Paul Chryst’s seat as head coach of the Wisconsin Football team may heat up a bit if the Badgers lose to Penn State this weekend.
The Wisconsin football team is not a good football team this year. There are bright spots if you dig deep enough, but digging that far isn’t what a lot of fans are interested in at the moment.
Wisconsin still has an outside shot to win the Big Ten West division and earn what looks to be a rematch with Michigan in Indianapolis. Northwestern needs to lose this weekend to Iowa and then once more to either Illinois or Minnesota. And the Badgers also need to win out, which includes beating Penn State and Purdue both on the road. What once seemed like a lock is now a pipe dream. Wisconsin will likely not even win their own division, let alone make a run for the College Football Playoff.
And what’s to blame for all of this? I covered that a bit earlier this week. The Badgers have experienced injuries at an unusually high rate, but have also performed at uncomfortably low levels in just about every area except inside linebacker. I say uncomfortable because Wisconsin football fans are left more puzzled than upset with their team’s performance this year. But it might be time to start being angry about it.
Wisconsin is a proud program and a model of consistency. The Badgers persevere through mediocre recruiting classes year after year to exceed expectations and develop NFL players. College football fans and experts are baffled by how Wisconsin is the one program that seems to be so good when so many signs suggest it shouldn’t be. Is time running out on this sort of ‘Cinderella?’
The only thing that could be worse than this year’s step back for the Badgers is if it turns into a trend and next year isn’t any better. The game I like to play to examine these kinds of things is simple. If we hopped in a time machine and went back to the beginning of this year and only knew Wisconsin was going to lose the division, the narrative would be simple to draw. It would likely be due to the defense being too young and Alex Hornibrook not being good enough to win games with his arm. That wouldn’t have surprised anybody, especially now considering that’s what actually happened.
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But let’s play this game without hindsight. Let’s say Wisconsin has another 7 or 8 win season next year, loses to its best opponents, and loses the West division again. What do you all think could cause that to happen? My answer is simple: Wisconsin is no longer able to simply overpower its opponents and win with defense. The offense is stale, the same old tricks (jet sweeps, play actions, fullback dives) aren’t tricking anybody anymore, and the Badgers struggle to score more than 21 points per game on a consistent basis. Would that entirely shock you?
I’ll ask you yet another question. Who would be to blame for that happening a second year in a row? The answer should be obvious at this point in the reading. Paul Chryst is the head coach, general manager, and CEO of this football program. If it’s failing to perform, it’s his responsibility to fix it.
His job isn’t in question because this isn’t a trend. Yet. But the writing is on the wall for it to become one. If Wisconsin throws up another stinker with an unimaginative offense against Penn State, who has an awful defense and is even more lost in their season than Wisconsin, the rumblings will begin.
Paul Chryst is a good coach because he has produced wins for this program. That may sound redundant, but you can’t give him a pass if he starts losing and his offense continues to play as it has against teams not named Illinois and Rutgers.
The seat isn’t hot, but my hand is on the knob. If this weekend goes south for Bucky, I’m turning it to simmer.