Most people, when they think of Wisconsin food stuffs, think cheese. Now, I'm a big cheese fan. Always loved it. And I firmly believe that Wisconsin makes better cheese than any other state in the country (I'm looking at you California and your happy cows nonsense).
But... there's so much more than cheese in Wisconsin. So, for this potluck, I'm highlighting foods other than cheese (okay so I did include one cheese item) that remind me of my favorite state.
Appetizer - Fried Smelt
Most often found at bars and very traditional fish fry places, the fried smelt is a little piece of heaven. Just enough taste to be interesting, and they go perfectly with some cold beer and a football game. Mmm...
Since getting injured in the Capitol One Bowl, Joel Stave hasn't been quite right. He's still recovering from a shoulder injury and was shut down right before the spring game. Waiting in the wings is Tanner McEvoy, who spent last season playing as a safety, but has supposedly made significant strides in the off season. Who starts the season at QB for Wisconsin, do they keep the job for the season, and how much does the question mark at the position matter for Wisconsin's season?
MNWildcat: Starter: Stave. Does he keep the job: No. Because it's going to be a Wisconsin rite of passage until one of them morphs into Russell Wilson midseason that the quarterback is going to suck and probably get hurt and etc. How much does the job matter: Scott Tolzien, Brooks Bollinger, John Stocco, Jim Sorgi. These are things that were Wisconsin quarterbacks. Fuck you, Wisconsin. Fuck. You.
C4B: Stave probably starts, but at some point he probably gets injured and loses the job, but none of it matters because /Wisconsin runs again.
MC ClapYoHandz: I'd say Tanner McEvoy will be the starter. His biggest knock in camp last season was his lack of a grasp for the playbook, and he looked much more comfortable in that regard in the spring. Plus he's an Andersen recruit and he can make plays with his feet that Stave definitively cannot. Factor in Stave's injury and the valuable reps he's missed in the offseason and I think McEvoy wins the job and keeps it. The question mark at the position is a moderate one since the playbook differs depending on who is in. With Stave you'll see the same offense as last year, generally speaking, and with McEvoy you get an added wrinkle with the ability to throw in some option plays and designed runs.
Jesse: I'm still believing that QB play is important, and whoever can get the most consistent play out of the position will win the division. Stave is the leader when it comes to playing time, and he's not all-together awful. So long as he comes out not-overly-injured, I think it's his position to lose when the season starts. Will he keep it? Well, that depends on how that showdown with LSU goes. The run game is enough to keep Wisconsin dangerous, but you'll have to pass to keep opponents honest. Stave will have to do that.
Green Akers: Andersen didn't bring McEvoy in to play safety. T-Mc (you can keep that one, Badger fans) more closely fits the Andersen model of a QB, and it's not like Stave is Joe Montana, so to me it was always a question if when, not if, he got replaced. Whether McEvoy can hang on to the job is mostly in his hands, but he should get a good opportunity.
GoFor3: McEvoy plays the first three or four games. He struggles in league play and a rusty Stave returns.
Hilary: Stave starts the season under center, but after mediocre performances against LSU and WIU, he gets replaced in the game against Bowling Green. By the time the conference opener at Northwestern rolls around, McEvoy is the full fledged starter and he keeps the job for the remainder of the season. The battle ultimately matters little, as the Badgers only need moderate production out of the QB slot to score against the run defenses they face.
Appetizer - Fried Cheese Curds
C'mon now. You thought I'd let this go with only one appetizer? Not a chance. Of all the cheese products in the world, fried cheese curds are perhaps the best of them. Give me a basket of fried curds and all my troubles melt away. As for the inevitable cardiovascular disease, well, future Hilary can deal with that.
Outside of the QB battle, Wisconsin has two huge question marks this year - the turnover in the front seven and the lack of experience in the WR corps. Which has a bigger impact on the season for the Badgers?
MNWildcat: I don't give a shit about "experience" in the Wisconsin WR corps. I said it last week and I'll say it again: some scrappy, gritty, deceptively slow-but-fast 5'11", 185 kid from Turtle Lake is going to go for 1000 yards and like, 10 TDs. That'll be Alex Erickson. Just get to know him now to save yourself the aggravation later. Just accept it. So that means the turnover in the front seven. Senior NG Warren Herring led the DL with 6.0 TFL and 4.0 sacks last year, and the Badgers will need him to cover for the loss of Beau Allen. I wonder if the four LBs can fill the gaps and allow Big Warren to do damage in the middle. I think the result will be Wisconsin forced to win more shootouts.
C4B: The front seven turnover is probably the bigger issue, because as I said above, who cares about your passing game if you can run the ball. If you can't play defense, on the other hand, you become Indiana. WELCOME TO MY HELL, WISCONSIN!
MC ClapYoHandz: The receiver group has more of an impact on the season. While both groups are green, the front seven has a number of guys that have played meaningful minutes and produced mixed with high-potential underclassmen. The same cannot be said for the wide receiver veterans, and none of the incoming freshmen enrolled early so it will be tougher for them to contribute early.
