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B1G 2022, Wisconsin Potluck #1: Can No-Frills Chryst Survive Big Ten Expansion?

Just a pickle spear in your Bloody Mary, or could we be more extravagant?

Disneys Magic Key Perks
This is a Disneyland Bloody Mary. This is what expansion gets you. Pineapple in your Bloody Mary. GODDAMNIT.
Photo by Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Oh boy, you lucky guys and gals, it’s a Wisconsin Week all over again.

We’re fast approaching the dog days of summer, and so too the dog days of Off Tackle Empire’s “B1G 20XX” previews – the teams good enough that you hate talking about them, but bad enough that, I mean, what’s the point? So too, for us behind the curtain of OTE writers, is it a mega-pain to face down a tenth potluck where “the yokels in [state] really like putting [spice that doesn’t go there] on [bland or off-colored food]!”

Let’s get drunk instead, hmm? The Wisconsin Way?

One of those Wisconsin traditions that includes “Well that food doesn’t go there!” AND meets the “getting us drunk” qualifications is the glorious, glorious Bloody Mary. Somehow we talked about this tradition for Maryland back in 2019, but it’s been…well, a while…since we discussed a staple of the Badger State.

You see, in Wisconsin the Bloody Mary is not just garnished with some celery and, perhaps, a pickle and an olive. More often than not, you’ll also find a cube of cheese (of course), a beef stick (why not?), and perhaps an appetizer from the menu, too, plus a snit of beer alongside.

And some folks just go over the top:

Only in Your State

So, writers:

1. Have you had a Wisconsin bloody mary – and do these qualify, or are you a Bloody Mary purist and/or truther? Share your favorite combo.

2. What would a pregame bloody for YOUR school look like?

MNW: For my money, the best bloody in Wisconsin is at Milwaukee’s Wicked Hop:

It’s the right combination of “oh god that’s a lot” (both a beef stick AND a shrimp!) and “my goodness, that’s quality” (the mozzarella whips are the best cheese topping in the state and frankly it’s not close). Their Tuesday deal is now $2 off a bloody, but I want to say it used to be a fixed price (something like $5) and that was dinner those nights.

MC ClapYoHandz: For my money it’s not a true bloody unless there’s a full cooked rotisserie chicken hanging on top for dear life, but I digress.

I only have a desire for one about every six months and don’t deviate very far from the purists. I don’t need much bite to it at all and care more about the bitter tastes than the sweet (if you overdo the lemon juice I swear to Chryst). Count me in for a pickle spear, cheese (just any and all cheese), beef stick, green olives, or maybe shrimp.

WSR: No, but I probably would. A bloody that is it’s own brunch doesn’t sound that bad at all.

A Minnesota bloody would be just fine, but the tailgate host would have one just for themselves that was much better than the ones they share with everyone else.

Buffkomodo: The only time I’ve ever had a Bloody Mary I threw it up. I’d like to envision that most Indiana Bloody Marys come with puke in them as that’s how you generally feel watching an IU game.

misdreavus79: That, looks, uh, horrendous.

I don’t drink (if you haven’t figured that out by now), so I don’t qualify myself as an anything-alcohol-related purist, nor would I know that the Penn State version of that monstrosity would be.

Jesse: So, also don’t drink, but appreciate the art of absurdity. I’m guessing the Nebraska bloody would definitely have like, a slice of Valentino’s pizza (which is gross) hanging off the side, and would not even hesitate to be just an awful version of a red beer.

Wait, are we supposed to be saying positive things right now? Hmmm… We’d also have bacon I guess?

BRT: I’ve only had a Bloody Mary once, because for much of my life, I didn’t really like tomatoes (I know!) I like tomatoes now, but it turns out I still don’t like them enough to drink a glass of them. I appreciate the Bloody Mary for bringing something wholly different to the cocktail world–the salty and the savory don’t often make an appearance at the bar (or I’m too busy drinking things that are pink to notice–this is also a possibility).

