Wisconsin didn’t take the field this week, but the Badgers still got one of the biggest wins of their season.
Iowa demolished the fifth-ranked, undefeated Michigan State Spartans 37-6 at Kinnick Stadium, therefore creating a four-way tie atop the Big Ten standings.
Michigan State’s loss was huge for Wisconsin since the Badgers’ only defeat came at the hands of Sparty. With the recent wins against Iowa and Ohio State, Wisconsin currently owns head-to-head tiebreaker advantages over the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes and if MSU loses one more game – most likely at Penn State in the season finale – UW could win the Big Ten outright.
Yeah, pretty exciting for a bye week. I’d go so far as to say it was one of the best bye weeks in Wisconsin history. Now, the Badgers’ performance against Purdue Saturday will have a big say in the accuracy of that statement, but this bye week is just loaded with positives.
Here are four reasons why Wisconsin’s week off has been so perfect.
Top teams fall
Iowa’s victory over Michigan State was huge for the reasons stated above and now that win over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City looks even more impressive. But UW was also aided by the play of future fellow conference member Nebraska. The Cornhuskers knocked off previously unbeaten Missouri allowing the Badgers to move up another spot in the rankings, making them the highest ranked Big Ten team in all polls.
And with UW possibly entering the running for a BCS at-large bid, the rise in the BCS standings to No. 9 makes Wisconsin more appealing (OSU’s position at No.11 in the BCS, now two spots behind UW also helps in the tie-breaker scenario) . With MSU and Missouri losing their first games of the year, the Badgers are now the second-highest one-loss team in the country behind only Alabama in the human polls, who has a late season matchup against No.1 Auburn remaining (plus a potential SEC championship game).
Two other teams ahead of Wisconsin, TCU and Utah, will square off this Saturday meaning Wisconsin would move up at least one more spot in the rankings with either team losing and a win over the Boilermakers.
Prime time for recruiting
Take the mindset of a college head coach for a second. You’ve just recently taken down the No.1 team in the country at home, with ESPN College Gameday in town. Everyone across the country saw your fans storm the field after your squad upended a perennial power in Ohio State. Then a week later you travel to Iowa City and come away with a one-point victory in an instant classic. Your program is getting tons of national exposure, your team is rising in the rankings. Man, if only you had more time to get out there and recruit with morale at an all time high.
Well what do you know, the bye week comes up big once again.
The Wisconsin coaching staff always uses the bye week to travel across the country and get work done on the recruiting trail and now they got to take advantage of this week off by talking to recruits about two of the biggest wins in Wisconsin football history. It’s a dream scenario for a head coach.
UW has already picked up five verbal commitments since the win over Ohio State, and now the Badger staff can use all this momentum to go after some high-profile targets as they look to complete the 2011 class.
Badgers in desperate need of rest
The injuries have begun to pile up for the Badgers and if they had to play this past Saturday the starting lineup would have undergone a major makeover.
Luckily, the injuries to some of Wisconsin’s’ top players (Lance Kendricks, James White, Pete Konz, Nick Toon, Mike Taylor, Jordan Kohout) all appear to be minor setbacks and the week of rest could give those injured enough time to heal without missing a single start.
UW couldn’t have asked for a more perfectly scheduled bye week due to the recent string of injuries and the time off will greatly benefit the Badgers as they hit the stretch run of the season.
Shift in preparation
Wisconsin’s conference slate is divided in half by the week off. In the first half UW faced Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Iowa and the final four games include meetings with Purdue, Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern.
Now, the first four Big Ten teams UW met all used a pro-style offense. The Wisconsin defense knew the opponent was intent on running the football and utilizing power formations.
In the second half of the schedule however, the opponents all run a variation of the spread.
Instead of having to rapidly shift gears to prepare for a completely different style, the UW coaching staff got an extra week to get the Badgers ready for the wide-open attacks they are about to face.
Coaches everywhere will tell you that extra prep time is invaluable.
And keep in mind, Bret Bielema’s squad was impressive coming off bye weeks a season ago.
The Badgers shutout Purdue, winning 37-0 last year after a bye and crushed Hawaii 51-10 on the road after a rare week off late in the season.
Wisconsin used the extra time wisely last year and it will look to do the same here with the Big Ten title up for grabs.
Sure, the week off won’t be as memorable as the last couple Badger wins but in the grand scheme of things this bye week will go down as a crucial point in Wisconsin’s season.
The Badgers should be recharged and refocused with four games left. Everything seems to be falling into place from the placement of this bye week to the outcome of games around the country for UW to land a BCS bid.
This much needed bye week has come and gone. Now let’s see if the Badgers can get themselves a Big Ten championship.
Max is a senior majoring in journalism. Did you enjoy the bye week as much as he did? Let him know at [email protected]