tim Brewster – it seems like the better move would have been to say something like: “We are trying to get better every day.”

Which is exactly what Bielema would say. (Or you know, something about going 1-0, but it is the same difference.)

Even this week, some of Rodriguez’s players were talking about Ohio State when Wisconsin was on the docket.

“We need this Ohio State win bigger than anything,” senior cornerback James Rogers said this week to the Detroit Free Press. “That’s something we’ve been waiting on, and I guarantee that’s where our focus is going to be at real soon.”

It’s not a crime certainly, to talk about the biggest rivalry of the year, but when you have the No. 6 team in the nation up next, it is a little peculiar. And it is certainly something Bielema would never allow. Trust me, you can’t get the Badgers to look past Austin Peay (or Indiana) in interviews.

Then there are the simple ethics of each coach.

No one will accuse Bielema of being a saint. He is as arrogant and audacious as football coaches come.

But Bielema has never had any major violations levied against the program or an NCAA investigation into his practice hours. To an outsider, Bielema has handled every disciplinary problem with aplomb. He has kicked talented players off the team (Kraig Appleton) and likely starters (Aubrey Pleasant and Shane Carter).

Rodriguez has simply decided football was more important than studying for his student-athletes.

The differences in coaching styles reflect in the attitudes of their teams.

The Badgers have turned the ball over the fewest times in the Big Ten and are the least penalized team in the conference. Michigan has turned the ball over more than any other Big Ten team – and three times as much as Wisconsin – and ranks in the bottom half of the conference in penalties taken.

Disciplined vs. undisciplined can probably be added to the list, too.

The ultimate job of the coach is to win games, so perhaps most of this is simple background noise. Very few Alabama fans or Kentucky supporters care that Nick Saban and John Calipari are more disgusting than the cast of the Jersey Shore.

On the other hand, Bielema’s career record is 47-15, while Rodriguez has gone 15-19 at Michigan and will be heading to just his first bowl game this season.

As any good English professor knows, there might be something to learn from these contrasts.

Michael is a senior majoring in journalism and is the co-author of “” Think RichRod is a nice guy? Let him know at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @michaelbleach.

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