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(Ir)Rational Analysis: Wisconsin, Northwestern, and the Media

Imagine this scenario. Your favorite team (Team A) is facing the Northwestern Wildcats. They're ranked in the Top 15 in the country. Suddenly, NU turns up big play after big play, and at the end of the day...

Your team is DONE. They lost to Northwestern, and while both teams finish with identical conference records, your team will get a worse bowl bid despite a better overall record.

Okay, maybe Northwestern beat your 4th ranked, undefeated team (Team B) and basically knocked them flying out of the title hopes and ended the regular season for your INT-happy QB. But still, what happened to Team A (Wisconsin) was an utterly insane result on Ryan Field, which should be expected 90% of the time when Northwestern and Wisconsin face off. What happened to Team B (Iowa) was a knockout blow (Ricky Stanzi clutches his Orange Bowl Trophy protectively).

After the jump: Bitter feelings and recollections.

The day is November 21st. The place is Ryan Field. Wisconsin, ranked 14th in the nation after handing Michigan its worst ever loss in school history (gulp), heads out to Evanston. What happens next? Craziness.

Northwestern jumps off to a speedy start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter. Not bad, right? This is a manageable deficit.

Wisconsin answers early in the second, scoring two TDs (courtesy of John Clay and Garrett Graham) before Andrew Brewer's insane TD reception puts NU on top once again. Northwestern easily wins the first half by scoring 10 more points, going into the 2nd half with a 27-10 advantage.

At this point, i was sick to my stomach. There was no way on earth Wisconsin was going to win this game. Ryan Field has been the deathbed of multiple Wisconsin teams (03 and 05 readily come to mind) and this game looks no different. Wisconsin ALWAYS struggles in Evanston. Always.

Suddenly, things change. Wisconsin drives the field for an easy layup field goal. Then the defense forces a three and out, and Northwestern allows David Gilreath to make the play of his career. 68 yards, weaving, cutting, and racing, punt return, touchdown. Things are looking up.

But not for long, because Tolzien decides to throw to a defensive back after Northwestern tacks on a pair of field goals. Garrett Graham turns in a great game (6 receptions, 98 yards, 1 TD), but it isn't enough. Tolzien tosses the game away, and Wisconsin is headed to Hawai'i, not for a bowl game, but for a 51-10 pasting.

After the game, Wisconsin drops entirely out of the poll. For a two point loss. What. the. hell.

First of all, Wisconsin didn't lose to Appalachian State. There's no reason they should drop all the way out of the poll when USC hasn't after FOUR losses. There's just none. Second, Northwestern historically has Wisconsin's number at home. (sort of like how they treat Kinnick Stadium, oddly enough). Is it because this is, more or less, the same Northwestern team that lost to Syracuse?

Well, after this nightmare, the Badgers are out of the poll. Smushing Hawaii was fun, but it wasn't enough to get the Outback Bowl bid (which Northwestern lost to a team Wisconsin destroyed not too long ago). It was enough to send Wisconsin to Orlando, where they faced a (highly overrated) Miami team coming off three wins over top 15 teams, but had managed to lose 3 ACC games.

The media hates Wisconsin. Why? Well...no reason. They're just not Ohio State. Coming off a 7-6 campaign, Wisconsin came up with 10 wins. Yet Barry Alvarez had a 7-6 Wisconsin team in 2003 that was ranked the next season. WTF? 

-This highly subjective (and somewhat flawed) analysis of one of the flukiest Wisconsin losses is presented by OBrienSchofieldismyHero.

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