So it was a cold December in 2014. It really was, literally and metaphorically. A one foot out the door Gary Andersen had just gotten run over by his old boss Urban Meyer 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship because he was too worried about accepting the super lucrative Oregon State job. Wisconsin, making its second coaching search in two years, was destined to fall backwards. The “Glen Mason Non Elite Football Programs Replacing Coaches Theorem” dictated it. Andersen had done well with Bret Bielema’s players, but hometown boy Paul Chryst had middling results at Pitt and the entire Big Ten seemed ready for perpetual 7-5 from poor man’s Kirk Ferentz...
Fast forward to three weeks shy of another Wisconsin division title. Gary Andersen is lighting Corvallis on fire with a stellar 4-18 record and a fine attempt to solidify Oregon State’s place as the worst program in the PAC 12 while Paul Chryst is 18-5 with a top 10 team on his hands. Those five losses have all come to a team either currently ranked in top ten or won at least ten games last year. The only one by more than seven points was to future national champion Alabama. Long story short, Paul Chryst is a hell of a coach. A coach that’s going to lead Wisconsin to the playoff.
Look into your heart, you know that’s a true statement. Penn State’s going to win out and Wisconsin’s way more like Michigan than Ohio State. Wisconsin isn’t losing to Purdue or Minnesota. Michigan isn’t beating Ohio State in Columbus with John O’Korn. I’m not sure they could’ve done it with Wilton Speight. The only coaches to have outcoached Paul Chryst at Wisconsin are Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh. Anyone who thinks Urban outcoached Chryst didn’t watch the first half of the Wisconsin-OSU game. We’ll call that a draw. Ferentz and Fitzgerald capitalized on classic “Joel Stave turnoverpaloozas”, not decided schematic advantages. Why do I point this out? Because James Franklin isn’t Jim Harbaugh and he sure as hell isn’t Nick Saban. Wisconsin will beat Penn State. Buckeye fans can concoct any number of scenarios where they make the playoffs, but it’s not happening without the champion of the Big Ten. The playoff was designed with preventing 2011 Alabama from happening in mind. The committee has made two things abundantly clear- challenge yourself out of conference and win your conference. Ohio State may well be rewarded for the first one, but not at the expense of a team that did both.
I’d like to finish with a couple thank yous and a warning. First a thanks to Nebraska for hiring Mike Riley to replace Bo Pelini. Without that, Oregon State (also deserving of a thank you, do you get mail addressed to Oregon’s Infant Brother?) wouldn’t have had the need/audacity to steal a coach from a vastly superior program. I’d also like to thank Pat Narduzzi for beating Clemson and Penn State with Chryst’s players. It was always going to take a lot of #teamchaos for a two loss conference champ to make the playoffs. Mike Leach also probably deserves one too for potentially winning the PAC12 after losing to an FCS team for the same reason. Lastly, I’d like to thank James Franklin for likely preventing a rematch against a vastly more talented team in Indy. Speaking of teams that can’t be expected of much because of youth, I have a list for you...
That’s a comprehensive and unabridged list of every senior starter on Wisconsin. You think this team is good now, 2017 was always supposed to be the year. Be very afraid.