Jesse: I actually think WR, but I'm not really overly in tune with Wisconsin's roster. Last year, it seemed like Abracadabra was the go-to for all Wisconsin passing plays. Losing him is not only losing a security blanket, it's losing the production he brought on down and distance plays. Defensively, I think Andersen can scheme around what you have. Offensively? Losing a guy like Abbrederis is a big deal and somewhat harder to replace.
Green Akers: I'm going to go with the front seven, since Wisconsin's passing game has never been more than a complement to the run anyway. That front seven's adaptation to the scheme switch was the single biggest reason that the coaching switch was so smooth last year; now we'll see if younger guys and career backups can handle larger roles.
GoAUpher: Front seven turnover. The front seven for UW last season was really good, and the loss of those players could be the difference between another Bo Pelini season and Badger disappointment. Also, I sort of expect UW to turn out walk-on's into serviceable receivers the same way I expect Bo Ryan to turn boredom basketball into 4th place or better.
GoFor3: The lack of a front seven with know-how. If you can't run at Wisconsin, you can't do anything.
Hilary: Ultimately it's the WR corps that has the bigger impact. While the greenness of the front seven is concerning, I have faith in Dave Aranda and the system their building in Madison.
Dinner - Beer 'n Bratwurst
Ah the brat... the brat is basically summer to me. Summer and Wisconsin. Just a few weeks ago I got to introduce a coworker to bratwurst for the first time. How she managed to make it to her 30s without having one I'll never know, but I'm proud that I got to be the one to show her the light.
Gary Andersen's first year as head coach at Wisconsin should largely be considered a success. Will his second year be similar, or is a regression coming?
MNWildcat: Regression on the defensive end, frustration with the QB situation and kicking game... But Wisconsin will still probably find a way to get to double-digits. You suck, Wisconsin.
C4B: I assume a regression is coming, because you don't play Indiana, and thus one of your better chances to score over 50 points is gone. Of course, you ended up in the arguably weaker division, so maybe you'll be better. I don't really know, I just feel real glad that we don't have to face you for a while.
MC ClapYoHandz: This season will likely be a mild improvement, as the schedule offsets the loss of numerous vital graduating seniors. LSU may be the toughest game on the schedule but a loss there will have no bearing on winning a conference title, which Wisconsin is in better position for than last season thanks in large part to realignment. We'll know right away whether the Badgers look to hold steady or make an opportunistic run at a playoff bid.
Jesse: I think it will probably be a similar type of year. The schedule actually doesn't look too terrible, and the team still has Melvin Gordon. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the Badgers also have some terrible Penn State level implosion again as well.
Green Akers: Well, I expect the Badgers to lose to LSU and I'm picking Iowa to win the West, so I'm inclined to think it won't be viewed as that good of a season to fans a couple of years removed from 3 straight Rose Bowls. But I'll admit I don't have a sense of what Badger fans are expecting their team to do this year, given the front seven turnover and anemic passing game.
GoAUpher: Regression. Why? Because I don't like Wisconsin and want the Axe back in Minnesota. #logic
GoFor3: Clearly a regression. See questions one and two. The odds are against him in a way they weren't last season.
Hilary: No regression. The realignment and easy schedule favor the Badgers, and the team finishes with at least as many wins in Andersen's second season as they did in his first.
Supper - Lake Perch Fish Fry
Yes, I know, I already included one type of fried fish on this list. And this is my third fried item. Like I said before, future Hilary can deal with the coronary. In the meantime, I look forward to every time that I happen to be in Wisconsin on a friday night, because that means I can take advantage of a real fish fry. And for me, the best fish in a fish fry is perch. Hands down. No cod here.
By far the most difficult game on Wisconsin's schedule is their opener against LSU. Who wins, and what's the score?
MNWildcat: LSU, 27-24.
C4B: UW 21, LSU 18. Because why not?
MC ClapYoHandz: Wisconsin 35, Louisiana Stater 17
Jesse: I'm going Wisconsin 38-29. Weird score. Weird game.
Green Akers: I think Wisconsin keeps it respectable since I can't really remember the last time they were blown out, but it's essentially a road game against a premier opponent. I'll say something like LSU 31, Wisconsin 21.
GOAupher: LSU by 7 points because I don't want to hear all of the chest puffery from Badger fans if they beat an ESS EEE CEE team in a game played down south.
GoFor3: LSU by a landslide. 34-10. #B1Gwetfartnoise
Hilary: Wisconsin 24, LSU 21.
Side Dish - Potato Pancakes and Applesauce
My second favorite part of a traditional fish fry, other than the fish, are the potato pancakes with applesauce. As much as I love french fries, a fish fry isn't real if it doesn't come with potato pancakes.
Which of your team's games are you most anxious about, who wins, and what's the score?
MNWildcat: Northwestern @ Notre Dame. Northwestern wins because FUCK YOU NOTRE DAME, 17-15.
