I am not around Madison these days, which is both unfortunate and sad, to be frank. The new day job came calling and I suppose a career takes precedence over anything else right now.
Anyway, let's take a brief reprieve from the daily practice grind and discuss which home game and which away game is best on Wisconsin's 2013 schedule.
For me, there are really only three home games this season that I would honestly want to go to and watch football. Oct. 12 against Northwestern and Nov. 9 against BYU will be quality games, with the latter being appealing because the Cougars are not a customary Wisconsin opponent.
I guess you could lump Penn State into the category of quality home games, although I think the Nittany Lions will take a step back from their overachieving 8-4 season a year ago. Bill O'Brien is certainly a top-notch instructor and motivator, but his team is far less talented than the product that took the field last season and depth is a major concern. If the injury bug bites at critical positions, PSU might be looking at about a .500 record.
Other than those three games, the schedule is awful. Repugnant, even. Sure, taking in a day game at Camp Randall is never a dull experience, but I do like to actually watch the football games themselves these days. The other opponents coming to Madison in 2013 will cause the students to pull off the classic, "let's get to the game at halftime and leave after Jump Around." And truthfully, I wouldn't blame them for having that mentality this season.
I'll try to look forward at the upcoming dream series with LSU as a means to stay away from the disdain I feel when looking at the 2013 home slate.
The game I'd go to would be Northwestern. Solid team, maybe a bit too much expectation for them coming into the year, but Kain Kolter and Venric Mark are capable of making highlight-reel plays anytime. Plus, Pat Fitzgerald can flat out coach and he'll have the Wildcats ready to play in the intimidating Camp Randall.
As disgruntled as I may sound about the home schedule, that fades quickly when I look at the collection of road games this year.
For me, there is more to picking which road game I would attend than merely considering how a game might play out between the white lines. Yes, that's obviously the most important factor, but I also want to go somewhere with a great social scene and ambiance if I'm dropping a few bones for travel and pricey tickets.
There are three away games I'd love to be at this season: Arizona State, Ohio State and Iowa.
As much as I enjoyed going to Hawks games having grown up in Iowa, I've been there and done that. However, I'll admit, Iowa City is a great college town; if you haven't visited, do so. Kinnick Stadium has a great atmosphere, and consider the fact the university was just identified as the top party school in the nation -- there would be plenty of fun to be had.
Ohio State might be the obvious pick for most fans given the context of the game Sept. 28 in Columbus. Though it will be just the fifth game of the year, whoever wins will be on a virtually unimpeded path to Indy for the Big Ten Championship Game.
I've long had the urge to see a game in the famous Horseshoe, and this year would be a great time to visit. The Buckeyes are coming off an undefeated season, are a consensus national title contender and have perhaps the Heisman frontrunner in Braxton Miller.
I expect the Badgers' visit to Columbus to be a great one, but interestingly enough, it's not the road game I'd choose to go to this season.
I'll take the barrage of criticism that's inevitably coming my way for saying this, but my road game choice for 2013 would be Arizona State.
Hear me out.
First off, Arizona State is an athletic and on-the-rise football team who many are predicting to win the Pac-12 over teams like USC and UCLA. I'm not nearly as confident as some Badger fans seem to be about the trip to Tempe. West coast road trips always seem to stump Big Ten teams during the regular season, and the level of competition from weeks one and two will do little to prepare the Badgers for such a difficult road test.
Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham hasn't shied away from preseason expectations for his team, branding it as "the best football team I have ever coached." I realize that might sound hyperbolic, but the head ball coach has the best barometer of his own team, so who are we to criticize?
I'll be intrigued to see what type of team shows up at ASU. It should be a great measuring stick for the coaches, players and fans alike, telling us whether or not we should temper our expectations for the remainder of the year. I understand it's a non-conference game and has little weight in the grand scheme of things if the Badgers happen to knock off Ohio State, but I expect Wisconsin to be ready for that match-up with teams' recent history. Heading west early in the season is a whole different ballgame -- one where we can truly gauge the character and metal of the 2013 cardinal and white, and see just how much development the team has gone through since the Andersen era began.
And in one final note to cement my ASU choice... it's Arizona at the end of summer, it will still be hot and there are pools all around. The whole school is a party-throwing juggernaut, and there are an obscene amount of co-eds that provide great scenery. You all know that crossed your mind just a little bit.
Whoa, I realize that last bit got away from me there. I'm going to go take my head out of the gutter. Back to football, back to football.
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