This is for all you new people: I only have one rule. Everyone fights. No one quits. You don't do your job, I'll shoot you myself. You get me?
I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!
- Lt. Rasczak, Starship Troopers
I. Case History/Opening Statement
A. Case History
Wisconsin has been here before. Been ranked highly, been expected to contend for a Big Ten crown, and maybe a national championship. Highly regarded in the news media....
2000: AP Top 25 pre-season ranking: 4
2007: AP Top 25 pre-season ranking: 7
2008: AP Top 25 pre-season ranking: 13
How'd those seasons go? Roughly like this:
Somebody made a big mistake in those 2007 rankings...
Wisconsin finished 9-4, 9-4, and 7-6 in those seasons. Now, sure, nine wins is nothing to sneeze at. But when you're looked at as a possible national title contender before the season begins, finishing with more than one or two losses can only be looked at as a disappointment.
Given that history, it's no surprise, really, that some are a little bit cynical about Wisconsin this pre-season. After all, it's not like the team has the best history with being highly regarded. The best recent seasons of the Badgers, prior to 2010, were in 2005, 2006, and 2009. In all those years the Badgers were unranked in the pre-season, and they finished 10-3, 12-1, and 10-3 respectively.
The doubters often cite to the pieces on the offensive line that the team lost, to the 40% of the secondary that departed. Yeah, it's true, Wisconsin has lost a lot of good playmakers. It's also true that Russell Wilson is coming from an offense that runs a much faster game than the Badgers usually do. It's possible that he'll have difficulty adjusting, but I'm optimistic. After all, if you do lose significant chunks of your offensive line, don't you want to have a quarterback under center that can make plays if he needs to with his feet? Scott Tolzien had a laser arm, and could always be counted on for making throws to convert 3rd and whatevers if the run game was a bit stalled. But in the rare instances where the offensive line failed to keep the pressure off, the Badgers had trouble when they committed to a throw. That trouble shouldn't exist this time around with the extra threat that Wilson brings to the game.
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you've heard what the cynics have to say. You've seen their "proof." Sure, Wisconsin has been ranked highly and failed spectacularly. I don't deny that. But, ladies and gentleman, I submit to you that this Wisconsin team is different.This time is different. There will be no failure this time. Oh no. This time, the Badgers will rise up and meet and even, I dare say, exceed pre-season expectations. This season will look more like this:
A. Some of What We've Written About Wisconsin This Offseason
- Wisconsin Cocktail Party Preview
- The Greatest Wisconsin Quarterback Since Ron Vander Kelen
- Does the Loss of Four All-Americans Necessarily Relegate Bucky to the Insight Bowl?
- Is Bucky Ready to Stake His Claim to the Conference's Elite?
- Camp Randall Will Serve Your Ass Like John McEnroe
- Please Let Me Hate Wisconsin
B. Wisconsin - What We Can Learn from Pop Culture
If you want to know what I think of when I visualize Wisconsin's upcoming games, just take a look at this:
For the record, Dizzy was always waaaay hotter than Carmen...
Okay, I guess my other metaphors were a bit more subtle, but c'mon. You know you can see that happening when Russell Wilson connects to Nick Toon. Totally realistic. Just like my other videos.
III. Emotional Plea
Why, am I so confident, you may ask. Why, when making my predictions for Wisconsin's record this season, did I not allow for the typical "what the fuck Bucky" loss that Wisconsin seems so masterful at pulling out every season? Well, I'll tell you. There's two reasons why I think this year will be special for the Badgers. More than last year. The first, is the nature of the team. Yes, the Badgers lost some important pieces to the NFL after last year. Stars like J.J. Watt will sorely be missed. But even with that, the Badgers are a stacked team. Experienced and strong on the lines, with a new quality quarterback under center. Reloaded at running back. Decent talent at receiver and tight end. Same coaching staff as ever. And, a schedule that isn't really brutal, with the only real test in Nebraska happening at Camp Randall under the lights -- a setting that last year featured one of the best upsets I've witnessed as a college football fan.
And the second reason? Perhaps more important than the first, the second reason I think Wisconsin will carry home a Big Ten title and possibly more this season has to do with the state of the conference. Ohio State lost its quarterback and its coach, and they're still reeling from suspensions. Nebraska, while perhaps scary on paper, is coming into a foreign conference with a style of play that their defense is completely unused to. Michigan State? Hah, does anyone really believe they can pull off another 2010? Really, do you?
While there may be some dark horse threats out there in Northwestern and Penn State, I still think Wisconsin has more than enough talent to run roughshod over any threats that emerge during the course of the season (or in the championship game, as the case would be with a resurgent Northwestern or Iowa squad). It's really the perfect storm for Wisconsin. They've got all the advantages -- a top team and a weak division and conference. If they can't take advantage of that situations this year, then I submit to you ladies and gentlemen, they should not be considered a true Big Ten football team.
IV. Verdict - The OTE Staff Calls the Games
I am, quite shockingly, not the most optimistic predictor of Wisconsin this season. Perhaps my cheese colored glasses have gotten a little foggy, but somehow a Husker and a Spartan have more faith in Bucky than I do. As a whole, the entire staff sees a good year ahead for the Badgers. This is so because our most pessimistic pick actually has the Badgers still winning 10 games... further, only two writers, Bama and JD Mill have a championship game not featuring Wisconsin. The majority of our writers see a loss to Ohio State -- perhaps in recognition of the fact that the Buckeyes at the 'Shoe are a different challenge than hosting the Buckeyes at Camp Randall. A few of our writers, including Fake Ass Wolverine, instead see a loss to Michigan State... I think this is recognition of the fact that Bucky often has one or more "WTF?!" losses in their schedule. If Ohio State is the predictable loss, therefore, then it sort of follows that the actual loss will come when we least expect it. Or perhaps when we expect it slightly less. This is how our staff breaks down:
Bama Hawkeye: 10-2 (6-2), losses to OSU, Purdue
Ted Glover: 11-1 (7-1), loss to OSU
Jonathan Franz: 11-1 (7-1), loss to OSU
Chadnudj: 11-1 (7-1), loss to OSU
MSULaxer27: 12-0 (8-0), losses to nobody
Ricardo Efendi: 11-1 (7-1), loss to OSU
Paterno Ave: 11-1 (7-1), loss to MSU
Kennard Husker: 12-0 (8-0), losses to nobody
Hilary Lee: 11-1 (7-1), loss to OSU
JDMill: 10-2 (6-2), losses to OSU, MSU
Graham Filler: 11-1 (7-1), loss to MSU