Well, we're not where we expected to be after week 1.
Scratch that: we're exactly where some people expected us to be. But we're still looking for a solution and finding nothing but the sound of silence.
After the jump: A comparison of the coming Rivalry Game vs. the Golden Gophers...
One week into Big Ten play sees the Badgers at 0-1 in conference play.
If you've lost hope already, then you don't know what this team can do. Wisconsin lost their conference opener in 1999 and 2006 and rebounded to 7-1 conference seasons, making and winning the 2000 Rose Bowl and coming within a Michigan loss of the BCS in 2006 (we still got jobbed).
This season isn't like that. Michigan didn't steal Saturday's game; Michigan State outplayed Wisconsin in every conceivable fashion and won a game they NEEDED to win before their big showdown against the Wolverines (GO SPARTANS!) this coming weekend. Bottom line: the Badgers got beat, and that's not a feeling I've had since the Penn State and Iowa games in 2008, when we got so thoroughly outplayed that both teams turned the games into unwatchable routs. Again, the Michigan St. Spartans were the better team Saturday.
This weekend, the Badgers play a very familiar foe. There's reason to be worried, too, the 2008 game was, I feel, the first come-from-behind win Wisconsin got under Bret Bielema. That game was freezing, it was snowing, and Kyle Jefferson was taken off the field in an ambulance after one of the scariest hits in college football history. But Wisconsin forced an incredible TWO safeties, outscored Minnesota 28-10 in the second half, and took control of a game they had trailed 21-7 at the half. It was an incredible turnaround, and it ensured Minnesota's flameout to 7-5 from 7-1.
This weekend, I don't know. Minnesota has played very poorly on defense to this point, only their offense saving them in losses against South Dakota and Northwestern. They could have WON the Northwestern game but for a huge defensive breakdown and miracle FG. But they are a different team on the road (or so they hope). After starting out an unfathomable 0-4 at home, Minnesota's next road game is at US, and they're angry. They have to be after double digit defeats at the hands of NIU and USC. They have to be after they lost by 4 points to Northwestern and South Dakota. But an angry team is not a disciplined team, and an undisciplined team will shoot itself with penalties.
I fully expect Minnesota will give us all they've got on Saturday. A comparison for me is Michigan-ND 2007. Michigan was trying to rebound from an incredible upset and the worst home loss in school history, ND had just been smacked by Penn State and thrashed by GT. Michigan shut out Notre Dame 38-0 and went on an unbelievable run, winning their next eight games and eventually defeating the Heisman Trophy winner that season. Notre Dame bottomed out and went 3-9.
Another comparison is that a Wisconsin win will turn '10 Minnesota into '09 Purdue. That team suffered 5 consecutive losses (3 of which were at home) before it turned around, put a complete game together and STUNNED Ohio State. They went 5-7, but they pulled success out of utter, unmitigated disaster. Minnesota could do the same with a loss Saturday.
A loss Saturday for Wisconsin is also possible. Likely consequences: In addition to snapping the streak at six games, the bottom falls out and "Fire Bret Bielema" is not only heard but ACTED upon, no matter what the results against Ohio State and Iowa. John Clay departs early for the NFL in the midst of utter chaos in the Athletic Department. The loss sets the program back a decade. And they drop out of the polls for good and no politicking will save that.
Bottom line: This Saturday is going to be a must-watch game, one that could turn Wisconsin up and Minnesota down, or have Minnesota pull Wisconsin down with it.
The season isn't over. I'm not happy about having this game SO SOON (I'd like to play Purdue now, please) but it's a must-win for Bret Bielema.