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: Bucky is Big Ten’s Best

For the enduring fans of the Wisconsin football team – and the team itself – nobody phrased the feeling any better than J.J. Watt did following the Badgers’ 70-23 exercise of supremacy over Northwestern Saturday.

“When you have a chance to win a Big Ten championship, that doesn’t come every year, that doesn’t necessarily come every decade,” he said.

It certainly doesn’t.


Not but 9 years old, I can just barely remember the images and sounds from the last time Wisconsin triumphed in the Rose Bowl after taking the conference title. In fact, as I’m looking back at this old memory, I can’t even say with confidence whether I’m actually thinking of the 1999 or 2000 edition of the Ron Dayne train and the powerhouse team that ran with him all the way to Granddaddy Glory.

After the glory days of the ’90s though, the Badgers were mostly out of the spotlight. As a lifelong Wisconsinite and Badger fan, over those years it generally felt like another Big Ten title and Rose Bowl bid could be had in the future but not necessarily during any given season. It was all about just waiting for the pendulum to eventually swing back.

Then Hall of Fame coach Barry Alvarez left. And as the years passed by, sour sentiments brewed under newbie Bret Bielema’s head coaching seat. But that was before this year.

So an accomplishment like this means a lot to Badger Nation. This program is not like one of Ohio State’s, where this sort of thing has become the status quo.

Over the last seven games, the Badgers have been as unstoppable as a rhinoceros running downhill. They truly deserve to call themselves Big Ten champions and join the chatter concerning who’s the best in the country. And I will be there to talk them up whenever that conversation starts.

But, as a fan, there’s still one thing that’s kind of bothering me, and it’s that all three teams invited to the Big Ten podium are standing at the top, No. 1 spot.

I imagine many Badger fans feel similarly. Wisconsin is probably the hottest team in the country right now, it’s made fools out of other teams and the general consensus (even outside Wisconsin) is that the Cardinal & White are the Big Ten’s No. 1 team.

You can’t tell me that if a Big Ten trophy was presented to Bucky, Sparty and Brutus, that they wouldn’t all give each other a slight look of resentment (or perhaps a shoulder-nudge) before holding it up confidently.

For some reason, this reminds me of the 2007-08 NFL season. The Packers took the NFC North and seemed poised for a Super Bowl championship that year. But there would have been one indelible stain even if they had won it all – they got swept by the Bears earlier in the season. It’s just all about casting the rivals aside and speeding far past them.

What’s happened to the Badgers though, is not quite the same, sure. True to their “hottest team in the country” tag, they should be going to Pasadena for a skirmish on New Year’s Day, deservedly so.

But hey, if you’re like me and feel a wee bit of irritation about splitting the crown three ways with rivals, at least we know that this will never happen again with next year’s conference championship game. How’s that for timeliness?

It’s unfortunate that the title couldn’t be decided with a championship game this year. This is without doubt the first time I’ve ever felt confident in saying the Badgers could take on anyone thrown at them – even at a neutral site.

As selection Sunday nears, Michigan State head coach Mark Dantanio has made a point in reminding everyone that his group beat Wisconsin “convincingly.” He’s not wrong either, but if the Badgers and Spartans could take this little tiff to Lucas Oil Stadium and settle it this weekend, the Badgers would win that game.

The trailblazing that UW has performed over the last seven games is all thanks to MSU. Without that chip on Bucky’s shoulder, who knows where this team would be now. Sparty’s gone through some close calls lately and a convincing loss of their own versus Iowa. That kind of momentum would get knocked on its tail end with Wisconsin’s offense rolling like Sonic the Hedgehog.

Even though Wisconsin and Ohio State would never meet to decide a Big Ten title under the future subdivisions, it’s fun to imagine a rematch. This game would be much more interesting. OSU would be the one with a chipped shoulder and there would be no intoxicating home field advantage for UW. But the Badgers never shy away from the Buckeyes.

That game could probably go either way but lest we forget, the entire scenario would never happen to begin with.

But really, what I guess I’m trying to say with all of this is – and with all respect to the Spartans and the Buckeyes:

The Badgers should be on that podium by themselves.

Elliot is a junior with an undecided major. How happy are you that UW is the Big Ten champ? Are you bothered at all that you have to share it with MSU and OSU? Email him your cheers and grumbles at [email protected].

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