One of my favorite things to do during every football preseason is dissect the schedule and predict the win/loss outcomes for the year ahead. I try to give my own rendition of the Athlon Sports predictions, if you will.
It's a totally pointless process, but for whatever reason I think trying to pinpoint what will happen to the Badgers before a single game has been played is thrilling. There is an adrenaline that kicks in when you're picking the outcome you know to be right, even though you rarely are when all is said and done.
Now I know we're still over two-and-a-half months away from kick-off against UMass, but there isn't any harm in going off on a prophetic tangent regarding Badger football.
After all, it is June 7 and we're in the midst of quieter summertime Wisconsin sports news -- might as well have some fun. I'm sure predictions of this sort will pop up again once the football season draws nearer, but let's spark the initial conversation right here.
Yesterday, Mike speculated which games Athlon might have had Wisconsin losing for the upcoming year when they picked the Badgers to go 9-3 in 2013. I want to continue the speculation with the hope that this topic initiates a thread war; let the deliberation run rampant.
Badgers Football Schedule
|Tennessee Tech||Sat 09/07||TBA|
|@ Arizona State||Sat 09/14||9:30 PM CDT|
|@ Ohio State||Sat 09/28||7:00 PM CDT|
|Northwestern||Sat 10/12||2:30 PM CDT|
|@ Illinois||Sat 10/19||7:00 PM CDT|
|@ Iowa||Sat 11/02||TBA|
|@ Minnesota||Sat 11/23||TBA|
|Penn State||Sat 11/30||TBA|
As has been said relentlessly in the previous month, this is a soft schedule. There is legitimate reason to be exceedingly optimistic about the season's possibilities when you see something like the above.
What I try to do is group games into categories when picking wins and losses. Right off the bat, I see five games I'll classify as "guaranteed" wins: UMass, Tennessee Tech, Purdue, at Illinois and Indiana.
Next I'll categorize the "likely but not guaranteed" wins: at Iowa, BYU and at Minnesota.
I put the Iowa and Minnesota games here because they're rivalry games on the road, and strange things often happen in such affairs. Both teams are lackluster in their talent levels compared with Wisconsin -- especially Iowa -- but road conference games are never a gimme.
That puts UW at eight wins thus far with four games yet to be grouped. My next grouping consists of the "Badgers should win, but I'm a bit reluctant to put my full confidence in them" games: Northwestern and Penn State.
You have to like that both of these games are at Camp Randall and that makes it natural to be confident in picking a Wisconsin win. But both of those teams are talented and led by two of the best young coaches in the Big Ten. Pat Fitzgerald returns nearly every main piece of his 10-win team from last year and Bill O'Brien somehow rallied the troops in Happy Valley to an eight-win season. I don't see why he can't pull of something similar again this year.
Finally, the "I can't see the Badgers winning these games" category: at Arizona State and at Ohio State.
Look back to what happened last year when Wisconsin traveled to the West Coast. The Badgers looked lethargic against Oregon State and played pitifully. Not to mention, Arizona State begins the season ranked in the top 25 and isn't a slouch by any means.
As for Ohio State, I don't think I need to do much explaining. Urban Meyer returns close to everybody from a team that went undefeated and Braxton Miller will be a Heisman frontrunner to begin the year. Going into the Horseshoe looking for an upset is a daunting task.
Ultimately, I'll actually agree with Athlon in predicting a 9-3 season for the Badgers. Something tells me they drop a game, maybe even two that they shouldn't. Last year's team really struggled to adjust to all the coaching changes under Bret Bielema. Now a new head coach steps in along with close to an entirely new staff, and we've got to allow for some growing pains as the boys continue to get acclimated to Gary Andersen's regime.
9-3 would be a solid bounce back year in my eyes, and it sure would be a marked improvement over the 2012 mediocrity.
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Here is Brian Bennett's mailbag from yesterday.