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Wisconsin's struggles this season have been confusing, but the future of the program looks bright. Even in a Rose Bowl season, the Badgers would have trouble winning in Lincoln, which is why they have nothing to lose tomorrow.
Wisconsin's season to date has embarked on a path few saw coming. The Badgers have looked vulnerable in all four games they have played, a quarterback change has been made, the running back whose image is painted on both sides of a Madison city bus has only three touchdowns in four games and lingering concussion concerns, and the offensive line, normally a bastion of stability and strength for the Badgers, is currently in the process of rebuilding itself under a fill-in offensive line coach. And now Big Ten conference play begins, where the Badgers can't fall back on home field advantage as often and the opponents are tougher, down year in the conference or not.
But through all of that adversity, the future outlook for the Badgers is actually somewhat rosy. Admittedly to the untrained eye, Wisconsin seems to have promising players in two redshirt freshmen, QB Joel Stave and RB Melvin Gordon. The Badgers also picked a good year to go through a rebuilding process as the rest of the Big Ten looks like a mess, and only three other teams are eligible to win the Leaders Division this year. The schedule this year isn't even as daunting as it could be, as it's the Buckeyes and Spartans visiting Wisconsin after both defeated the Badgers on their home fields last season.
The oddsmakers at Vegas will tell you Wisconsin has approximately a 20% chance of winning tomorrow. In my mind, this is a game that the Badgers only have a 50-50 chance of winning when they have a team capable of going to the Rose Bowl. My point is, a loss tomorrow is in no shape or form going to be a surprise. Nearly no Wisconsin loss on the road should be a surprise at this point. Regardless, the Badgers just need to finish ahead of Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue at the end of the year to go to Indianapolis. A road loss to Nebraska won't do much to get in the way of that goal, and a bowl game bid will still easily be obtainable.
And if Wisconsin wins tomorrow? That will add yet another chapter to what has already been a confusing year of Wisconsin football.
Wisconsin and Nebraska do not play on a yearly basis, but lingering tension from the 2011 meeting between the two has served to form the basis of a rivalry between the two 'Big Reds.'
Is Wisconsin running back Montee Ball on pace to fizzle out like other former Badger running backs such as P.J. Hill and John Clay? For the record, I still think he will be drafted next year if he can get past the concussion issues.
A gameday primer courtesy of Nebraska SB Nation blog Corn Nation, who thinks that some of the external factors surrounding this game (such as Tom Osborne's retirement announcement) give Wisconsin a real chance of winning.
Max Sternberg of the Daily Cardinal feels that the Penn State penalties should have included a television ban, as the Nittany Lions have remained in the national spotlight because of television coverage.
Dave Heller at the Journal-Sentinel compiles some predictions from around the nation for Huskers/Badgers. The only person to pick Wisconsin was former UW safety Chris Maragos, who isn't biased at all, right?
Even if you're feeling down about the Wisconsin season so far, at least you aren't the saddest fan in the world.
That's it for the links. I'm hoping to see a large contingent of white-clad fans for the James White Out in Lincoln tomorrow. On Wisconsin!*
*- Bret Bielema voice