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Wisconsin Badgers Opponent Watch: The Season of Welp

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Whatever happens, at least we'll always have this picture of Barry Alvarez and Pat Fitzgerald.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

ABOUT LAST WEEK

We all view the world on a sliding scale. Whether something is good or bad depends on context. After the first half against LSU, I thought Wisconsin was a playoff contender. After the second half, I thought the first half was lie and that we were doomed. After the Western Illinois game, I thought Wisconsin was a regular 'ol Wisconsin team. Bowling Green made me a touch more optimistic. Last week made me go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I don't what this team is, which is weird because I know a few things to be absolute -- Tanner McEvoy isn't going to look like a good quarterback in part because Andy Ludwig is his coordinator, and I know that I love this front seven and Melvin Gordon a whole bunch. And yet, Wisconsin could lose or win against Northwestern by 15 points, and I don't think I'd bat an eyelash.

Michigan has kindly demonstrated how awful things could be. They broke the scale, and now there's just a bunch of numbers on the floor and none of them mean anything any more even relative to one another. So far, this season has been a lot of shrugs and sighs when Gordon hasn't been making us slap our seats and guffaw. I feel like we're going to be saying "Welp" a lot over the next two months, with a lot of ambiguous grinning.

WHERE WE'RE GOING

@ Northwestern (2-2, 1-0 B1G), Oct. 4

Last week: Northwestern 29, Penn State 7

What happened: Shit man, I don't know. Can we just chalk it up to voodoo? Because I refuse to acknowledge any team that can make Christian Hackenberg look like that as of this earth. Northwestern dismantled Penn State's running game, which is less surprising, and scored enough points by attrition to make this a fairly easy blowout.

Why you should be afraid: Northwestern is getting back to its roots as a scrappy wild card, and Wisconsin was terrible against scrappy wild card Northwestern back in the day. Wisconsin has lost its last three games in Evanston. As Arizona's win over Oregon proved Thursday night, some teams just have that magic over other teams, and this is now the third time I've reference supernatural forces in a two-paragraph preview. Hope you're learning a lot!

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Northwestern made Hackenberg look bad, but I'm not sure Tanner McEvoy can be distilled any further. The dude's just sort of what he is. Plus Wisconsin's running game >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Penn State's.

Hubris: Wisconsin plays its second one-score game of the season, but seriously, you guys -- witch doctors, wizards and aliens don't actually exist. WISCONSIN BY A LITTLE BIT.

Illinois (3-2, 0-1 B1G), Oct. 11

Last week: Nebraska 45, Illinois 14

This week: Purdue

What happened: Illinois isn't a good team no matter whom it has at quarterback -- now losing an aggregate 89-34 to Power 5 teams this season -- but it could really use Wes Lunt back in the lineup as soon as possible. The Illini were anemic behind Reilly O'Toole, who threw three picks and completed just 17 of his 38 passing attempts.

Why you should be afraid: GERONIMOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Everything that isn't a wide receiver with a cool name.

Hubris: Nebraska ran for 458 yards against the Illini. Tiddlywinks! GORDON > ABDULLAH.

Maryland (4-1, 1-0 B1G), Oct. 25

Last week: Maryland 37, Indiana 15

This week: Ohio State

What happened: I understand Maryland is new to the conference and may be a little shy to adopt some of the Big Ten proudest traditions, so I forgive them for not moon-booting Indiana into outer space.

I forgive them for not moon-booting Indiana into outer space.

Stefon Diggs and Deon Long were very good, combining for 16 catches, 220 yards and a score. The quarterbacks were fair, while the running game was disappointing. The defense rebounded nicely to slow down Tevin Coleman, but this also could have been a case of Indiana's passing game collapsing as it is wont to do.

Why you should be afraid: Wisconsin's secondary is a rough place right now, and Diggs and Long are probably going to try to get their digs in and go long (<-- joke).

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Nothing else really makes me that worried. Wisconsin has done a good job slowing down mobile threats at quarterback under Dave Aranda. The Terrapins' defense has been missing pieces, but hasn't looked stellar. They played South Florida tighter than Wisconsin did, and Wisconsin took a nap in the first half.

Hubris: Maryland might be the most consistent team in the conference so far. And so far they look pretty cookie-cutter. WISCONSIN WINS BY SOMETHING BORING, LIKE 21-14.

@ Rutgers (4-1, 0-1 B1G), Nov. 1

Last week: Rutgers 31, Tulane, 6

This week: Michigan

What happened: Gary Nova set the Rutgers career mark for passing touchdowns, throwing four TDs against what I'm assuming is an awful Tulane team because their mascot is still a wave for god's sake.

Why you should be afraid: I guess we can't give Rutgers' defense that much credit for pasting Penn State after Northwestern did the same thing. They play hard? They have a lot grit? Moxie? Chutzpah? Maybe?

