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Badger Bits: Twelve games in, and the Badgers are still a mystery

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Montee Ball ran all over Penn State on Saturday, setting up a rematch with Michigan State in the B1G Championship Game.
Montee Ball ran all over Penn State on Saturday, setting up a rematch with Michigan State in the B1G Championship Game.

At 10-2, Wisconsin is undoubtedly a good football team. "Good" is a term subject to degrees and interpretations, however. Going 6-6 and making the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is a good thing for some. So are national championships. I'm babying the subject, but it's worth pointing out that the Badgers don't really satisfy either ends of the "good" spectrum, finding themselves somewhere between obscurely sponsored postseason events and that special subset of teams that some dare to call "legendary." 

We are twelve games into the season and Wisconsin still doesn't know its place. That's partly the fault of the Big Ten for failing to provide a litmus test that didn't have a death star-like weak point. The Badgers' two best wins were against a Nebraska squad that melted down against Northwestern and Michigan, and a Penn State team still on the down slope of an emotional rollercoaster. The Badgers failed their only other two major tests, but those games featured too many unfortunate bounces to produce reliable data points. 

Saturday's rematch with Michigan State in Indianapolis is the closest thing you may ever see to a controlled test environment in college football. For one, the game is at a neutral site, which should hopefully shed some light on a team that has looked completely different at home versus away. For two, the Badgers will face a team that is legitimately one of the league's best, one that doesn't come with a self destruct function when things go wrong.

Most importantly, Saturday's rematch is another trial where more are needed. Wisconsin lost last time they faced the Spartans, but it didn't really feel like the Badgers were the worse team that day. They weren't really the better team, either. Mostly everyone was confused as to what to make of the game, which is the right reaction when a Hail Mary is involved. After Saturday the Badgers should, hopefully, have closure, not only for that game but for the season. For now, this team feels like an electron in a cloud, all at once able to satisfy a million different outcomes.

Monday's Links:

Tom Oates gives his Senior Day tribute to Russell Wilson, who in less than five months on campus has become a Wisconsin institution.

Andy Baggot turns his lens on Nick Toon and the tear-inducing coin toss with his father.

You have probably heard by now that Russell Wilson and Montee Ball are really good at football. Bret Bielema takes it one step further:

"These two really are, in my opinion - I'm biased, I understand it and I should be - two of the most complete players at their respective positions I've ever seen play the game," Bielema said.

"They both feed off one another. If anybody can argue with that, I'd love to hear it. They just are so, so complete and such great kids to be around."

Reliving The Horror.

Badgers Roundtable returns to look to the past, present and future.

Dave Heller crunches the numbers, and makes the best "Ball for Heisman" argument out there. At the very least, "Montee Ball > Trent Richardson" should be a consensus.

Peter Konz wants to play Saturday. The coaches aren't so sure.

Jeff Potrykus with some post-game notes. It's all gravy until you get to the part about special teams. If you are around wood at any point this week, you better be knocking for the Badgers coverage unit against MSU.

Turnovers: Penn State has them.

Russell Wilson is going after the record book. Like, all of it.

Montee Ball gets some love from the national blogosphere.

Wrapping up: Proud to Be a Penn Stater is a grassroots alumni movement that has teamed up with to raise money for victims and survivors of sexual abuse. The movement has been wildly successful, raising nearly $500,000 so far. They are looking for even more support in the continued wake of the university's shocking sex scandal.