Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Doesn’t smell like a winner

What does a Big Ten championship football team look like? I ask only because at 3-0, the Badgers still don’t look like that kind of team.

Maybe if the offense would have scored during any part of the first three quarters during the past two games I wouldn’t have this feeling of doom and gloom.

Maybe if Anthony Davis was running wild on Wisconsin’s opposition I wouldn’t be holding my breath waiting for the bubble to burst.


Maybe if the passing attack would just create a big play every now and then against the very mediocre opponents they’ve faced I wouldn’t be waiting for the sky to fall.

That’s an awful lot of maybes for a team that is 3-0.

Thank God for cup-cakes and Bret Bielema’s defense or you could add one more maybe to the list, like maybe the Badgers wouldn’t be 3-0 right now.

The thing is, since Wisconsin came out in impressive fashion and crushed Central Florida into the field turf of Camp Randall, there hasn’t been too much to get excited about in a pair of ugly wins. Those two wins saw the defense continue to make strides toward being one of the best in recent memory, but seemed to set the offense back a long way.

When UNLV holds you to just 18 points, 11 of which were procured by the defense, there is something wrong. This is the same UNLV team that got hammered by Tennessee the week earlier 42-17, where not one, but two freshmen quarterbacks made their collegiate debuts a success by picking apart the Rebels’ defense for 241 yards. Wisconsin’s single freshman quarterback threw for merely 131 yards.

John Stocco by no means should shoulder all of the blame here.

Wisconsin’s ground attack, which has historically been anywhere from very good to dominant, was only average against what on paper was an overmatched UNLV squad. While 145 yards isn’t an awful day, the 3.3 yards per carry certainly was not awe inspiring. Sure Anthony Davis was absent from this game, but the offensive line should have been blowing open holes big enough for anyone to run through for big gains.

Even after a game like that, there is no reason to panic. Even the best teams struggle every now and then against lesser opponents, but they come back sharper than ever in the next game.

The Badgers were as dull as a letter opener in their next contest.

After another game with less than 300 yards of total offense against an Arizona team that came nowhere near respectable last year, the Badger offense should have been concerned. Sure Arizona has a new coach and a new attitude, but only coming up with nine points against the Wildcats should have set off alarms all over the place for the Badgers.

Again, the passing attack was mostly ineffective, although tropical storm Javier may have had a hand in that. The running attack was better, but still not even close to what Badger fans are accustomed to seeing on any given Saturday.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s the Badgers’ offense 16, the Badgers’ defense 11 and the opponents 10 over the past two games. Wisconsin racked up just 269 yards a game in those two wins. Hardly mind boggling numbers, especially when compared to the 186.5 yards per contest the opponents are putting up.

Remember how well the Wisconsin defense has been playing? Well apparently the UNLV and Arizona defenses are only about 83 yards a game worse.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Purdue played the same kind of cream-puffs the past two games and racked up a combined score of (just a second while I get my abacus out) 110-7. Now that’s taking care of business.

The fact is, Wisconsin has been plagued by this kind of play for the past couple of seasons. They have done just enough to win. Sometimes they even underachieve to the point that they find themselves on the losing end of an embarrassing upset. When the spotlight is on however, it seems the Badgers remember to shine. Remember last year’s Ohio State game in what was an otherwise unmemorable season?

What is most troublesome about this trend is that it is the polar opposite of the Rose Bowl teams of the late ’90s. Those teams went out and played consistently well every game. They didn’t wait until the fourth quarter of games to put away weak opponents. They didn’t play Jekyll and Hyde all season long, leaving fans and coaches alike wondering which team would show up. That’s how they earned two trips to Pasadena.

With Penn State and Illinois up first on the schedule for Wisconsin, there is reason to be concerned. If the Badgers can’t regain the consistency that has been one of the program’s hallmarks during the Alvarez era, these two very winnable games may turn into nightmare affairs.

There is no quick cure for what is ailing the Badger offense, but a return to Barry Alvarez’s conservative offense would be a start.

The thing that set Wisconsin apart in the late ’90s was the dominance the defense enjoyed and the swagger the offense had. The offense knew that they could have run the same play 10 times in a row, and the opponent still would struggle to stop it because the Badgers just flat out executed better than anyone else. Wisconsin needs to recapture that.

With half of that equation, namely the dominant defense, seemingly back in place, the Badgers need to find their swagger and execution again if they hope to replicate the success of the last two Wisconsin Rose Bowl teams.

Quite frankly, I only vaguely remember what a Big Ten championship team looks like, but I know that what I see right now in this Badger squad doesn’t look like what I remember.

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