I hate writing something like this. I hate writing my thoughts on a game when I have to use a phrase like "all things considered..." It's not fun. And, I'm not really used to writing it when writing about Wisconsin. My experience writing as a Wisconsin fan these past six years hasn't included much of this. No, typically when I write about Badgers games it seems I'm writing about either a comfortable win or a heartbreaking, gut wrenching, loss.
That was the opener last year. The inexplicable, how could you throw that away, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, loss. That was the series of Hail Mary games Wisconsin lost in the seasons before, one which I had the pleasure of watching from an ER. That was the game-that-shall-not-be-named last year in Indianapolis (guess I just named it). That was the Tank Carder, why did you call a pass on 3rd-and-2 Rose Bowl.
So, I guess, point is, I'm used to writing about losses like that. I'm used to writing the equivalent of a wailing and teeth gnashing piece where I curse the football gods and wish things went my way. I'm also used to the extreme opposite, to gloating and gleefully typing "Oh look, Wisconsin scored again."
I'm not used to this. I mean, let's be honest, most of us knew that Wisconsin was going to lose this game, right? Even those of us who are eternal optimists, who thought maybe, just maybe, there was a chance... well, deep down we knew that it was going to be tough sledding. We knew that if we were actually going to have a chance, all of the breaks would have to go our way. We couldn't make mistakes and get penalized. We couldn't miss chip shot field goals. And we certainly couldn't lose a vital player, the heart of our defense, before the first quarter was out. That's not how you beat a team like Alabama.
So, let's just call it what it is. It's shitty. It sucks to lose to an SEC team. It sucks that it makes the B1G look like a vastly inferior conference. It sucks. A lot. But we knew this was the likely outcome. And, all things considered... it could have been worse. At least Joel Stave looked pretty good. He certainly doesn't have the yips anymore. I'm concerned about the running game, but I'm not panicking until we have trouble against a front seven that's weaker than the Tide's. The Badgers look like they actually have some receivers this year, which is more than I could say for last year.
The defense was uneven, at best. I hope Michael Caputo recovers from his head injury sooner rather than later, because it's clear we really need him out there. Still, despite the overall meh result, there were some good plays. There were plays where the blitzing caused Alabama serious issues, there were shining moments in the secondary. That's stuff that can be built on. It's not like the dumpster fire that was the defensive effort of the game-that-shall-not-be-named.
The one thing that is clear from tonight, and the weekend overall, is that the West is going to be murky for a while. Barring brain farts, I think the next three games against Miami (OH), Troy, and Hawaii are wins for the Badgers. I feel good about Purdue, Illinois, and Maryland. Probably Rutgers too.
But then it gets tricky. The way that Northwestern's offense and defense looked today? That's not an easy win this year, even at Camp Randall. Minnesota hung in there with TCU, even though TCU didn't really look like a #2. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, the Gophers might even go into the battle for the Axe as the favorite. Despite the Hail Mary, Nebraska looked dangerous at points in their game with BYU, and could also give the Badgers trouble. I can't judge Iowa yet, but I'm not willing to write them off either. Sooo, absolute worst case, seven wins and crap bowl. Best case? Eleven wins and a date with the steamroller that emerges from the East. All things considered...