Simple Mistakes Cost Badgers the Game

(1) 3rd and 15 on the Michigan 25 yard line. Threet looks deep and overthrows his receiver. Our best lineman, Matt Shaughnessy called for roughing the passer, giving the Wolverines a first down. Instead of getting the ball back in good field position in the 4th quarter with a 19-7 lead, Michigan marches down the field and makes it 19-14.

That was a huge penalty. Among the many mistakes made, more than any other it probably cost the Badgers the game.

(2) Our All-American tight end/H-back lines up incorrectly for the 2-pt try that should've sent the game to overtime. Simple mistake. Bielema says he wasn't in on the practice that week because of his hamstring, but still, it's in the playbook. He should know it. It cost the Badgers overtime.

Dropped passes, missed assignments, interceptions. Lots of simple mistakes that cost Wisconsin a game it shouldn't merely have won, but should've won easily.

A Pattern Developing?

Michigan, 2006
Arkansas, 1/1/2007
Michigan State, 2007
Ohio State, 2007
Michigan, 2007
Minnesota, 2007
Fresno State, 2008
Michigan, 2008

What do these games have in common? Second half or 4th quarter problems. Significant problems. They aren't all the same, in some cases the offense held up while the defense sputtered, or vice versa. Nonetheless, these are all big games for the Badgers where problems late either cost the Badgers the game, or made the games much more competitive than they should've been. Something to watch for going into the next few weeks, with big games every saturday.

A Can and a Can Opener

Here sits a can. It has a long shelf life. I could let it sit there without fear that it would go bad. I could, but here's a can opener. It's nice and shiny. I just have to give it a whirl. I don't really even care what's in the can, I just want to try out the can opener . . .

Here's another reason the BCS is better than a playoff. USC goes and wins out, wins the Pac-10, as most people here reasonably expect they will. They go to the playoff and all is forgotten.

Not here, not this year. No "plus one" to save them. No conference champs plus non-BCS at-larges, either. Nope. They lost. They lost to a formerly 1-2 team that lost to Stanford and got crushed -- annihilated -- by Penn State. Now USC suffers the consequences.

That's what made this game great for Oregon State and it's fans -- and fans around the country. It's what makes it painful for USC fans (especially the blowhards). If you're not unbeatable -- and, once again, USC isn't -- it's out of your hands. If the national title is your goal, you'd better go out and beat everyone. Everyone. Even the crappy 1-2 team. Otherwise, take your chances.

You don't think it's fair that 12-0 Penn State is playing 13-0 Mizzou for the national title? Next time, try beating 1-2 Oregon State.

Protect the sanctity of the regular season. Protect the Oregon State Beavers. College football is not just a minor league for the NFL.

No playoffs. Not now, not ever.

The can is opened.

Video Evidence

Reason for concern?

Reason for hope?

Let's Go Red!!

Preview: Wisconsin @ Michigan

So I've told you why Michigan worries me. Here's what I think will go down:

At 108,000 seats, the Big House is no Fresno State. At least not this year. Those 42,000 Bulldog fans were amped up, crazy about winning the biggest home game in their program's history, and they were going to let the Badgers know it. Big Blue, on the other hand, is reeling, questioning, fuming, and generally unenthusiastic about losses to Utah at home, and the hated Notre Dame. Sure, this game is a chance to get back on track, but if they fumble the ball away in the first quarter, that place will be quiet enough to hear a football drop.

But that doesn't mean the Wolverines will roll over and go away. Notre Dame had its best running performance so far against Michigan, whereas Michigan State shut Notre Dame's backs down. Why? Michigan expected Notre Dame to pass the ball, Michigan State dared them to. There's no questioning what Michigan will do this week: try and force Evridge to beat them with his arm. Of course, first they actually have to stop the Badgers from running the ball.

Wisconsin's greatest strength is its line. It's not just that they are big, they are athletic, too. Center John Moffit, the least experienced -- the only non-returning starter -- is a beast. Go back and watch him. If he isn't the best center in the nation by the time he's a senior I'll be surprised. Seriously. Now, the Badger line won't have their way with the Michigan front 7, but they will push them hard. Michigan won't get gashed, but PJ will finally get over 100 yards against them. So, with 8 guys in the box trying to stop the run (sometimes succeeding, sometimes not), how will Evridge fare?

