Sometimes, when you're throwing a Potluck, you have to invite "that" guy.
You know, the guy you've been friends with for a long time, and who's been a decent friend, but you're not really sure why you're STILL friends. Or maybe it's the boyfriend of your wife's friend. He's negative, or socially awkward, or.....a huge douche. One day, he tells you he's moving across the country, and IMMEDIATELY all of your Potlucks have improved. Your wife's friend starts dating a new guy, who actually seems nice and gets along with everyone, and even buys everyone frozen custard. In short, your Potlucks improve by subtraction.
In other words.....thanks for leaving, Bert Bielema. Now we're excited to have Wisconsin around at the OTE Potlucks without the overwhelming smell of Drakkar Noir and ugly Affliction t-shirts (well, at least not quite as many....damn you Luke Fickell!)
So follow us for a cheese/beer themed Wisconsin potluck (all the recipes linked below involve cheese AND beer, including the dessert!), where the OTE writers discuss the validity of Wisconsin's 2012 B1G Championship, the prescription for beating Wisconsin, what exactly a 3-4 defense and 3-TE spread offense means for the Badgers, and a State of the Union on Hate Pieces.....
Wisconsin scored again....and again...and again.....(Photo by Richard Mackson - US Presswire)
1. Fennel and Leek Bruschetta with Cheese and Beer Fondue: Wisconsin finished at .500 in conference play, 3rd in the Leaders Division....and is "officially" the B1G Champion and got to go to a Rose Bowl. Shouldn't there be a HUGE asterisk next to this? Is Wisconsin's "championship" proof that a B1G Championship game wasn't such a good idea? Should Delany and the ADs have made some type of plan (given OSU/PSU's ineligibility) for last season to avoid precisely what happened? Am I the only one who is still a little bit upset by this? Or was Wisconsin a deserving champion who was actually plagued by bad luck?
Ted Glover: Asterisk? No, it's not their fault OSU and PSU were ineligible and Wisconsin played by the rules. What could have Delany done, installed OSU in to play the game against what the NCAA said? With all the talk of 'football culture' permeating everything and everywhere for all time and forever and ever, THAT would have gone over like a fart in church, except in Columbus. Or just declare Nebraska the champion? Couldn't have done that either, based on what happened on the field. It was a bad situation, but it wasn't Delany's fault. If you didn't like what happened, blame OSU and PSU for running afoul of the NCAA and making themselves ineligible. The conference played a bad hand as well as it could have been played.
And no, the B1G Championship game was something that was long overdue. One season where a third place team in a division goes over the top two is an anomaly, and won't happen every year. Don't get me wrong, I would've loved to have seen OSU in the conference championship as I think it would have generated more interest and the game would have, you know, sold out and stuff. But let me take a long winded description of why this wasn't a trave--Wisconsin just scored again.
Your argument is invalid. Wisconsin was a valid champion. Let it go, it's over.
MNWildcat: Was this a thinly veined reference to Pat Fitzgerald's thought that the coaches should vote on the two best teams for the B1GCG, irrespective of division? Because that was a silly idea. Given OSU/PSU's ineligibility, it was always going to look bad, but OSU is eligible again this year. I can't think of any options that really would've saved face for last year.
Graham Filler: The way the season worked out averts the need for an asterisk. Ohio State and PSU were paying prices for well-publicized sins, so they can't complain about not being B1G Champs. NW and Michigan never played Wisconsin, so they can't claim some measure of superiority.
Nebraska? Etc we just scored again etc.
So I'm not sure who was wronged by this all. If somehow Wildcat Homer Chad believes Northwestern should have been given a shot at Wisky, well, beat Nebraska and that chance would be yours.
Sure, Wisconsin in 2012 was disappointing and annoyingly successful. But the way they dominated Nebraska with the run game deserves not one mention, but many. The first half of that game, although probably offensive to lovers of defense, was so much fun. To know the Wisconsin gameplan so flummoxed Nebraska and so pushed all the struggle bus buttons on that young Blackshirt defense.....it made me thrilled that a B1G team can put on the bossy pants and crush the soul of a decent opposing squad.
