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Wisconsin Mailbag: Part 2

Beer, cheese, and...Brad Davison?

NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Welcome to Part 2 of the Wisconsin mailbag!

How much cheese have you consumed to cope with the idea of an Air Raid OC? -Andy Davis

Kind of...:

MC: The normal amount, a tub or two. It has been covered a ton and probably will until people see Wisconsin run the ball as usual, but their offense will be less the stereotypical “Air Raid” and more “we’re going to use the whole field and take what you offer us.” So if Wisconsin still sees an 8-man box, sure, they’ll pass all day, but if it’s a light box you can bet your bottom dollar you’re going to see classic Wisconsin overuse of Braelon Allen.

With the optimism of a big name HC hire and expansion, where do you have Bucky in the B1G pecking order a few years from now? -ProveIt

Kind of...: The optimistic take is that Bucky is looking to nose into the Ohio State/Michigan/USC/Penn State quartet, or, at least, solidify itself as the best of the rest, the team that can seize the opportunity if Harbz leaves, or if the travel is too much for USC, etc. The pessimistic take is that THAT is pretty much what UW had for most of the last decade. The optimistic response to that is that such a standing will mean more with the expanded playoff/NIL/portal, etc. I’m guardedly optimistic. The coaching change had to happen, and I don’t know how you realistically improve on Fickell. It’s interesting in that a strong Michigan State helps weaken Michigan, which is good for UW except that a strong MSU is competing with UW.

Absolute best case is that 1) Longo unleashes a variety of the Air Raid that accommodates running game a la UNC in ‘20; 2) Tressel’s 3-3-5 is still physical enough to handle Iowa/Minnesota/Illinois; 3) Fickell’s attention to detail on ST gives the Badges something approaching a Tressel-ball/Ferentz level edge in that area; and 4) Fickell’s game day coaching outshines Franklin’s such that UW can recruit close to PSU’s level, making them a legit contender most years. I don’t think any will be fully realized, but I am expecting 1) and 3) to be mostly right, and don’t think 2) is off the table. 4) is just a shot at PSU’s propensity for blowing double-digit leads in the 4th quarter of big games.

Do you acknowledge the numerous war crimes of Brad Davison, and are you committed to helping us all bring him to justice? -ajcuster

Kind of...: Oh, hey. Good to see you. Really busy though! Brad Davison? Yeah, have faint recollections. Just a sec...*furious tapping at keyboard* Yeah, um, looks like he’s playing in Lithuania right now. I’ll have our lawyers see if there’s an extradition treaty, and we’ll get back to you, I promise. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

MC: Unless he’s a co-defendant with Adam Woodbury, Hunter Dickinson, Draymond Green, Aaron Craft, etc., no deal. It was a charge.

What’s your favorite off-the-beaten path bar/supper club/spot in (1) Madison, and (2) greater wisconsin? -MNWildcat

MC: I haven’t spent enough of my adult life in Wisconsin to adequately answer this question. I’ll offer random shoutouts to Romans’ Pub in Bay View, which was onto craft beer way before the masses, MobCraft Brewery in downtown Milwaukee, who crowdsources new beer ideas with great results, and Ope! Brewing in West Allis which has a solid newish and growing space.

Kind of...: Much to my chagrin I haven’t lived in Madison for almost 20 years. But @BradNortmansActingCoach...

The Tornado Room in Madison may not be off the beaten path, but it’s phenomenal. These days, I don’t venture outside of the Milwaukee-to-Madison corridor too often. Palmer’s Steakhouse in Hartland is very good, but also not really off the beaten path, either.

speaks truth about the Tornado Room so I’d trust him on Palmer’s too. [I loved Smoky’s back in the day, but it’s closed now.]. And @brewman0732 has earned a special place in my heart...

+1 to tornado room, particularly the value you get from the late night menu, and it is right next to Paradise Lounge which is a dive bar favorite of mine. The other one that is definitely not off the beaten path (since it is on State Street) but also checks all the classic supper club boxes and at least in my opinion seems unheralded is Nick’s Restaurant.

Nick’s is great, but the Paradise is an all-time rec. A true, real deal dive bar. I don’t know if they still serve meatloaf for lunch on Wednesdays, but when I was working just off Capitol Square to help put myself through grad school, my job was not far from the ‘dise, and the price was right.

What would you/other WI fans consider a ‘bad’ season in year one? Given the roster and schedule no one is expecting a .500 season (or worse), but what signposts for success/concern are you looking for outside of wins and losses? -michael.vinters

Kind of...: I’ve seen some suggestions that the shift in philosophy puts 5-7 or even 4-8 in play, but if the bowl streak ends, it’s a disappointing year. To me, even 6-6 is disappointing. Anything is possible, and, sure, Georgia Southern could be tricky. But, really, Buffalo, Georgia Southern, Rutgers, Indiana, and Northwestern all have to be wins, no questions asked. Gotta split with Iowa and @Illinois in the two weeks before OSU. That’s six wins right there. Nebraska should be a win too. 7-5 is the worst record that isn’t a failure. [Other games are @Wazzu, @Purdue, @Minnesota. Shouldn’t lose all three, but none is close to a dicktrip]. 2024 is when it gets real, though.