Michigan's corners, Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren, will hold up fine against Gilreath and Jefferson (who will try to stretch the field, but probably won't). But Garrett Graham and Travis Beckum, returning to his '06-'07 form, present real problems to a defense keyed on stopping the run. This is where Chryst's offense really excels. Run the ball hard, turn to play action, and see if any of Michigan's linebackers can sniff out the play and cover Beckum or Graham . . . or both. They can't, at least not consistently. Evridge needs to be able to get them the ball and not throw picks. In addition, look for a handful of designed runs for Evridge. This is something we haven't seen yet this season, but he has the talent for it, and Bielema hinted we will start to see a little more of it.

Now, don't get me wrong, the Badgers aren't going to steamroll a pretty solid Michigan defense, but they will sustain a few drives and put points on the board.

When Michigan has the ball, the key for the Badgers is to finish tackles. Threet is improving at Quarterback and McGuffie is dangerous in space, but the entire offense is too inexperienced to really throw any wrinkles into the offense. As a result, with two weeks to study film, the Badger D will know what's coming. Casillas, Levy, and McFadden, with their speed, should be in position all day to shut down the screens Michigan loves to throw to McGuffie. Nonetheless, McGuffie will likely have a big play or two due to poor Badger tackling.

The Badger d-line, while not deep, is experienced, solid, and should be able to manage, if not control, the line against the inexperienced Michigan offensive line. Greg Matthews is a bit of a threat at WR and is better than the Badger corners, but Threet won't have a lot of time to get him the ball. I expect him to come down with one or two big passing plays, but not enough to fundamentally change the game.

Special teams favor Wisconsin. Gilreath has been solid, bordering on dangerous, returning the ball, and Welch and Nortman are surprisingly reliable kickers (especially Nortman punting). The Wolverine return teams have been suspect, to say the least.

Overall, I see the Badgers with a significant, but not huge, advantage when they have the ball, a slight advantage when playing defense (because Michigan will likely hurt them with a couple of big plays), and a moderate advantage in special teams. Unless the Wolverines come out very strong, the crowd won't likely be a factor. Moreover, turnovers have consistently hurt Michigan. While I'm still nervous about PJ holding onto the ball, Michigan is near the bottom of the Big Ten in turnover margin (at -3).

I don't see a blowout, but I see a strong showing from the Badgers, and a rare win in Ann Arbor: 23-13, Wisconsin.

The Cynic, Week 4

  • Tyrell Pryor: 3 touchdowns in the boxscore are over rated; no one who actually watched the wunderkind's performance against Troy thinks he can stretch the field with his arm, but he is fun to watch (and will be great).
  • Penn State: won't play a decent defense until they arrive at the Camp in week 7.
  • How on earth did UCLA beat Tennessee. That's almost as remarkable as their loss to Notre Dame last year.
  • Have I mentioned the Big East? Going on the road is tough, but West Virginia lost at Colorado?
  • Indiana? Still the same old basketball school.
  • Iowa? Going on the road is tough, but if Iowa was "back" they would've won that game. They had their chances.
  • Add Boise State and the Mountain West is the third or fourth best conference in the land.

Badger Opponents, Week 4

Coach Bielema pointed out in the press conference this morning that the NCAA has the Badgers listed as #6 in the country for strength of schedule. Interesting . . .

Anyway, here's how our opponents did this week:
Akron (2-2) beat Army easily. Not a bad MAC opponent, it seems.
Marshall (3-1) beat C-USA power Southern Miss: that's a quality win.
Fresno State (2-1) survived an upset bid by Toledo, 55-54 in double overtime.
Michigan (1-2) turned the ball over several more times, but survived against "Bye."
Ohio State (3-1) struggled to beat Troy; Pryor will be great, but isn't yet a downfield passing threat.
Penn State (4-0) destroyed another cupcake (Temple). Probably won't face a good defense until they come to Madison.
Iowa (3-1) lost a tough roadie against a mediocre Pittsburgh team; need to solve their quarterback controversy.
Illinois (2-1) was idle.
Michigan State (3-1) solid win over an improving, but inconsistent Notre Dame.
Indiana (2-1) lost an embarrassing one to Ball State, and it wasn't close.
Minnesota (4-0) believe that? Not that they've played anyone, but it's definitely improvement.
Cal Poly SLO (2-1) easily beat Northwestern State. Likely a solid FCS team. For what that's worth.