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Paul James was an important piece of this offense. It says something that Rutgers only averaged 4.3 yards per carry against Tulane on a day when Nova wasn't throwing interceptions.

Hubris: I'm going to try to go to this game, which probably means Wisconsin is going to lose, improbably. SUPERSTITION IS REAL SUPERSTITION ISN'T REAL SUPERSTITION ISN'T REAL.

@ Purdue (2-3, 0-1 B1G), Nov. 8

Last week: Iowa 24, Purdue 10

This week: @ Illinois

What happened: Made Iowa fans freak out by taking a 10-0 lead, then made Iowa try to Iowa their way back into the game by running the ball ineffectively (3.1 yards per carry!) and punting. That Purdue lost this game says a lot about Purdue, namely that it might be a hot mess.

Why you should be afraid: I don't know, should you?

Why you shouldn't be afraid: That's more like it.

Hubris: A loss would be the would be the end of our world, and innocence, and love, and puppies. IT'S NOT HAPPENING.

No. 19 Nebraska (5-0, 1-0 B1G), Nov. 15

Last week: Nebraska 45, Illinois 14

This week: @ No. 10 Michigan State

What happened: Wait one sec, does that number in front of Nebraska's name on the schedule mean something?

Why you should be afraid: Nebraska is the best team Wisconsin will face this season not including the Big Ten Championship Game and potential bowl matchups. It has a Heisman candidate in its backfield, a potential top-10 draft pick at defensive end and a Tanner McEvoy-esque quarterback being used like he ought to be.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Seriously, this is a well-rounded football team. It also isn't a great football team by most measurements, but it's good enough to be a standard-bearer in a baaaaad Big Ten.

Hubris: I guess we'll learn a lot this weekend when Nebraska plays Michigan State. Right now, and you guys might challenge me on this, I think the matchup on Nov. 15 could be THE BIGGEST GAME OF THE SEASON.

@ Iowa (4-1, 1-0 B1G), Nov. 22

Last week: Iowa 24, Purdue 10

This week: Indiana

What happened: C.J. Beathard couldn't throw, and Mark Weisman couldn't run effectively. The defense saved the Hawkeyes' bacon by holding Purdue to a dreary 156 total yards, but Danny Etling deserves some credit for that, too.

Why you should be afraid: That defense ranks No. 17 in defensive FEI!

Kirk Ferentz is still clap-clap-scowling, clap-scowl-clapping on the sidelines.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: Kirk Ferentz is still clap-clap-scowling, clap-scowl-clapping on the sidelines.

Hubris: COULD BE A TRAP GAME AS WISCONSIN LOOKS AHEAD TO MINNESOTA (YES I MEAN THAT AS A BURN).

Minnesota (4-1, 1-0 B1G), Nov. 29

Last week: Minnesota 30, Michigan :(

This week: Put in timeout for ruining Michigan (BYE)

What happened: Michigan cratered, and how much of that was Minnesota's doing is unclear. The Wolverines' defense had been stout until last week, however, and David Cobb made it mincemeat by rushing for 183 yards on 32 carries. Mitch Leidner was serviceable at quarterback, which is easy to do with Maxx Williams at tight end. But Michigan's offense ate itself, and all Minnesota's defense had to do was watch in abject horror.

Why you should be afraid: David Cobb is no Melvin Gordon, but he runs angry and he runs strong. Next to Ameer Abdullah, he's the best running back Wisconsin will face this season, making for the stoutest test against Aranda's crew besides Nebraska.

Why you shouldn't be afraid: That game against Michigan stands out as an outlier compared to the rest of Minnesota's results, and Michigan was in clear freefall before opening kickoff. The Gophers will also be coming off bouts against Ohio State and Nebraska before playing the Badgers.

Hubris: I think this year's Minnesota is better than last year's iteration. I also knows that Wisconsin has a strong tendency to win this game all the time. SO JUST GIVE US THE DAMN AXE ALREADY.

WHERE WE'VE BEEN

No. 15 LSU (4-1, 0-1 SEC)

Result vs. Wisconsin: W, 28-24

This week: @ No. 5 Auburn

Last week: Made New Mexico State pay for what Mississippi State did, 63-7.

Western Illinois (2-3, 0-1 MFVC)

Result vs. Wisconsin: L, 37-3

This week: North Dakota State

Last week: Lost 34-17 to a Southern Illinois team they're probably bitter rivals with.

Bowling Green (3-2, 1-0 MAC)

Result vs. Badgers: L, 68-17

This week: Buffalo

Last week: Bounce-back win vs. UMass, 47-42.

South Florida (2-3, 1-0 AMERICAN)

Result vs. Badgers: L, 27-10

This week: BYE

Last week: PLEASE GO BACK TO THE START OF THE ARTICLE.