Expectations for the 2013 Wisconsin Football team were extremely high coming into the season with new coach Gary Andersen at the helm. The tremendously rare four-peat of the Big Ten was the goal of Wisconsin and its fans. The Badgers had won the Conference Championship and represented the Big 10 in the previous three Rose Bowls. After an early controversial loss in the desert to Arizona State and then a demoralizing defeat to the, still undefeated, Ohio State Buckeyes expectations had to be adjusted. Was this year going to be a bust for the Badgers?
Following the loss in Columbus the Badgers had a bye to prep for the No. 19 Northwestern Wildcats. Many predicted this game to be a hard fought battle. If the Badgers lost that game their record would have fallen to 3-3 and a dreary 1-2 in conference play. There would have been “nothing” left to play for in terms of lofty goals or a chance at a notable bowl. Wisconsin responded to the adversity by defeating the Wildcats 35-6 in an impressive showing.
Last week the Badgers went into Champaign and dropped boatload of points on the Illinois Fighting Illini under the lights. Wisconsin won 52-32 on the road and the game did not even feel that close.
In the match-up with the Illini Melvin Gordon eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in only the seventh game of the season as he ran for 142 yards and three scores. He is the 20th Wisconsin running back in the past 24 seasons to top the 1,000 yard rushing mark, 24 years happens to be the amount of years the legendary Barry Alvarez has been either the Coach or Athletic Director of Badgers’ program. It is safe to say that Gordon and Coach Gary Andersen are both hell-bent on continuing on the archetype of football Alvarez set in place years before. Not to be forgotten senior running back James White had a good game as well with 98 yards on the ground to go along with two touchdowns on the ground and one through the air. Receiver Jard Abbrederis seemed to have his quietest game of the year and finished with 106 yards through the air, which should tell you everything you need to know about how great he’s been this year. Joel Stave had one of his better games of the year, playing the role of a game manager as he went 16/21 with 189 yards, two touchdowns with zero interceptions. This solid road win was step one of the Badgers’ re-adjusted goals and re-adjusted expectations for this season.
What can still be accomplished this year?
A ten win regular season is still on the line, a 7-1 Big Ten record is still on the line, an undefeated home record is still on the line. There are Badgers performing for national honors at various positions including Melvin Gordon for the Doak Walker Award, Chris Borland for the Butkus and Bednarik Awards as well as the Nagurski Trophy, Jared Abbrederis for the Biletnikoff Award, Jacob Pedersen for the Mackey Award and Ryan Groy for the Outland Trophy. Unfortunately, I do not think a Badger will be coming home with the Groza trophy for kicker of the year anytime soon. Gary Andersen is also gaining steam for the Coach of the Year Award.
What else can be accomplished this year?
Funny you ask, the first BCS rankings have been released and the Ohio State Buckeyes are ranked 4th with a 7-0 record. If the Buckeyes continue to win and are invited to the BCS National Championship Game and the Badgers continue to win Wisconsin could very well be the team to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl for an unprecedented fourth-consecutive season. I wouldn’t call this scenario likely but I don’t think it is too far-fetched of a dream either.
The Badgers’ new goal is to get to 10 wins during the regular season, which will require them to win out over the likes of Iowa, BYU, Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State. If they win out good things could happen for them as they should climb the BCS rankings week by week.
Wisconsin has a bye week this weekend and then faces Iowa at Kinnick Stadium where Iowa always plays the Badgers tough. If the Badgers can win that game it might give them the confidence to run the table. The game against Minnesota is in Minneapolis and Minnesota is actually pretty good this year, with a 5-2 record. The Badgers will need to bring their best game to retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe for a dominating tenth-consecutive season. The regular seasons ends at home against a Penn State squad which recently handed Michigan its first loss of the season. Penn State is still sanctioned from the postseason play so its match-up with the Wisconsin will be its makeshift bowl game, thus the Badgers have their work cut out for them.
If, the big if, both Ohio State and Wisconsin win out, 2014 could be another memorable BCS bowl game year for the Badgers. I know it feels dirty rooting for the Buckeyes, but if they make the National Championship they could also end the SEC’s seven-year streak as college football champions while Wisconsin could be smelling roses. I think all Badgers fans agree, the only thing we dislike more than the Buckeyes is the SEC, hey Brutus is the lesser of two evils.
And if the Buckeyes eventually lose, the Badgers can still finish the regular season 10-2 and there is nothing wrong with the January 1st Capitol One Bowl.
Here’s to wishful thinking,