@ Michigan: What Worries Me

(1) @ Michigan: we've had our problems in the Big House over the years. Lots of them. 1-4:
Wisconsin at Michigan in the Alvarez Era

(2) Michigan has some playmakers. Sure, they aren't consistent, but they will hit some big plays, which leads to:

(3) McGuffie is dangerous. When you hit him, you have to put him down. Poor tackling, a problem in the past, will cost us points against McGuffie.

(4) Even though Threet isn't that dangerous, he can throw the deep ball. Michigan's receivers have some speed and our corners are suspect. Big plays . . . ?

(5) Michigan's front 7 is pretty solid and built to stop a power running team like ours. Evridge has had his moments, but I don't like relying on him to win on the road.

(6) Bielema's road record is still questionable. Good win against Fresno State, but let's face it, the Badgers didn't have their best game out there.

What doesn't worry me: moving down in the polls in an off week, four weeks into the season. Seriously, who cares? All the Badgers can do is win their games, and that's all I care about.

Game Saving Tackle Tarnished

According to the Journal Sentinel (link), Jonathan Casillas was cited for a DUI last month, and blew a .15. That's high. That's loaded. It was nice that he made the "game saving" tackle against Fresno State, but should he have been playing at all?

The arrest was made in August, about a week before Akron. Casillas was injured for Akron and Marshall, so couldn't play. A suspension for either of those games wouldn't have had any effect. If he knew he was suspended for Fresno State, maybe he doesn't work as hard to get ready? Maybe it's a bigger deal to get suspended for Michigan? Or maybe the school's punishing body has rules that it is in the midst of following. I respect the decisions that body has made in the past, so perhaps that's the issue.

Also, the hearing for his arrest is this week, so he hasn't even had a chance to enter a plea. Nonetheless, I believe this is a very serious offense, and even putting himself in this situation deserves punishment.

Casillas has been one of my favorite players in his time in Madison (one of the reasons he's included in that slideshow off to the right there), but this really stinks. DUIs are a very serious offense. Ok, so he was on a scooter, not driving a car. That's different, I'll grant you (only people on the scooter at risk, as opposed to others), but it still shows a serious lack of judgment. Et tu, Jonathan?

DeAndre Levy: Defensive Player of the Week

The National Football Writers Association named DeAndre Levy the Bronco Nagurski Defensive Player of the Week. Pretty Cool.

Irrefutable Video Evidence?


I don't think so.

Badger Opponents, Week 3

Akron (1-2) lost to Ball St.
Marshall (2-1) squeeked past winless Memphis (17-16).
Michigan (1-2) couldn't hang onto the ball against Notre Dame. McGuffie's future is bright.
Ohio State (2-1) made to look really bad by the odds on favorite for the national title.
Penn State (3-0) crushed hapless Syracuse; another really poor opponent.
Iowa (3-0) survived in-state rival Cyclones. They've looked good, but their schedule is a minor upgrade from Penn State's. (To be fair, Fresno State is the only difference between PSU, Iowa, and us).
Illinois (2-1) survived Louisiana Lafayette, on a late field goal.
Michigan State (2-1) covered the 17 point spread over FAU. Ringer looks great, Hoyer? Not so much.

Indiana (2-0): idle.
Minnesota (3-0): ok, so they haven't played anyone, but still, lots of improvement in the Twin Cities.
Cal Poly SLO (1-1): idle.

The Cynic, Week 3

Coach, you're in your late 30s. You don't need to dance across the field to celebrate a victory. Just walk (or even jog) over to the opposing coach and wish him well. Seriously.

South Florida over Kansas? Turns out Kansas really didn't play anyone good last year.

Ohio State. Ohio State. Uh . . . look, Beanie isn't that good. Wow.

Pac-10. Is the Mountain West that good, or is the Pac-10 that bad? The way the Pac-10 played on Saturday, would you believe the 0-3 Huskies still have a shot at a winning season? They do, barely. All is not lost for Willingham (yet).

Speaking of which, UNLV over #15 Arizona State: takes the sting off of last year's escape, doesn't it?