Aaron Yorke: Rules are rules! What exactly was Delaney supposed to do last season? Allow two teams from the Legends Division to play for the conference crown? That would go against two years of tradition! Wisconsin sure didn't look like a champion from a win-loss perspective, but on the field it looked just as good as the teams that finished ahead of it in the conference standings. Sure, you can say the Badgers didn't have one impressive victory for the entire regular season (a fact), but it's not as though this team was getting blown off the field by the good teams it did play. Overtime games in football are a 50-50 proposition when you account for all the randomness inherent in the game. Wisconsin lost three such contests. The thwomping of Nebraska in the B1G title game did more than enough to prove the Badgers a "legitimate" champion.
BabaOReally: Wisconsin won the conference championship game. They are the conference champions. I don't know how the ADs or Delany should have changed this. They had divisions and schedules set; it's not their fault that the top two teams in one division were dirty cheaters. Nobody whines about the basketball tournament when the dominant team over the course of the season doesn't win. It's the same thing here.
Mike Jones: Yeah I don't really care. Last season was a huge asterisk for the entire conference. We weren't even deserving of a championship game. We should've just given a trophy full of money to everyone and said "Good job, good effort. We're all winners here." (but not really...we were just awful).
Jesse Collins: Sure, there should obviously be an asterisk due to both Penn State and Ohio State finishing ahead of them, but this is not exactly an indictment on a B1G Championship game so much as it was Ohio State and Penn State not having their act together. Wisconsin caught a lot of luck last year and despite starting out extremely slow, they made changes and worked Nebraska in the Championship Game. Now, do I think they were the best team in the Big Ten last season? No, not at all and it's not even close. They peaked at the right time as others were beat up and off their game and seized the moment. Good for them, I guess.
GoAUpher: I hate Wisconsin. Truly, I wish they never won a game, ever. And I'd be glad to attach an asterisk to the 3rd of their B1G titles. But I'm not upset by what happened. They took advantage of the situation they were handed. I would want Minnesota to do the same if facing a similar set of circumstances. I'm not sure what sort of other plans Delany and the AD's could have made that wouldn't have been a NCAA style move (i.e. making the rules up as they go).
MSULaxer27: I'm not sure I see the whole "we're punishing you" by saying that you can't go to the B1G championship or a bowl game but you get to play all your home games and we give you a cut of football revenues (so no bowl or B1G game travel expenses but all the revunues - OK) as a punishment...but whatever. By the rules in place Wisconsin was the team that was eligible to go to the B1G game, they performed when it mattered (so much for the "value" of the regular season that precluded a playoff for so many years) and went to the Rose and played like a B1G team. They didn't game the system, but if there's any team that has gained as significant as an advantage from the system as UW football over the last three years, I'm not sure who it is.
Hilary Lee: I don't get the ire over this. Yeah, I'm a Wisconsin fan, but if Wisconsin were being punished in the same fashion as OSU or PSU, then I wouldn't think they should be in the championship game either. What good is a CCG if one of the participants can't go to the Rose Bowl anyway? What are they playing for? We can argue until the sun goes down whether the punishments in either the OSU or PSU case were justified, but the fact of the matter is that they were in place. And, honestly, given the beatdown that Wisconsin put on Nebraska (think they just scored again...) I think putting an asterisk next to their appearance is absurd.
To stop the third-best team in the Leaders Division, all you had to do was play 11 guys on the line....(Photo credit: Mary Lagenfeld - US Presswire)
2. Cheese and Beer Soup with Garlic Croutons and Kielbasa Sausage: The prescription to beat Wisconsin last year seemed to be "out-rushing them to tire out their defense and win time of possession." In 3 of Wisconsin's 4 B1G losses (Nebraska, MSU, PSU), the opposing team won time of possession and either outrushed the Badgers and/or held the Badgers to a VERY low rushing amount (Wisconsin rushed for just 19 yards compared to MSU's 61; for 56 yards compared to Nebraska's 259 yards; and for 158 yards to PSU's 163). This year, the Badgers still have questions at QB and are deploying a new offense (meaning teams may be able to stack the box and stop the run again), plus their secondary is now depleted with transfers (safety Reggie Mitchell), ineligibility (Donnell Vercher), and inexperience (only one returning starter in Dezmen Southward). Is Wisconsin going to get beaten in 2013 the same way it got beaten in 2012? Why or why not?
