Wisconsin enters the most important two-game stretch of its season with a home game tomorrow against Illinois and a road game next week against Purdue. Yes, you read that correctly: Illinois and Purdue. We're talking about two teams that combined for a 6-10 conference record last season. Unfortunately, this is what the wacky nature of the 2012 Leaders Division has reduced the Badgers' season to. Thanks to NCAA sanctions, Penn State won't be in the official running for the division over the next four seasons. Ohio State will be back in the running next year as long as they don't get themselves in another mess between now and then. But for 2012, the only true measuring sticks are the Boilermakers and the Fighting Illini, unless you happen to see some well-hidden potential in the Hoosiers.
Illinois is a mess, coming off of two straight blowout losses at home to Louisiana Tech and Penn State. The team has been struck with the injury bug all season, and the coaches have had to simplify the offensive gameplan as a result. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has dealt with an ankle injury that may limit his mobility in tomorrow's game, which would be a huge weight off of a Wisconsin defense's shoulders that struggled with containing Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez at times last weekend.
Purdue will be a tougher test next week, with more talent on the roster than Illinois and also the fact that the game is in West Lafayette. But we still haven't seen the Boilermakers play a Big Ten opponent so there's not enough information available to say with certainty how strong they are this season. But first and foremost, Wisconsin needs to take care of business at home tomorrow. Bielema's tunnel vision right now is strong, and for good reason. Nothing seems to come easily to this Badgers team, and going 2-0 in this crucial stretch of the season could prove to be difficult, even if it is only Illinois and Purdue.
Illinois and Wisconsin are last and second-to-last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed this season. Wisconsin's offensive line, quarterback Joel Stave, and new protection schemes brought in by offensive coordinator Matt Canada all share the blame for the Badgers' protection issues.
When I saw an article headline talking about strengthening non-conference schedules in college football, I thought there was a chance the Badgers would be mentioned. Sure enough, it is noted here that Wisconsin is trying to beef up its future schedules.
President Barack Obama spared the Badger men's basketball team from an afternoon of running the hill at Elver Park.
Shawn Eichorst, who was the deputy AD at Wisconsin as recently as 2011, is Nebraska's new athletic director. But controversy has erupted as some wonder why Tom Osborne had little say in the choice of his successor.
Danny O'Brien has dug himself a larger hole thanks to the 4th quarter hand-off blunder in Lincoln, but Bielema also has himself to blame for making the quarterback switch in the first place.