Penn State. They look really good, but has any team in America played three worse teams?

3-2. Seriously? I had to read the box score three times to believe it. Were Auburn and Mississippi State playing soccer?

AAR: Fresno State

No fear. The Badgers have faced adversity a few times this season, but most directly in the second half at Fresno State. Despite a big momentum shift, the defense hung in there, made the plays it had too, and hung onto the razor thin margin we maintained to the end.

Here's the UW video recap:

Fundamentals. You hear that all the time, but what does it mean? Here are two things it means: taking the right angle on pursuit (thus preventing underneath crossing routes from going for 60 yard touchdowns) and not committing false starts and holding penalties (though I understand two of those were a little questionable). Those two things really hurt the Badgers Saturday night in Fresno. Ball security is another "fundamental." Not turning the ball over is what won the game for us, and arguably what lost it for them.

Offensive Play Calling. After a dominant performance in the first half that a couple of penalties and one very stout goal line stand by the Bulldogs prevented from turning the game into a route, Chryst got a little too clever. It's interesting to see fans complain that we're one dimensional. We're not, we run a very balanced attack, but Saturday night we probably should have been more one-dimensional in the second half. After a pretty balanced show (though the only touchdown drive was heavy on running), our running game was clicking when it had the chance in the second half. If it's there, Paul, take it. I felt like we could have rammed the ball down the Bulldogs throat a bit more. Of course, when you're taking false start penalties, making every first down five more yards away, it's tough to rely on the run. Penalties really are drive killers, and those false starts in the second half were brutal.

The players who stood out to me on offense were Graham, of course, Hill, who looked the part of #1 back for the first time this season (as far as I'm concerned), and the O-line, which has yet to give up a sack on the season. Evridge stood out, too, but mostly for his struggles in the second half.

Defensive Play Calling. I felt like our corners were playing too soft all game, but going into the game I was scared their receivers would burn our inexperienced and slower corners. So maybe that was the right move. In the 4th quarter, when it really mattered, we started bringing more blitzes. It worked. DeAndre Levy came up with some huge plays, Shaughnessy was awesome (Bielema named him the game MVP). Casillas, though he missed a tackle on the long touchdown, tracked down the 60-yard screen play, showing the speed we love him for, and made what Bielema called the game saving tackle.

The game didn't turn out at all like I expected. I expected offensive fireworks and instead we got a defensive struggle. One in which I felt we could have won much more easily. Of course, Fresno State fans would point out they could've won, had their kicker made two of the three he missed (to be fair, 47 and 51 yard field goal attempts are not close to gimmees).

Here's the Big Ten Network's take (hope everyone's buying Rotel for their queso):

On the Road: Fresno State

Thanks to a good friend who is better to the athletic department than I, I was able to go to the Fresno State game with three friends. Two I play hockey with, the third, a '61 UW grad, is the person who convinced me to look into the University of Wisconsin to begin with. We've shared many phone calls celebrating Badger successes over the years, but we'd never made it to a game together, and she couldn't remember the last time she saw the Badgers live.

There are those that deride Fresno as the middle of nowhere, but that's way off base. California provides two-thirds of the nation's produce. The heart of California's agriculture is the San Joaquin Valley, and Fresno, at just shy of 500K people, is the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. A trip to Fresno is a trip to as "real" a part of California as it gets. Driving the three hours from San Francisco, though, you do drive through a lot of fields . . .

Once in Fresno, we parked our car at a lot next to the stadium then got a ride back to my aunt and uncle's house. They graciously took all four of us Badgers in, plus two more, while also inviting several Bulldog backer friends of theirs to a very nice cookout. After several beers, a brat, some tri-tip, and a few other goodies (including apple pie!), we caught another ride back towards the stadium.

One bonus of a 41,000 seat stadium is the traffic and parking isn't nearly as bad as it is for a Camp Randall sized joint. We arrived to the tailgating area immediately adjacent to the stadium at about 6:15. The tailgating was limited in scope, but people were having a good time. Proud Badgers, we immediately sought out a beer tent. An hour before kickoff we found it next to the ESPN tent:

Just after we got in the long line, would you believe -- an hour before kickoff -- they ran out of beer? Who did they think was coming, Utah? BYU? Folks, we're the University of Wisconsin, and we like our beer!