Ted Glover: I really don't know what Wisconsin is going to be like in 2013. There's generally a period of adjustment when you have a new staff that installs a new system on both sides of the ball, but Wisconsin has consistently been at the top of the conference for the better part of a decade, so we'll see. It will be weird seeing the Badgers in a spread offense, and I don't know if going away from their power running game will hurt them or not. My kneejerk reaction is to say yes, but Gary Andersen is a very good coach, and I'm sure he'll put his players in the best position to make a play and to win games, like all good coaches do. With their inexperience at QB, I think the obvious way to beat them, at least right now, is to take their running game away and make them throw. Joel Stave doesn't impress me, and he really has an unproven set of receivers outside of Jared Abbrederis. Double cover him or bracket him shallow and deep, drop an extra guy in the box, and make Stave make a play. On defense, moving to a 3-4 puts a lot of pressure on their linebackers to stop the run and make plays on short and intermediate routes, and their responsibilities can be a lot different than in a 4-3. It will be very interesting to watch that defense evolve this year.
MNWildcat: Teams can stack the box and stop the run against Wisky at their own risk. Stave should be a capable QB who already averaged 9.28 yards per pass last season, and there's about to be some naaaasty play action if he can find a target who's not Jared Abbrederis (hint: it'll be one of eleventy tight ends). Wisconsin last season clung to the run to set up the pass, but I predict Andersen's spread could be particularly effective at ridding the Badger offense of this requirement.
Aaron Yorke: Except for that one time they had Russell Wilson, the Badgers haven't recently had an offense creative enough to defeat teams that could out-muscle them. This season probably won't be any different, but look at that schedule. Ohio State is the only team who has a chance to push Wisconsin around. Michigan State and Nebraska are gone from the schedule, and Penn State (another team with a quarterback question) is a home game. Wisconsin's Legends Division opponents are Iowa, Minnesota, and Northwestern. The first two you figure the Badgers can bludgeon to death, while the matchup with the Wildcats should provide fireworks. That game will be tough for the Badgers on defense, but it's hard to imagine them not being able to run the ball at home versus Northwestern. In a nutshell, I think Ohio State is the only team on the slate that can beat Wisconsin on the ground.
Mike Jones: That was Bert's Wisconsin team. This is ... uh... their new coaches Wisconsin team. I remember watching a few Utah State games with Gary Andersen as head coach and I could've sworn they ran the spread. Spread, in Wisconsin? That's not going to work. That's like trying the spread at Iowa. We know how that turned out. In general, to answer this question I would have to know something about Wisconsin's offensive philosophy for 2013. I don't.
Jesse Collins: Wisconsin is going to get beaten because they might not have an identity and their coach isn't going to be able to prepare for all new opponents. I'm leery of first year guys who have not coached in big time conferences. There is definitely a chance that they will succeed long term, but the short is usually quite the learning curve and I don't see this being any different. With a depleted secondary that will open up the Badger defense significantly, I just don't see them keeping opponents of the scoreboard enough to continue their run of good fortune. They'll still be able to run the ball, but I'm not a Stave enthusiast personally. As much as I hated Biels, he could put together a run game. I'm not convinced Andersen will be able to do the same thing.
GoAUpher: I don't care if they get beaten by a bad case of gout spreading through the offensive line. I only care about whether Minnesota finally takes the Axe back.
