In my introductory post a few days ago, I wrote about my favorite Big 10 team and current school, Northwestern. Before I bled purple, though, there was another team that I pledged my loyalty to, namely, the Wisconsin Badgers. While I never attended the University of Wisconsin, my family ties to the University and the great dairy state as well as my love of beer, sausage, and all things Bucky naturally made them my adopted team back when I was just a wee little Chicagoan. Even though I am now at Northwestern, I still retain my fandom of the Badgers and am happy to be writing about them for The Rivalry, Esq.
Last year was, frankly, a disappointing season for Badgers football. The 9 win 2007 season had been quite thrilling, despite the heartbreaking bowl loss to the Volunteers. The 2008 campaign started well, with the Badgers going 3-0 before sloppy play doomed them against an easily beatable Michigan team. That seemed to take the air out of the Badger's sails and they followed it up with a complete failure of late-game play against OSU and crushing defeats to the Nittany Lions and the Hawkeyes. While they eventually finished over .500, the predictable bowl loss to FSU served as a capstone to the underwhelming season.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure that 2009 will be much better.
Make sure to go back and submit your picks for the Obligatory Predictions Contest. Every weekly winner gets the right to write 500 words on the site about college football. NEW this year is our season long competition - win the whole damn thing and we send you something amazing.
In some ways, Wisconsin is in the exact opposite situation that Northwestern is. Most of Wisconsin's defense is gone, while the offense will remain relatively consistent. What changes that are made on the offense look to be positive ones - QB Scott Tolzien will be starting over Dustin Sherer, which looks to be an improvement. While P.J. Hill is gone to the NFL, Zach Brown and John Clay look to split carries and should be more than adequate in their duties. The emergence of Nick Toon at receiver could also be helpful to the Badgers game.
Still, questions remain about this team. A large proportion of the starters and backups are either sophomores or freshman, which suggests an amount of uncertainty is in store this year. There is also the matter of the head coach. Was Bielema's 12-1 rookie season a reflection of his abilities as a coach, or a fluke powered by players who had been recruited by Alvarez? If the answer is the former then last year was just a down year and the Badgers should return to football glory. If it's the alternative... well, it's best not to think about where that would leave Wisconsin come this January.
Though I may be spending my Saturday afternoons in a rival stadium, I will still be following my Badgers and will have many thoughts to share as this season progresses.