I’ve been writing around these parts, on and off, for a good, long time now and let me tell you what: we’ve got a really good stable of writers here. They are smart, informed, funny, and really care about everything related to Badger athletics. With that being said, there is one thing they mostly lack and that is a complete and utter inability TO BURN EVERYTHING TO THE GROUND!
Luckily, I still have access to the internet and the ability to string together sentences at a barely comprehensible level, because I am here to tell you that Wisconsin football needs to get their shit together. This year has been the most disappointing year of any sports team I have ever cared even a little bit about. Keep in mind that I’ve cheered for Philadelphia sports teams my entire life and even in the two years that the Phillies and Eagles won their respective leagues’ titles, they were not favored to do so.
Best known as a former Men In Red podcast guest (he’s done some other stuff too, I suppose), Jesse Temple posed a question on Twitter the other day.
Question for Wisconsin fans: Which of these Badgers football seasons the past 20 years that began with a top-15 ranking do you consider to be the most disappointing?— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) November 11, 2018
He also delved into everything more deeply in an article earlier this week ($) on The Athletic, which is great like all of his stuff. Jesse is a smart, measured, and intrepid reporter for the Badgers, and has been for many years, but I don’t think he needed to poll the idiots on Twitter about this season. OBVIOUSLY IT HAS BEEN THE MOST DISAPPOINTING SEASON IN THE PAST 20 YEARS!
Lee Corso picked the Badgers to win the national title. I mean, we should have known the season was doomed after that, but nope, we lapped it all up like parched dogs in the desert. Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit both picked Wisconsin to win the division and represent the trash-ass B1G West in Indianapolis, and if I’m remembering correctly, we all thought that was the bare minimum that Wisconsin would achieve this season.
It is only fair that Wisconsin has -1 B1G West titles this year since everyone and their mother anointed them champs back in June.
I have a text thread with seven friends who all attended Wisconsin (two of whom are in the picture at the top of the post) and we were all completely confident that Wisconsin would win the division and easily half of us thought Wisconsin would make the College Football Playoff. How could eight smart, handsome, charming Badgers be so wrong? I’m still trying to figure that out tbqh, but I do know that I’m pissed about it. Bob asked a good question in his post from last Sunday about Wisconsin and which direction they’re trending. He provided a number of excellent mathematical points to go along with some charts and other smart-sounding nonsense, but I think I’ve got the only chart he needed.
I’ve watched a lot of Badgers football in the 33 years I’ve been on this dumb rock and this team (outside of Jonathan Taylor, Taiwan Deal, Jake Ferguson, and most of the defense) has trended downward. Quarterback? LoL, yeah, we’ve discussed this ad nauseam. Offensive line? I don’t know, maybe go ask the servers at Red Robin how their play has been this year. Wide receivers? Rarely get the ball thrown to them accurately and when they do it gets dropped half the time. Defensive line? Starting a walk-on and an offensive lineman and a true freshman now. Inside linebackers? Pretty good, all things considered. Outside linebackers? Hurt and not as athletic as we thought. Secondary? Hurt and probably facing away from the ball on a key third down so the opposing team can get a first down via PI penalty. That’s basically every position group that is trending downward.
On the bright side ... recruiting is looking pretty good! Probably because all these kids think they can play right away.
This season hurts in a way that none of the previous, recent disappointing seasons hurt. In all of those seasons, I was sad that the Badgers lost in the Rose Bowl or the B1G Championship Game, depending on how many teams the conference had at the time. But there was still SOMETHING to be proud of and preseason hype (usually) was out-preformed. But this year ... ho ho, this year. Everything was different. Basically since the Orange Bowl win over Miami, people locally and nationally were touting the Badgers as serious CFP contenders.
I spent an unhealthy part of the summer seeing how the Badgers would stack up against the Buckeyes in the conference title game (a game it appears neither team will be participating in, natch). I looked for potential losses on Clemson’s, Georgia’s, and Alabama’s schedule, like a damned fool. I calculated how many yards Jonathan Taylor would need so he could end his career with 6,969 yards. I looked like this while debating potential CFP scenarios and if Wisconsin could get in with one loss.
Basically, I was a dumb, dumb idiot. I don’t even need a chart for that.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think that Wisconsin football needs a complete overhaul. I don’t think Paul Chryst needs to be fired. I don’t think Alex Hornibrook should be fired into the sun (although, if his concussion problems linger, I do not want him playing the rest of the season or possibly ever again. He’s not making the NFL and he shouldn’t mortgage his mental future for what is basically an unpaid internship.). I don’t think the team not selling out a game against Rutgers is a sign that we should raze Camp Randall. I do think Rafael Gaglianone should make one more field goal and then not make another one the rest of the year.
This season has been the ultimate bummer (in terms of college football fandom—everything else in my life is pretty cool) but Wisconsin is still better than most schools at football. Hell, if the Badgers beat Minnesota (plz do this, Badgers ... I’m deadly serious. If y’all lose to Minnesota, I may have to move) they’ll have beaten all of their trophy rivals for the third consecutive year (and fourth out of the last five). They’ll go to a bowl game for the umpteenth consecutive year, and those always have the potential to be bonkers. They have a great recruiting class verbally committed, despite the results this year. Things could be worse!
I’d like to close with the last paragraph I wrote in my special teams preview for this year, because I think it is pertinent.
Overall, the Wisconsin special teams unit should be a strength and I’m excited to see Gaglianone break records all season. Oh! Coach Dad, if you’re reading this, always go for it on fourth down on the opponent’s side of the field. I don’t care about the distance.
If Coach Dad doesn’t change a bit in the offseason in terms of his coaching style, then Wisconsin, while not on the verge of collapse, will definitely not be on the verge of taking a leap.