After recovering from the shock, we trudged towards the stadium gates, which were a little overwhelmed with the capacity crowd trying to get in. Along the way we ran into several very nice people who welcomed us and thanked us, and the Badgers, for making the trip -- and for not backing out, as other "big-time" programs might have done. We also ran into a handful of less welcoming people, but nothing beyond what a visitor might hear around Camp Randall, and not too much of it.

One of those less-friendly exchanges did lead to my favorite quote of the night. Three young guys walked by, said something nasty about how the Bulldogs were gonna kill us, drew their fingers across their throats to the same effect, then went on their way. Immediately afterwards a nice young lady, who saw the unfriendly welcome, apologetically said to us, "welcome to ghetto California." A funny comment, but not reflective of our visit. The overwhelming majority of Fresno State fans were nothing but hospitable.
The stadium is small, with a capacity at about 41,000, but it was a good crowd. We arrived in time for the National Anthem (sung well by the Badger fans -- don't think the Fresno crowd normally sings along with their band) and the Air National Guard F-16 flyover, which is always cool (and they stoked their afterburners for us as they cleared the stadium). The Bulldog band is very big -- maybe as big as ours. They don't have quite the buy-in that the 5th Quarter does, and aren't as exciting, but they did their part. The public address system left a little to be desired. Most of the officials' calls were difficult to understand, and even many of the announcements by the PA announcer were unintelligible. The canned music was loud. Fresno State like showing their bulldog mascot chewing on a badger stuffed animal on the jumbo-tron. All the Badger fans in the crowd thought it might turn out a little differently if they tried that with a real badger.

By game time the stadium was packed, with standing room only. The Fresno fans greeted the Badgers with the requisite boos, as our boys entered under the student section. The Bulldogs followed to a raucous greeting. The only thing that went wrong for them is it appeared their air-tent collapsed as they were finished running out. Then it was game time. Of course the right team won. The Fresno State D came up huge, stopping our first sustained drive on 3rd and 4th and goal, with just a yard or two to go. Still, we dominated the first half, and easily could have been ahead another 10, or even 17 points, but for the missed field goal (and poor time management) to end the half, that stellar goal-line stand the Bulldogs made, and a 10-yard holding penalty, committed behind the run on Evridge's option attempt near the Fresno State goal line, which led to the made field goal.

The second half, particularly the 3rd quarter, was another story. Chryst appeared to get a little too tricky by half, mixing in a little too much first-down passing for an offense that was dominating the line of scrimmage on runs. On top of that, we really hurt ourselves with holding and false-start penalties. On the other side of the ball, Fresno began to take advantage of over pursuit, running misdirection running plays, and our soft coverage, where the Bulldogs could hit a 5-7 yard out just about anytime they wanted. Poor tackling by Casillas and Valai led to the long touchdown on an underneath crossing patter that looked much like something you might see Beckum run for us.

Mistakes all over the place for both teams. Both teams defenses dropped what may well have gone for pick-6's (Levy had no one in front of him and a short way to go; the Bulldog corner probably would have gone the distance, but had a much longer way to go). We had the kick at the end of the half, and a punt in the 3rd quarter blocked. Fresno State's kicker didn't sleep well, after missing 3, maybe 4 (?), field goals. Finally, Pat Hill should have gone for it at the end on 4th and 16 with two minutes to play. Whether they get the first down or not, they have to hold Wisconsin without a first down to get the ball back. Why not take your shot at mid-field, using the downs you have? Of course, Badger fans weren't thrilled with the fumble that was overturned -- I understand ESPN's commentators felt the same way.

The crowd was excellent. 42,000 people can't get as loud as the Camp at capacity, but they were pretty darned loud. In the second half when every series counted and the game was close, they made it tough on the Badgers' offense, probably leading to some of the false starts. The only real negatives I saw from the Fresno fans was the couple that threw t-shirts (shot out of a cannon into the crowd throughout the game) at the Badger cheerleader running our flag in the endzone after a score. Classless, but that was just a couple of bad apples. The rest of the crowd was great. At the end, the Bulldog fans were sober and downcast -- as any team on the losing end of that kind of game would be. But they did their part, represented Fresno State and supported their team as well as a home crowd can. Not surprisingly, Badger fans were a testament to our school. We easily sold our allotment of tickets, and there were more sprinkled throughout the stadium. During the official time-out for the review, the FSU coaching staff was a little ashamed at the noise coming from the Badger's cheering sections, and had to exhort the crowd to retaliate and drown us out. Similarly, the Bulldog band, seated in front of us, was called on a few times to try and play over us.

