It's clear. I've pissed off a football god.
That is the only explanation for what happened last night. I thought, last year, that I had experienced the worst kind of loss when Wisconsin had a victory stolen in the desert by incompetent Pac-12 refs.
And before that, I thought I had experienced the worst kind of loss(es) when UW met defeat after allowing a Hail Mary pass multiple times.
Don't you see what's happening? Every year, I'm experiencing a new and worse form of football torture. It's like I'm trapped in a Sisyphean nightmare (yeah, I just went all Greek on you. Thanks B1G education! At least we still have that over the SEC.... Right? Right? Sigh.)
I mean, it's not like a loss is ever fun. But, thinking about it, every other type of loss is less bad than this type of loss.
Lose by a blowout and get embarrassed on semi-big stage? (Hey Nebraska) It's not great, but at some point you just start drinking yourself into oblivion and accept that your team just didn't come out to play.
Lose to inferior competition because you can't get anything going on offense? (I see you Purdue) It's okay. You just say that your program is in (yet another) rebuilding year. It'll get better in the future.
Lose because you came oh-so-close to eking out a comeback? (Hi, Northwestern) Agonizing, to be sure, but if your team was overmatched for most of the game and then nearly managed to pull it out, you can at least say that your team wasn't as bad as they looked in the first few quarters.
Lose on a Hail Mary or improbable last minute pass that sets up a tying field goal to send the game to overtime where your team chokes away all chance of victory? (Wisconsin x2 AND Northwestern x2) Really, really painful. But, at least you can tell yourself that it's a fluke play that almost never works and so probably(?) won't work in the future.
Lose because of incompetent refing? (Wisconsin and Green Bay, and probably every team in football ever at some point) Almost the worst. But at least you get to blame somebody else.
Lose after having a commanding lead, because your play calling goes out the window and the weaknesses in your team get exposed in glaring fashion on a primetime game on ESPN against an OOC opponent from the most hated conference?
Yeah, that's the worst.
Other bloggers have already gone in depth on what exactly happened in Houston last night. If you happen to be a Badger fan and wish to torture yourself, you can go in search of it.
In brief, then:
Wisconsin's front seven, while aggressive and speedy, lacks depth and experience. When injuries took down the two best starters (get better soon Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski!), the play suffered. I think, though, that there are few teams in the B1G (if any) that could suffer the same type of in-game injuries to their best starters on defense and still put on a dominating performance.
While a speedy defense is great, even the fastest defense will get much slower when forced to take the field for the majority of a half because the offense has nothing going.
It's possible to have inexperienced receivers or a less-than-accurate quarterback, but not both. You can't have both. I have to believe that if this was last year, Jared Abbrederis and Jacob Pedersen would have picked up Tanner McEvoy by making some ridiculous catches on poor throws.
But, when your receivers can't get separation at all, then you need a quarterback that will not make the mistake of chucking a ball near their feet or throwing a back-shoulder-fade to the front shoulder. Russell Wilson might have had enough accuracy to take advantage of the few times where UW's receivers had a tiny bit of separation. But McEvoy? Not so much.
The ghost of Paul Chryst still haunts the OC booth. Yes, I know, without the ability to keep LSU honest in the passing game, they were selling out against the run. But that's not an excuse to give Melvin Gordon only two carries in the entire second half. That only makes sense if he was hurt, which by all post-game tweet accounts he wasn't. You have to at least TRY the thing that might not work before resorting to the thing that definitely won't work.
I believe that Joel Stave is still hurt. That's the only reason not to send him in for McEvoy at some point. The question is, what happens if Stave doesn't recover soon? Can McEvoy get better? I'm really not sure.
As far as I know, D.J. Gillins has not been redshirted yet. But is a true freshman really the answer?
There's also Bart Houston, of course, but the news out of camp earlier this year suggested that the coaching staff is less than interested in starting him. If he starts a game, then things have really gotten desperate in Madison.
So, what's the bottom line? The playoff is probably out this year. Unless absolute chaos happens in the rest of the top-15, there's too much competition for those four spots even if UW manages to end up the B1G champion somehow.
The west is still within reach, but the Badgers have to get the passing game sorted out, and soon. The CCG? Well, that all depends on how the rest of the season develops. But I'm assuming that if the Badgers make it to the CCG, the throwing game will have developed to be at least semi-competent.
So, yeah, this one sucked. A lot. I know some of y'all are reveling in the schadenfreude, but, be kind, please. At least for a little while. Things are awfully raw right now.