I agree with Jesse–the Nebraska version of this is the simple “red beer”— tomato juice and light beer and some salt and pepper. In high school, I worked at a small-town bar, and 20 years later, I’m still flabbergasted by how many red beers the old Czechs around here put back.

In the spirit of the question though, I’d say the Nebraska version would have Runza’s frings as a garnish. And no vegetables.

MNW: I would very much drink that Bloody Mary.


Bloody Mary?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Gimme that Wicked Hop one.
    (46 votes)
  • 20%
    A pickle, some beef, some cheese, and I’m good.
    (27 votes)
  • 4%
    Whatever’s happening in the Nebraska bloody, I’m interested.
    (6 votes)
  • 9%
    I don’t need anything beyond a pickle. What are you doing, Midwest?
    (12 votes)
  • 29%
    No thanks.
    (38 votes)
129 votes total Vote Now

The Football

Significantly fewer frills, though, for the Badgers: Run the ball, have a quarterback who doesn’t get in the way, and have an elite defense. And when you lose the West Division in consecutive years to Northwestern and Iowa, it’s easy to look at this as just “beat by your own game.”

Now, attempting to stir panic with “Is Wisconsin FINALLY on the decline?” is definitely on-brand for OTE, but it’s not – I promise – what I’m attempting to do here.

It is, however, pretty wild to note that 2020 and 2021* were the first pair of back-to-back Big Ten Championship games not to feature Wisconsin at least once since the conference championship game began. And that…well, that’s something.
*Of course, the 2012 season featured 7-5 wisconsin winning the “Leaders” Division because of Ohio State and Penn State transgressions, so it’s not a true “a Division championship every other year,” but it’s damn close.

The problem for the badgers in 2021 appeared to be pretty simple: the defense was elite, but the offense just couldn’t haul them over the line. Right? Losses to at-the-time-still-good Penn State, then Michigan and Notre Dame, and later sometimes-the-breathalyzer-breaks-and-you-get-away-with-it Minnesota don’t tell us that 2021 wisconsin was terrible, just hamstrung at the worst moments by some offensive limitations we’ll talk more about tomorrow.

And so let’s wrap it there:

1. Is this what Paul Chryst offers? Is there any innovation or breakthrough coming?

2. Is it going to be enough for Wisconsin in the long run? Why or why not?

3. Should the badgers have anything bigger to be concerned about as the Big Ten expands to include USC and UCLA in the West (for now)?

WSR: wisconsin is the place where innovation goes to die. It took 15 years for them to discover Jump Around, and I’ve heard rumors that they may finally get drunk driving laws. So why would they attempt to do anything different on offense? Hope that your OL is good enough to not get called for their holding, pray that your QB doesn’t throw repeated crippling interceptions, and that they can get enough FGs to offset however many points the defense gives up. Such is life for the badgers offense. Sunrise, pass out at 1:45 PM.

Is that going to be enough? It depends on what your expectations are. If it’s “wildly overrated nationally, but part of the Iowa-Northwestern mold where they’re OK but not great and get to be the sacrifice for the East winner then sure. If there’s some sort of aspiration to be a national brand…well LOL.

And as for USC and UCLA…yeah, that’s just more for them to be worried about. I know it’s far too early to be happy about wisconsin reverting to their traditional place, but it feels pretty good to have multiple Minnesota wins over them recently. They have plenty to be worried about, and another actual national power is just another one of them.

MC: Paul Chryst the head coach is decidedly more conservative than Paul Chryst the OC, and with the game drifting further and further away from the Wisconsin brand I am pretty okay with a new coordinator to call plays. At the end of the day their formula still works so long as they excel with their line play (more on that this week) and their QB is average-to-good (the million dollar question for 2022).