Leaving the stadium was a slow process, as there aren't enough gates, but the near-full moon over head was a nice bit of scenery while we waited. Appropriate that visitors from America's Dairyland would feel like cattle heading in and out of the stadium. Again, traffic wasn't too bad, and we made it back to my aunt and uncles' to share a couple more beers, have breakfast in the morning, and drive -- very happily -- back to the Bay Area.

All in all, a great trip. Both teams played hard, and both defenses were a testament to their schools. I fully expected an offensive show, but between both offenses making mistakes, and the Defenses stepping up and making plays, it was anything but. Although our over sized offensive line had a clear advantage over Fresno State's front 7, those guys battled and made a bunch of big plays.

Kudos to the Bulldogs. We look forward to seeing you in Madison next year. I recommend a home-and-home with the Bulldogs for any Big Ten program worth its salt. The meek need not apply.

Rutgers: Meaningless

Everyone got a little shot in the arm last night when Rutgers proved to be a pretty bad football team:

Don't get too excited, Badger fans. After travelling 3000 miles, Fresno State took care of business in Piscataway. Sure, it was even at the half. And we were only up three on Marshall.

This weekend is going to be an offensive slugfest. Get ready!

Game of the Week!

With Ohio State struggling against Ohio U without Beanie Wells, their tilt with USC seems to have lost its luster. In its place? Wisconsin at Fresno State. Think this game isn't important to the Bulldogs? Some might say life altering.

Road Trip!! What to do in Fresno

Other than this . . .

Well, it's maybe a little late, but here's a little knowledge about Fresno. If you have extra time, Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon/Seqouia National Forest aren't far away and they are worth the trip. This time of year, Yosemite won't be crowded and it is beee-you-tiful.

Most folks from Wisconsin are probably flying into San Francisco or LA. Enjoy the sights there, Fresno is less appealing, aesthetically speaking. But take note while making the drive, California is an agricultural state . . . a very big agricultural state. It's only on the coast that California is, well, California (the one you see in the media).

Once you make the drive down (or up) 99 (which will be hot -- possibly in the 100s during the day on Saturday), what's in Fresno?

My friends in Fresno tell me Me-n-Ed's Victory Grill is a solid sports bar (Link), as well as the Red Wave Inn (here) near the university, and the Dog House Grill (here).

For a great sandwich, The Meat Market (link) at Ingram and Alluvial.

The Forestiere Underground Gardens sound interesting: link

Other than that? Um. A couple of malls, with all the standard chain restaurants, and Indian Casinos, if that's your thing.

The Cynic, Week 2

BYU at Washington: Sure, the rule is stupid, but Locker broke it. Huskies miss a 35 yard extra point for the loss. Sort of felt like it had to happen to Willingham, didn't it?

Ohio State vs. Ohio: Seriously, Buckeyes, Beanie isn't that good.

West Virginia at East Carolina: So, about that Big East and its BCS auto-bid . . .

South Florida vs. UCF: Um, about that Big East . . . Hey, ND, looks like George O'Leary is better at coaching than writing resumes.

Notre Dame vs. San Diego State: this was supposed to be a new ND?

Akron at Syracuse: speaking of coaches on the hot seat. Syracuse is BAD (even for the Big East).

Badger Opponents, Week 2

So, how'd everyone do this week?

Akron (1-1) @ Syracuse: Syracuse is bad. Very bad.
#21 Fresno State: Bye
Michigan (1-1) vs. Miami (OH): offense struggled in an ugly win. Offense looks pretty suspect.
#5 Ohio State (2-0) vs. Ohio: looked very shaky without Wells.
#17 Penn State (2-0) vs. Oregon State: destroyed a questionable Beaver team. Might be much better than advertised.
Iowa (2-0) vs. FIU: crushed perennial bottom 10 dweller.
#24 Illinois (1-1) vs. Eastern Illinois: won big, as they should, but gave up 21 points. Suspect D.
Michigan State (1-1) vs. Eastern Michigan: did what they should, win big.
Indiana (2-0) vs. Murray State: crushed them. Looking dangerous.
Minnesota (2-0) at Bowling Green: Surprised everyone with an easy win. Doubled last year's win total.
Cal Poly SLO (1-1) vs. Montana: lost a tight one, 30-28.

