Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW’s season on the line

And just like that, it could be over. All of it.

The banner year, the Big Ten title. The miraculous return of the superstar playmaker. The serendipitously sublime swan song for Brooks Bollinger and Ben and Al Johnson and Jake Sprague.


Unless, of course, the Wisconsin football team slaps the paddles on its collective chest, yells “clear” and shocks itself back into legitimacy with a win over the dominating Ohio State Buckeyes this Saturday.

The Badgers appeared to be sleeping in letting Zack Mills pass for 287 yards two weeks ago, and they certainly hoped they were dreaming while watching Indiana’s Gibran Hamdan lead a fourth-quarter charge to drop them to 0-2 in conference.

After only two conference games, it’s time for Wisconsin to wake up, or else the Badgers’ title hopes, just like that neighbor’s friendly but hopelessly blind dog that doesn’t seem to stop over much anymore, will be put to sleep.

The Badgers’ entire season rests on the outcome of the showdown against the No. 4 Buckeyes.

With a loss, UW drops to 0-3 in the conference, matching the start of the 2000 squad, which was only outplayed by Drew Brees the rest of the season and finished 9-4. But those Badgers had already dropped a game to perennial tormentor Michigan, who these Badgers face at the Big House Nov. 16, and the Iowa squad they topped 13-7 didn’t approach the talent level of this year’s team, who UW travels to play Nov. 2. With a loss, 9-4 won’t seem quite so feasible this year.

With a loss, there’s no reason for Lee Evans to even attempt a comeback on his surgically repaired knee. With the star not returning yet, a comeback at any date seems more and more uncertain, and playing five games on a mediocre squad would be a waste of his final year of eligibility.

With a win, however, the prestige of this year’s squad, which took a serious hit after the IU loss, is instantly and definitively restored.

Despite winning squeakers over Northwestern and Cincinnati, the Buckeyes have appeared invincible ever since their 25-7 domination of Washington State. With the possible exception of Penn State, OSU is viewed as being a level or two above the rest of the Big Ten competition, at least by the pollsters.

Beating the unbeatable Bucks would catapult UW back into the national rankings, which it fell out of after the IU loss. More importantly, with the only two other undefeated Big Ten teams, Michigan and Iowa, still on the Badgers’ schedule, a win would renew the preseason hopes of winning a conference title.

Sounds nice, but how exactly do the Badgers stop a Buckeye offense that’s put up 38 points per game when they gave up 22 in the second half alone to Indiana? And how do they halt the 230-pound truck known as Maurice Clarett, when they couldn’t tackle Clarence Farmer, or Larry Johnson or Michael “Burner” Turner?

If scoring touchdowns is Clarett’s job, which it seems to be, then he should be the TD employee of the month. He’s already broken the OSU single-season frosh record with 15 TDs, 13 on the ground, and he’s averaging 141.2 yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry.

With Clarett possessing the ability to dominate games like he has, the outcome of the Ohio State contest will likely rest on the shoulders of the Wisconsin defense, which will be considerably less broad if linebacker Jeff Mack misses another game with the stinger he suffered against Penn State. Mack has been the anchor of the UW defensive unit all season, patrolling the middle of the field and laying crunching hits, and he still leads the team in tackles, even after missing the Indiana contest.

Kyle McCorison, who started in Mack’s place last Saturday, sometimes looked lost in coverage and often looked undersized. On more than one occasion he took the worst of the hits dished out by Indiana’s backs, and he recorded only six tackles. Mack had been averaging over nine per game. If Mack is indeed out, it will be McCorison, who’s short on size (6 feet, 235 lbs.) but long on heart, who will need to stifle Clarett for UW to have a chance.

With a win over OSU, Lee Evans’ return, assuming he sits against the Buckeyes, suddenly becomes feasible again. If the Badgers jump back into the rankings and are at 1-2 in conference, the return of the All-American could spark UW on a late-season run toward Big Ten legitimacy. The man is a game-breaker, no question, and the double-teams he would undoubtedly draw would mean one less tackler for Anthony Davis to contend with, one less pass rusher for the too-often-porous UW line to block.

At this point, Evans is probably concerned about his draft stock, which was sky high after his record-setting 2001 season, but now is obviously in question. If the Badgers beat OSU, the national spotlight would once again shine on UW, and four or five big games for a Big Ten contender would be plenty to catapult him back into the first round.

Sure, the flanker could redshirt, but he must realize that with Brooks Bollinger and three-fifths of the offensive line leaving at the end of the year, the personnel just might not be there next year for the Big Ten title run that the Badgers could still possibly make this season.

That is, if they beat Ohio State, of course.

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