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Past trends, results don't point to a win at Michigan State

Nothing gives Badger fans indigestion like a Big Ten road game.

Are you worried about Wisconsin's game at Michigan State Saturday? You probably should be.

Get this little nugget I found while researching this morning: Bret Bielema only has one road win against Big Ten teams that finished with a plus-.500 overall record.

As I was breaking down this weekend's matchup against the Spartans I went off on a tangent in my mind and was trying to think of the last time the Badgers went on the road and got a huge win. All I could think about was Bielema's trip to Iowa in 2006. UW won that game 17-16 and clinched their 11th win of the season.

Turns out, Iowa finished 6-7 that season. Any win in Iowa City is impressive, but ... well, you get what I'm saying.

So then I went through all the games in the last four seasons and only found one Big Ten road win against a team that finished with a plus-.500 overall record. That win was also in 2006 and it came at Purdue as the Badgers hammered the Boilermakers 24-3. Looking at their cupcake schedule and blowout loss to Maryland in the Champs Sports Bowl, it's safe to say that Purdue team was nothing special.

Want another disheartening trend? Bielema only has one Big Ten win over an AP Top 25 team - home or away.

One. It's a lonely number.

That win came at home against No. 13 Michigan in 2007. You might remember that Chad Henne was hurt in that game and true freshman Ryan Mallett -- now Arkansas' stud quarterback -- took over. The Badgers won 37-21. Michigan finished the year 9-4.

I'm really not trying to pile on Bielema and the Badgers here. I'm just bringing up facts. Facts that show how hard it is going to be for Wisconsin to get a win in East Lansing this weekend.

A painful trip down memory lane

Personally, I like Wisconsin's chances Saturday, albeit in a nail-biter. I think the Badgers have advantages in a lot of one-on-one matchups and as long as they don't beat themselves, they should win.

Which brings me to 2008. And you are probably asking, "Do we really have to bring this up?"

Yes. Sorry.

The list of reasons why Wisconsin lost at Michigan State is nearly endless. But they all begin with the word "Wisconsin" and end with the word "Badgers." Insert your expletives in between.

I hate to take anything away from the opponent -- and the Spartans were 8-2 overall after that win -- but that loss was all on Wisconsin.

The Badgers had an 11-point lead with 9:13 left in the game. That's when Bret Bielema decided to go nuts at a really poor time. The Badgers were penalized five yards after Jay Valai accidentally bumped into an official. It was an unfortunate call, but hey, it's five yards. You're up 11-points. Relax.

Relax is exactly the opposite of what Bielema did. He told the ref how he felt. The ref gave him a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. All the sudden, five yards was 20. The next thing you knew, it was a five-point game. Then a two-point game.

But even after all of that, the Badgers had a 3rd-and-1 at the MSU 25-yard line. Clay converted with a 21-yard run. But wait. Bring it back. John Moffitt was called for a holding penalty on the opposite side of the run. It had no impact on the outcome of the play, but nonetheless, it was called. The Badgers added a false start to the mix and ended up punting.

Then came the cherry on top.

With the ball at the UW 31-yard line, the Spartans completed a four-yard pass but had no timeouts as the clock was threatening to expire. The field goal team ran out of the field. It was obvious they were going to get the kick off in time, but it was not going to happen with the usual comfort of a full play clock. And then...

Bielema called timeout.

He said it was a substitution problem, which is still a coaching issue, but even so, if you have a legal amount of guys on the field - which the Badgers did - then you can't call timeout there.

Brett Swenson of course drilled the 44-yard winner and the rest is history.

I apologize for the painful game recap, but that game needs to be revisited as the team heads back to East Lansing this weekend.

Bielema admitted to me in an interview in May that mistakes have been made and he and his players do look back on games like that one to use it as a learning experience. This Saturday's game can be used as a barometer to see how far he and his players have come in the last two years.

It comes down to wins and losses

Even though I would quickly make the argument that Bielema has come a long way since 2008 -- even if the Badgers lose this weekend -- those trends I mentioned earlier are indeed true and cannot be ignored.

In the end, wins and losses are what defines a coach and his teams.

Obviously that holds true with the fans too.

You may have noticed a new feature in the upper left-hand corner of the home page on Bucky's 5th Quarter called the Fan Confidence Poll. Each week, fans measure their confidence in their team and over the course of the season, a graph shows what kind of roller coaster ride it has been. As you see below, the poll already shows the ups-and-downs of the season thus far.

I have a feeling a win Saturday will boost that graph toward the top, while a loss would send it plummeting.