A lot of the time these days, I feel like everyone else in the B1G is waiting for the other shoe to drop with Wisconsin. Hell, I feel like that sometimes too. I mean, excepting the 2011 team led by Russell Wilson, the Badgers teams of the last several seasons haven't really been earth shattering.
Oh, they've been good enough. And they've had enough luck in the form of ineligible opponents and favorable tie-breaking scenarios. But that's not the kind of thing that generates real respect in the conference. Of course, it gets worse considering the three straight Rose Bowl defeats.
So it seems that going into every year, everyone else is just waiting for Wisconsin to slide back into tier 2 status.
Thing is, I'm sorry to disappoint y'all, but 2013 isn't going to be the year that happens.
I. Case History and Opening Statement
A. Case History
I mentioned it briefly above, and I don't think I really need to go into too much detail on the last several seasons of the Badgers. Three years, three conference championships. Two appearances in the B1G championship game. Three Rose Bowl defeats. Capable quarterbacks, dominant running backs, and offensive lines stuffed with dairy fed bruisers. Different stories, same ending.
The big change heading into this season is on the coaching staff. I've already written quite a bit about the changes that Wisconsin will see to the staff this year, and I won't retread that ground here. (Mainly because it's almost lunch time and I really need to finish this article and go get some food).
B. Opening Statement
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me be clear. I'm not here to argue that my client is the best football team in the B1G in 2013. Oh no. My client is pretty good, at best. I'm just going to be straight with y'all and admit that. The Badgers in the 2013 season are a fine football team. But I'm going to argue to you today that, given their division and schedule, they don't need to be a world beating team.
You've got Joel Stave returning from last year's season ending injury. And he'll have both Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen to throw to again. Technically, there isn't a solid #2 receiver, but given the strength of the running game that Wisconsin always deploys, I find that less of a concern than I would for any other team.
Speaking of that running game -- it once again rotates its feature back, and I expect great things from Melvin Gordon and James White.
The offensive line is a little depleted, but I'm not that worried. Well, as long as they stay healthy, that is. If a rash of injuries strikes, then watch out.
The biggest question for me is how the Badgers will handle the switch to a 3-4 defense. And how the competition will deal with a defense that isn't really played by anyone else in the B1G.
And then there's the secondary.... I really don't know what to say about this. Other than Dezmen Southward, they're mostly unproven as starters. Some people look at a situation like this and automatically assume the worse. I tend to be a bit more optimistic. Until I start seeing blunders, I'm willing to cross my fingers and give the secondary the benefit of the doubt.
But here's the thing. If there was ever a season for the Badgers to have to deal with question marks at offensive line, the secondary, and the coaching staff, then 2013 is it. Just look at their schedule. It's ridiculous.
Badgers Football Schedule
|UMass||Sat 08/31||11:00 AM CDT|
|Tennessee Tech||Sat 09/07||11:00 AM CDT|
|@ Arizona St.||Sat 09/14||9:30 PM CDT|
|@ Ohio St.||Sat 09/28||7:00 PM CDT|
|Northwestern||Sat 10/12||2:30 PM CDT|
|@ Illinois||Sat 10/19||7:00 PM CDT|
|@ Iowa||Sat 11/02||TBA|
|@ Minnesota||Sat 11/23||TBA|
|Penn St.||Sat 11/30||TBA|
Yes, Ohio State is the big hurdle there. And sleeping on Arizona State and Northwestern would be a big mistake. But the Badgers should, with competent play, be good to go in every other game this season. They get to completely miss both teams from the Mitten State. And Nebraska.
Games against Penn State and BYU are a little bit of a wild card, but fortunately the Badgers get both at home, where they are usually pretty dominant. And I can definitely say that I am not at all concerned about Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, or Minnesota.
Therefore, even if the Badgers lose all three games that I think are potentially challenging, they'll still come out of this season with a 9-3 record and a slot in a decent bowl game, probably somewhere in Florida. And, given just a little luck and some good play from the unproven elements of the team, they could find themselves right back in Indianapolis for a third straight year.
That's why I say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that the 2013 season is not the one in which to expect the Badgers to fall back into mediocrity.
A. What We Learned This Offseason
B. What We Can Learn From Pop Culture
Alabama Shakes - Hang Loose HD (via MLUTV)
I've been listening to this album a lot while I work. If you aren't familiar with it, I really suggest you give it a go. The song that I've picked is one of my favorites, and I feel like it really encapsulates my attitude towards the 2013 Wisconsin football season. At the end of the day, Wisconsin just has to hang loose. They've got to relax. The schedule is lined up for them to have a great season if they don't make stupid mistakes and be their own worst enemy.
III. Emotional Plea
Look, I know I'm not going to convince most of you that Wisconsin is realistically going to beat Ohio State and get back to Indy, let alone Pasadena. That's fine. Most days, I don't even believe it myself. But all I've got to say is, don't write the Badgers off. Just because they don't look all that impressive, and just because there's a lot of uncertainty there, doesn't mean that a seven win season is in order.
And, should the Badgers manage to go into the ‘Shoe at night and take down the Buckeyes, don't act like it was a huge surprise, because it's definitely possible...
IV. Verdict (Staff Predictions)
The OTE staff is a bit divided on Wisconsin. A majority of the staff thinks the Badgers will fail to make it back to double digit wins, while five of the writers see a 10 or 11 win season on tap.
OTE Staff Average: 9-3 (6-2)