MC: It’s hard to say strictly with a W-L threshold, though 5+ losses with their schedule and talent almost certainly would cause alarm. To me it’s more what we’re seeing week to week than the game results. I’m expecting growing pains in the trenches on both sides for various reasons so that’s to be expected, but to me signs pointing to ‘bad’ include notable regression from the defense, inability to get the passing game going despite wholesale upgrades in that space, questionable strategy reminiscent of the previous regime, or an upset loss to Minnesota. Year 1 generally offers leniency, but at the same time this team already has the horses to compete, so the “burn it down and rebuild” strategy isn’t an option.

When I went to the Illinois-wisconsin “football” game in Madison in 1995, a guy dumped a pitcher of beer on my crotch. He said it was an accident. Was it though? -He was a high school quarterback

Kind of...: As I’m sure you suspect, the answer is almost certainly no. True story. I have a very good friend who is an Illinois alum. He was visiting me in Madison during the ‘99-’00 school year and we went to the UW/Ill basketball game. [UW upset a ranked Illini team, and, that March, went on one of the most improbable Final Four runs of any major conference team ever.] We were in the student section, and my friend yelled out “Miss it!” right as Mike Kelley was shooting a FT. At game’s end, as we were gathering our things and the band was playing, a female student dancing in the aisle just happened to forcefully collide with my friend, sending him sideways a few feet. Moral of the story: if you’re a FIB, best look out when you come to Madison.

Okay, my fingers are getting tired. Lightning round!!!

Which New Glarus beer is the most overrated?

Is Art Smart’s Dart Mart and Juggling Emporium in Milwaukee the most ‘Sconnie store we’ve all never heard of, or does the cheese curtain hide even greater oddities? -NU’06er

Kind of...: The answer is Spotted Cow, of course, but it it’s the fault of out-of-stater FOMO for overhyping it in the first place. I will refer you to @MC ClapYoHandz’s definitive assessment of the hypocrisy of “Spotted Cow/brandy/ugh Wisconsin” takes from all of you:

MC: Somewhat mentioned earlier in the week, but Spotted Cow is a contender. My vote if I have to pick one, though, goes to Bubbler, which is/was a pilsner or hefeweizen that I’m not even sure they’re going to produce anymore. To be fair to them, that portion of the beer landscape has a low ceiling anyway in my opinion.

Kind of...: No familiarity with Art Smart, but I make it a practice not to look behind cheese curtains.

Which is the bigger factor in the “Fuck Wisconsin” ethos around here?

1) the idea that the Football and MBB teams have generally been “punching above their true abilities” for the past quarter-century or so, or

2) the fact that many UW fans, either in real-life or on-line, are assholes (myself probably included)? -BradNortmansActingCoach

Kind of...: There are enough Skonnie assholes that I can’t pretend 2) isn’t part of it. But I know enough assholes who root for other B1G schools that I am quite certain 1) is more of it than typically believed.

MC: I’ll take Option 3: we brought on “writers” that fucking hate Wisconsin. When I first joined here the team-specific hatred was pointed almost exclusively toward Michigan, but through changing of the guard and tyranny of will attention shifted to Wisconsin, mostly due to the Badgers consistently beating their teams. C’est la vie.

Kind of...: @MC has been here longer. I defer to his wisdom.

Is there still snow on the ground in parts of Wisconsin?

Since there is, is that just one of the many reason why Wisconsin sucks? -cericjo

Kind of...: I don’t know, but will take your word that there is. Still, I live near Philly and we had zero snow accumulation this past winter. You’re anti-snow stance—in JUNE, not February—makes me question whether you actually are a fan of any B1G football program. As much as I hate to credit Gopher football, even a broken clock is right on occasion:

When I went to the Axe game last year it was great, everyone was exactly as kind, or exactly as intelligent as I’ve always been told, but at the game I got thirsty and asked my wife if she wanted a beer while I was up, the guy next to me said “oh man if only huh? Maybe someday the big 10 will allow alcohol in stadiums!” My question is how did UW manage to screw up drinking, the only thing your state does well? -HumbleStarscream

Kind of...: You think you’re being funny, but go ahead and allow beer sales at Camp Randall and tell me that disallowing it counts as “screwing up.”

[Okay, truth be told, I was at a game last year and we scored tix in the new “club” area above the end zone (no idea what it’s officially called), and there’s beer for sale there, TVs showing other games, etc. Yes, I had Spotted Cow, and, yes, it tasted pretty good but not great.]

Wisconsin’s 3-4-4 defense has been essentially a Linebacker Voltron for a long time. Could the switch to 3-3-5 be a bad idea that goes against a program strength? Can Wisconsin find the defenders it needs to figure out how to pack the box against Iowa from a completely different position? -Hollywood Hawk Hogan

MC: Purely from a formation standpoint, this isn’t much of a change. Wisconsin wasn’t in a true 3-4 much at all favored at least one additional secondary player on the field in most occasions. I don’t expect a huge dropoff in linebacker playmaking but will be interested to look for the differences. Wisconsin is already seriously improving at cornerback recruiting, which was traditionally the worst unit in their recruiting efforts previously for all units, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they relieve pressure at the first and second level. If you’re looking for the pain point for the defense, I’d have an eye on defensive line, comparatively speaking. Keeanu Benton isn’t there to hide an entire defense’s possible shortcomings anymore and the proven talent isn’t quite as present as it is for the rest. I do really like the new DL coach, though.

Kind of...: I don’t know, is Brian Ferentz still your OC? Q.E.D.

“Fuck wisconsin?” -several

MC and Kind of..., in unison: Fuck you.