Here’s a news flash for Wisconsin football fans — beating Penn State does not mean this team is a title contender.
Only two days after the Badgers defeated Penn State 18-6, all of the talk immediately concentrated on how UW was going to fare for the rest of the
season. During Monday’s weekly press conference, members of the media asked questions like, “How does this team compare to the Rose Bowl teams?” and “Do you think this team is ready to make a run for the conference title?”
I don’t know what game everyone else was watching, but this team does not compare favorably to the Big Ten championship teams of 1998 and 1999, and beating a lowly Penn State team does not mean you’re prepared to beat Northwestern or another legitimate title contender.
Sure, had this been in the mid-1990s, being PSU would have significance. But this is not the same team that used to dominate the Big Ten. This is a sub-par team that even the State College locals are willing to criticize.
And as far as comparing this UW squad to the 1998 and 1999 teams, even head coach Barry Alvarez admits there are key components missing.
For starters, although this team has played four games, the players are still inexperienced according to NCAA standards. As Alvarez pointed out, the Rose Bowl teams had veteran players at almost every position. Not to mention they had Ron Dayne and a solid kicking team.
Alvarez was asked to compare Anthony Davis to Dayne on Monday, and to the surprise of many media members in the room, he rates Davis ahead of Dayne at this stage of his career. Dayne didn’t start until the fifth game of his freshman year, and he didn’t really make a big impact until midway through the season. Davis has started all four games for the Badgers thus far, and he has obviously already made an impact with his 614 yards.
However, when UW went to the Rose Bowl, Dayne was in his junior and senior seasons.
And then there’s the young and struggling kicking game. Remember the days
when a 30-yard field goal seemed automatic? Then you must remember the names John Hall, Matt Davenport and Vitaly Pisetsky. Right now, the young Mike
Allen is a long way from their level of consistency. Alvarez and Allen both
think he’ll get better, but as for now maybe the Badgers should consider using Pisetsky’s talents on the field during games instead of just during practice, as he has been doing since he was cut by the Bears earlier this season.
But Allen is not alone in his kicking woes. Let’s face it, not everyone can average 50-plus yards like former Badger Kevin Stemke did. And with an average of 40.5 yards a punt, R.J Morse and Kirk Munden are a ways off Stemke’s mark.
Like Alvarez said, this team is young, and as Brooks Bollinger added, they are improving with every game. But let them be what they are this year — a team amid a rebuilding year that will qualify for a bowl, just not a BCS bowl.
Comparing this team to the squads of the past is ridiculous after one game. Everyone wants to believe so badly that this team is going to miraculously improve and go undefeated through the Big Ten schedule, but that’s not going to happen.
Two weeks ago everyone doubted if this team would ever win a game again after they lost to Fresno State. This is the same team that lost to the Bulldogs. Fresno State is a legitimate team, and Penn State is not. That is the difference between the Sept. 8 and Sept. 22 games.
You can claim that it was the lineup change with Bollinger starting and Jim Sorgi on the sidelines, but all they really did was get yards in different ways. Bollinger ran for yards and handed off to Davis more, and Sorgi passed to Evans for long completions and also handed off to Davis.
So when the Badgers run all over the I-AA Hilltoppers this weekend, don’t
jump to the conclusion that we’ve improved so much that now we’re not only Big Ten contenders, but also national contenders. Take the lopsided victory for what it will be — a cake walk over an easy team that came here knowing that they were expected to lose.
Go ahead and celebrate afterwards and compare Davis to Dayne until you’re
blue in the face, just don’t chant “Big Ten champs,” or make the mistake of
buying Rose Bowl tickets — remember, it is the national championship this year, and no, the Badgers will not be in it.