Hilary Lee: I don't think so. If just because of the switch to the 3-4 defense. I don't think we'll be giving up quite as many 5-to-7 yard rushes this time around. If that defense fails, it will fail on big plays. I also think the "questions at QB" are overrated. It's not like we have absolutely no quarterbacks and are just dragging people in off the street. Joel Stave was perfectly fine at QB -- he had the highest passer efficiency rating in the conference prior to getting hurt. Curt Phillips isn't going to set the world on fire, but he's capable enough as a backup. And Tanner McEvoy is an unknown quantity. That being said, there's no doubt that the run game is still going to be seriously important to Wisconsin. And, yes, if you can stop our RBs, you stop a huge part of our offense. It's like stopping the spread with Northwestern. If you can do that, you will have a much easier time preventing the Wildcats from scoring, and will probably win.
Gary Andersen makes his "Pelini" face.....(Photo credit: Douglas C. Pizac - US Presswire)
3. Beer-Broiled, Grilled Bratwurst with Roasted Red Pepper Puree and Parmesan Cheese Bowls with Mixed Greens and Pan-Roasted Herbed Layered Potatoes: Out with DoucheBrah, in with Gary Andersen. In addition to having a name that's a homonym that will troll Minnesota Vikings fans from 1998, Andersen is bringing in a 3-4 defense to the Badgers and a 3-TE spread offense. The B1G is largely the land of 4-3 defenses (necessitated by the conference's punishing running games), and while the B1G has successfully embraced the spread, I'm not sure I've ever heard of a 3-TE variant of it. Is Andersen changing too much/too soon in Madison? Can a 3-4 work in the B1G? And what do you make of the 3-TE spread?
Ted Glover: It can work as long as you have the athletes--big, physical, and athletic tight ends can cause nightmare matchup problems for opposing linebackers and defensive backs...but outside of Jacob Pederson, I'm not sold on them being able to pull that off this year. They only had one TE in their 2013 recruiting class and none so far for 2014, so there doesn't appear to be three guys that are ideal for this offense yet. Ohio State rolled out a spread with an emphasis on the tight end last year as well, and ran into similar problems. They moved WR Jake Stoneburner to TE to try and compensate for the lack of playmakers there, and he did okay, but Braxton Miller was really inconsistent as a passer, and relied on his wide receivers too much. Fortunately for them, they had his legs and Carlos Hyde to lean on when they couldn't throw the ball, and it worked out. Joel Stave had a lot of the same stops and starts as a passer that Miller had, but he obviously doesn't have the same type of running ability. But James White and Melvin Gordon could easily make up for that, so anything is possible.
All that said, there were a lot of skeptics when the Spread made it's way into the B1G, and they've been cast aside with the rest of the Flat Earth Society. Although this is new, especially at a school like Wisconsin, where their identity has been a power running team for the longest time, it doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. You need the right players to do it, though, and that's my over riding concern for them right now.
And damn you for mentioning Gary Anderson and 1998, Chad. Damn you to Hell, sir. My day is now ruined. Bastard.
MNWildcat: You suck for mentioning 1998. You. Suck. Other than that? The B1G is changing what it means to be a running team. Teams are still rolling up lots of yards on the ground, but the elite teams like Ohio State and Nebraska have spread QBs who can beat you around the edge as much as they can up the middle. I'm interested to see the 3-4 defense in the B1G to see if it can curb the effectiveness of speedy QBs like Miller, Martinez, and Colter, not only by containing the edges and filling gaps, but also by mixing up coverages and sending that Joker from different angles on blitzes.
The 3-TE spread will be fun. I predicted in another thread this scenario: Bucky will struggle in an early game (my guess is ASU) and possibly even drop the game on a bad passing day by Stave where the rushing game can't save the Badgers. But if Stave gets the hang of looking to 3 tight ends on passing downs, Wisconsin is going to be tough to cover on the play-action (watch out, OSU).
Aaron Yorke: Tight ends are all the rage in football these days, and not just at the college level. Bill Belichick loves to toy with opponents by using Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to create matchup problems. Last year in the B1G, Penn State was second in the conference in passing yards despite only having one good wide receiver. Besides, look at the talent Wisconsin has churned out over the years. Its tight ends always seem to be better off than its wide receivers. Garrett Graham, Lance Kendricks, Travis Beckum, and now Jacob Pedersen are all good reasons why more tight ends on the field should make for a more exciting Wisconsin offense. As for the 3-4, it's a slightly faster defense than the 4-3 with one extra guy standing up, but usually that extra linebacker would just be playing DE in a 4-3 anyway. If you think the 3-4 really is a big difference from the 4-3, there's still no reason why it won't work. The B1G has no shortage of mobile QBs, and I'd rather keep as much quickness on the field as possible.