As for USC/UCLA, as one of the maybe 4 programs that was capable of going to a Real Rose Bowl it’s a shame just anybody like Minnesota will head out there now (and, more genuinely, killing tradition sucks), and I hate what conferences are becoming, but I’d be lying if I said those aren’t some fun away game trips at for the first time. Especially if Oregon/Washington jump in. After that I’m a curmudgeon again.

Buffkomodo: I think this is what Wisconsin is and will be. Consistently winning 7-9 games a year and occasionally getting trounced by Ohio State (or Michigan apparently) in the B1G title game.

I don’t think Chryst is an innovator at all, and I don’t think Wisconsin is interesting enough to compete with the big dogs in the conference year in and year out.

As for the new additions…I wouldn’t worry. The west is what it is. I don’t think the status quo will change.

misdreavus79: Wisconsin has always benefited from the reality that the teams it plays the most are carbon copies of itself, but carbon copies that are somehow worse at doing the thing it does best, even though the Badgers have no inherent advantage that, in theory should make them any better than the other carbon copies.

As a result, Wisconsin has found itself winning its fair share of division titles in the division era, with only two conference championships to show for it. This fact becomes most exacerbated when you realize that those two titles were 11 and 10 years ago, respectively, which means that the Badgers have won exactly zero championships once they stopped sharing a division with Penn State and Ohio State, two teams it has failed to beat since 2011.

…those are also the two teams that are not carbon copies of Wisconsin, but are at or above Wisconsin’s level in terms of talent and perception.

That’s a lot of words to say, well, “yeah, Wisconsin will be fine, with fine being what they have always done and will always do.” When it comes to winning titles, however, once the Big Ten gets rid of divisions, they may still find their way to a championship game here and there, but it’s going to be a lot harder when, instead of competing with Minnesota Northwestern and Iowa for a spot in the game, you’re competing with everyone else.

When it comes to USC and UCLA, I don’t yet know how the TV gods want to set these up. It goes without saying that USC (and to a lesser extent, UCLA) will spend its fair share of conference game slots playing the other big brands, but they have to cycle through the rest at some point. So, is Wisconsin a big brand or do they get to play a West-like schedule still when divisions go away? The answer to that will decide how many championship games Wisconsin will make lose in the next 10 years.

Jesse: Wisconsin is definitely not going to be on the cusp of any major breakthrough innovations in the near future, but like, they probably don’t need to do so either. In the current division construct, all of this is just “please let the other team fuck up enough so that we can do our thing that gets us by you.” I don’t think Chryst is incentivized to do more than he already has, which really is kind of the problem with the other teams who have won Big Ten West division titles, huh?

Anyhow, I don’t have much more to add other than what is written. I do think that in a new world in which divisions are adding teams with a decent amount of talent (or at least USC), there should be concern about how that changes recruiting, gameplay, etc. But, I’m also not sure we know enough about what that looks like to even start the worrying, so whatever

BRT: I think this is what Paul Chryst offers. He’s the very picture of reliability.

I think we’re maybe a little unfair to Chryst though, because I’d say most head coaches are not icons of innovation, right? The stakes are so high for them (their job), and the timeline so short. Innovation is risky, and often takes time to pay off, and they simply, in most cases, do not have that kind of time. So I think most coaches who are not brand new to their position are not going to innovate very much. It’s just that Chryst in his khakis and beautifully bland answers looks the part of the non-innovator so much that we assign it to him as his exclusive province.

As for the westward expansion, like the original westward expansion, it’ll prove to be very disastrous news for those living in the middle of the country. This includes Wisconsin. However, before the effects of that start to show, hopefully we’ll get to see USC play a game in Wisconsin or Minnesota in November, and I think we’re all here for that.


What’s the future of Wisconsin football?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    We’ll be talking division titles or runners-up for the foreseeable future.
    (72 votes)
  • 32%
    One of the many mediocre in the West, so, uh
    (55 votes)
  • 25%
    Honest to God what’s happening anymore
    (44 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now