C4B: There's a few games that are probably more important overall, but our most anxious games are Maryland and at Rutgers, because anything less than a split in those games probably signals the end of Indiana football as a viable D1 football program. 1-1 would be acceptable, and 2-0 would be excellent.
MC ClapYoHandz: I'm most anxious about Minnesota @ Wisconsin. It probably falls somewhere between 2nd and 4th on the difficulty scale, but beating Minnesota is the core prerequisite to a successful season and if Minnesota is going to make a jump up as a program, Jerry Kill's 4th season is likely to be the most telling in whether or not that comes to fruition.
Jesse: As for Nebraska, I'm actually really really anxious about traveling out West to play another team at night. Sure it's a non-Carr Fresno State, but weird stuff happens in non-con on the West coast. I'm not picking a winner in that game.
Green Akers: The easy answer for MSU is Oregon. This feels like the game where the uneducated nation decides if MSU is here to stay, or was more of a flash in the pan. I'm a little anxious for all the new defensive starters to cut their teeth in Eugene, but I also think the offense should be good enough to keep us in it. I'll hold my score prediction, though.
GOAupher: The Iowa and Wisconsin game. I'm less anxious than I am antsy. That's a key part of the season for Minnesota and I'd really prefer they leave the last 4 games of the season with one of those two trophies.
Dessert - Door County Cherry Pie
This is the shameful part of the article where I admit that, despite spending an inordinate amount of time in Wisconsin, I have never been to Door County. Despite not traveling to that part of the state, I have experienced authentic Door County cherry pie and good lord is it amazing. My mouth is watering...
Melvin Gordon passed up the NFL draft to return to Wisconsin. How many yards does he finish with, and where does he end up for the Heisman and the Doak Walker award?
MNWildcat: Finalist for Doak Walker, not invited for Heisman, around 1200 yards and 12 TDs. I just made up numbers here. These are things, though.
C4B: 2,483 yards, second or third in the Doak Walker, and not invited to NYC for the Heisman ceremony.
MC ClapYoHandz: This question is tough. Gordon is capable of a historic season and not many of the defenses on the slate are daunting. However, I don't know if this coaching staff is as willing to up his workload and set him up for individual accolades as, say, Bret Bielema was with Montee Ball. I'm going to guess Gordon's usage rate falls somewhere between his previous season and Montee Ball's last couple seasons. We'll say 1,900 yards, 3rd for the Heisman behind Winston and whatever frosh QB turns out to be awesome, and winner of the Doak Walker.
Jesse: I'm going with 1800 yards and 14 TDs. That will get him in the running for the Doak Walker, but we won't be transcendent enough for the Heisman because QBs win the Heisman.
Green Akers: Thanks to more Alvarez magic/blackmail, the schedule once again smiles on the Badgers. Eyeballing that schedule, I see three, perhaps four run defenses that I think can stand up to the Badgers: LSU, Rutgers, probably Iowa, and maybe Maryland. Gordon should feast on the like of WIU, Purdue, and Illinois. I have no idea what his awards prospects are because predicting those is a crapshoot, but between his ability, the line in front of him, and the Swiss cheese run D outfits he's facing, fewer than 1,700 yards rushing would have to be viewed as a disappointment.
GOAupher: Gordon will retire in late August to pursue a career as an artisanal baker. He will wow the Madison foodie crowd with his locally sourced ingredients and end up with a shop on Square that Badger fans will patronize despite the severe lack of curded cheese for sale within.
GoFor3: Heisman? Not a prayer. He will enjoy watching it on ESPN like the rest of us. Doak....maybe.
Hilary: I'm going with 1,980 yards, fourth in Heisman voting, and winner of the Doak Walker
What? You thought I'd leave this out? In a Wisconsin themed potluck? Pfft.
What's your favorite Wisconsin-made beer or liquor? (Bonus points for both)
MNWildcat: Liquor -- go to Great Lakes Distillery in Milwaukee. Have the Rehorst gin and either absinthe. It is delicious amazing awesome yum yum yum. They make beer in Wisconsin, too. I like the IBA from Lakefront Brewery.
MC ClapYoHandz: For Wisconsin beer my first thought is Lakefront's Pumpkin Lager, I like the pumpkin beers and Lakefront has the only pumpkin lager in existence. That's seasonal though, so I'd give a year-round nod to New Glarus for either Moon Man or Uff-da. For liquor, it would be cheating to pick Great Lakes Pumpkin Seasonal Spirit after my last answer, so I'll go with Old Sugar Factory Honey Liqueur.
Green Akers: New Glarus, but only Spotted Cow. Word on the street is the rest of their brews are unremarkable so you should definitely only ever get Spotted Cow.
GOAupher: I'm a big fan of Central Waters line of bourbon barrel beers. Some of the best versions of that style that I've had.
GoFor3: Leinenkugels Shandy
Hilary: Beer: New Glarus Two Women, Liquor: Death's Door gin