Mike Jones: I answered the previous question before reading this one. See, I knew they ran the spread! Unfortunately, I don't believe a 3-4 will work in the Big Ten. Furthermore, why would you even try to implement it? We're known for our awesome defensive linemen around these parts. Hell, Wisconsin is notable for putting some excellent defensive linemen in the NFL. So why would you change that by putting undersized linebackers up against massive offensive linemen? This isn't the NFL. The linebackers in the Big Ten aren't of that caliber. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Now, the 3 TE-spread? I don't understand. How can one run the spread with 3 tight ends? Aren't you supposed to "spread" out the field of play? Tight ends aren't the fastest players out there so I don't understand how they'll be cutting and gashing through the defense.
Jesse Collins: I answered some of this before. A 3-4, especially of the hybrid linebacker form, can work in the Big Ten. I know I've seen Nebraska run that successfully at times, and I think that I've even seen Ohio State do that as well. So long as you have that 'tweener' guy who has speed off the edge on an OLB spot, I think the 3-4 can effectively stop the run while also defending speedier plays that the spread brings in. As for the 3 TE spread... I really don't know how this is going to be a specifically good or bad thing. Honestly, I get the use of a good TE, but unless you have 3 overly dynamic TEs who can both block, stretch with playmaking abilities in the slot, and have soft hands, the set becomes more of a gimmick. At the point of having a 3 TE set, you could also have a 2 TE set with a dynamic WR who knows how to block. Maybe I don't get the concept, but it just seems overrated to me.
GoAUpher: First, in response to the Vikings dig...
Now about the actual question? If I was a Wisconsin fan, I'd be more concerned about the transition to a 3-4 than what the 3 TE spread is. As a fan of offensive wrinkles, I'm actually intrigued by what Anderson is thinking when it comes to the spread. And given how this conference works, I'd guess that between the 2 new schemes, the 3 TE spread is the more successful one (so long as the primary focus of the UW offense is RUN THE DAMN BALL like it has been in the past).
Hilary Lee: I'm still not sure where the insistence that Wisconsin's offense will be based on a 3-TE spread is coming from. Everything I read from Andersen and Ludwig say they are still basing the offense around the power run game. I expect we might see a 3-TE spread set from time to time, but it's not like it's going to be what they go with on every series. Given that Wisconsin has a history of producing good TEs, it certainly makes sense that any spread variant that shows up would involve more TEs than WRs.
The 3-4 is a different matter. That is undoubtedly different. Will it work? I don't know. The only way to find out is to see it deployed in games. The Badgers have not been the most exciting team to watch on defense, so I'm happy that I'll at least have a reason to enjoy the defensive series this season.
Writing original hate pieces every year is harder than it looks.....
4. Chocolate Stout Cupcakes: There's lately been some criticism in the comments section on OTE's Friday Hate Pieces, with critiques aimed at the pieces being "unoriginal" or lazy, requesting hate pieces be written by different fans than primary rivals, and/or just believing our level of hatred is not sufficient. At the halfway point of Hate Pieces, how are you feeling OTE is doing this season? What changes would you like to see to the Hate Pieces? And if you feel we missed a hate angle on anyone we've covered so far, feel free to vent your hatred here.
Ted Glover: I'm not a fan of a non-rival writing a hate piece, because they're not plugged in to it like a rival fan usually is. But I'm not a fan of the indifferent or apathetic hate we've seen so far, either. This 'eh,whatever' bullshit isn't hate, it's trying to be too smart by a half. Fuck that, let the hate flow. That's why it's sports hate. We're the Big Ten, we do sports hate better than anyone, so let 'er rip. I'm doing the Michigan hate, and I promise you it will be good, old fashioned hate. Because fuck Michigan, that's why.
MNWildcat: MOAR PHOTOSHOPS. Also, if you, the reader, has any good ideas for hate pieces, e-mail us! We always love suggestions (and, being lonely, I enjoy the 'ping' of an unread e-mail in my inbox).
Graham Filler: The Rivalry Pieces are a wonderful social experiment. Can B1G folks get together and shred a school/team for their perceived shortcomings/annoyances, all with the underlying idea that it's all in good fun?
I have two signs that lead me to believe that not only are these pieces successful, but necessary.
1. Check out this piece that I wrote from 2010. We need each other here in the Midwest. We have something most conferences don't have: actual interest in other schools and their culture and their fans. That makes these games so much more interesting and meaningful. That makes our comment threads so much more important. As that piece mentioned:
- That was the weirdest OSU-UM game I've attended. Last year, I got headbutted...by a Michigan fan, who was enraged that I would attend a game with a friend wearing an OSU jersey. This year? I'm walking with Jon and another Buckeye past the stadium when a cop stops us. He looks at my two friends and waves his finger: "You be nice to him," he says.
- I am thereafter immediately accosted by a OSU varsity jacket wearing middle aged man who lectures me on keeping my head up. "You'll be back" is the lesson of this discussion. Thanks!
- You know when a rivalry has seen better days when everyone has moved past the "f*** you, f*** your state, f*** your team" phase into sheer sympathy. When rivalry games get the same response as wakes (pat on the back, warm words), things are in bad shape.
2. That 1500+ comments Maryland piece from last week got linked to on some Maryland sites. At first, folks complained that the hate piece and follow up comments were unfair. But then a commenter on Testudo Times said something to the effect of "As you can see later in the thread, it's all in good fun." I agree wholeheartedly. Yeah, we're going to give you the business for having terrible football tradition and for wrecking our 12 team set up, but now that you're in the Big Ten, you're one of us.
Aaron Yorke: Maybe we should try having a fan a school write a hate piece on that school. I think I know how to hate my school more than I know how to hate its rivals, so maybe that is true for other fans out there. My only other advice is to let the hate pieces be hated. Isn't that the point of them?
BabaOReally: The hate pieces have been fine, but not especially fantastic. It's really hard to come up with fresh angles on why you hate a team year after year. I have only done it for two years in a row and I had trouble coming up with something this year. I don't mind the complaining about the hate pieces; that means that they expect good work from OTE and have high expectations.
Mike Jones: This blog sucks. I'm moving to Bleacher Report. OOOOOOOOO PRETTY SLIDESHOWS.
Jesse Collins: I don't hate the hate columns so much as I empathize with them. It's hard being a column devoted to such strong convictions and filled with words meant to demean and condescend. I get it because the hate is me and I am the hate. Even so, that takes effort just because getting to the point where I hate the hate column requires me to acknowledge that hate is something more than just that annoying little brother trying to be a real column. It's like it's the new guy coming in here trying to be all cool, but we don't really want it. Still, we plug away and wonder why anyone would want to hate the hate column. It's really quite meta.
GoAUpher: If people dislike the HATE pieces then they should take matters into their own hands and contact an OTE writer like slidingscrapes did. If you think you can do it better, then do it better. Now, kindly get off my lawn. /Ted Glover'd
MSULaxer27: It might be time to try something different...although I'm not quite sure what our commentariat is expecting...Us to post a picture of the writer burning "Team X's" shirt/Entrance sign/Ag Building to prove how much they "hate" said school that week. It's almost predictable, the response we get each week...somebody lurks, may comment a few times, and then Bam! - The this column is really weak...you call this hatred. Maybe our good relationship behind the scenes has dulled our edge a little? As much as I "hate" them I'd rather be associated with the University of Michigan, Wisconsin or Northwestern than I would with Texas, Ole Miss, or god forbid Missouri.
Hilary Lee: Hate is a difficult beast. And, actually, I prefer it when our hate pieces are less EXTREME RAGE VITRIOL and more pointed mocking. I don't think all of our hate pieces will be home runs, but I'm happy if we just have a couple of gems over the weeks.