Fresno State Preview: Take the Over

Here's what I thought back in July.

Not much has changed, but here's what I think now:

Take the over. Fresno State’s defense won’t slow the Badgers much. Not at all sure the Badger D will slow the Bulldogs much. I see a lot of points scored and a Badger win. Not just because I’m a homer. Fresno State didn’t look that good against Rutgers, and I don’t think Rutgers is a particularly good team. I know, no syllogism or transitive property allowed, but I’m not sold on Fresno State. Where they have an advantage is their WRs over the Badger corners. They will score and not infrequently, but I think they won’t manage to keep up the pace they will need to stay with the Badger offense.

Win or lose, I look forward to providing a travelogue next week. Fresno or bust!

Post Marshall Wrap-up?

Been away from the computer the last few days, but . . .

Just what the doctor ordered? Two scrimmages (to use DiNardo’s term) to really get the offense humming. The Badgers established they can pass, too. The receivers actually looked good, even without Beckum. No panic over the poor start. And, of course, we can still run the ball.

Of concern, this defense isn’t great. There are a couple of playmakers in Shaughnessy, Levy, and Carter, and hopefully one more next week with Casillas back. The Badger corners are mediocre and Fresno State’s speedy WRs will test them. The Badgers were also vulnerable to the inside screen.

The offense really got clicking at the start of the second quarter, and never stopped. My only real question is should PJ be the starter? I’ve liked everything Brown has done, including contributing in pass protection, and Clay looks like he may yet develop into the kind of back we all want him to be (a tall order). PJ is solid, but lacks patience finding holes and my primary concern is that he coughs the ball up too much. He’s been bad with the ball in both games this year and several times last year. Right now I’d start Brown until Hill proves he can hang onto the ball.

The bottom line is the Badger offensive line is very, very good. The rest of the offense just needs to work with what the big uglies give them while the defense holds serve.


This offense could be scary good. Evridge is ok. Hill needs to learn to take care of the rock. The offensive line is sick. SICK.

Defense? Ok. We'll see . . . this week.

Opponents, Week 1

How'd the guys that the Badgers will play do?
  • Marshall: won 35-10 over FCS Illinois State at home.
  • #21 Fresno State: after a lackluster first half, opened up and beat Rutgers convincingly on the road (24-7). They have this week off to prepare for our visit.
  • Michigan: looked alternatively mediocre or just plain bad when Utah beat them in the Big House. Their offense was bad, their defense was ok.
  • #3 Ohio State: crushed FCS Youngstown State. The Big Ten Network gave me the *pleasure* of watching that game. The Buckeyes were never tested, but the Beanie Wells non-descript injury is an interesting development.
  • #19 Penn State: crushed FCS Coastal Carolina. As they should.
  • Iowa: had no trouble with Maine. Are the Hawkeyes more dangerous than everyone's given them credit for?
  • #24 Illinois: couldn't keep up in a track meet against #5 Mizzou. Is Juice that much improved passing, or do the Tigers just not play pass defense?
  • Michigan State: played pretty well in a tough roadie at Cal. No shame in the loss and they showed fight.
  • Indiana: looked pretty good against the newest member of the bowl subdivision. Color me unimpressed.
  • Minnesota: Survived a scare from NIU (31-27). Not a good sign for the Goofs.
  • Cal Poly: upset San Diego State. It's only San Diego State, but you should know the Mustangs are #15 in FCS. Not world beaters, but they won't just roll over.

Marshall @ Wisconsin: Improvement?

Just like last week, the Badgers are likely better than the Herd at every position. But talent alone doesn't win football games.

Headed into Saturday, Beckum is expected to play (but probably in limited amounts), Pressley will, too, with a cast, but Casillas is not. The starting corners will be Goins and Langford.

Marshall's offense is likely an upgrade from Akron, with better playmakers at the skill positions. They put of 35 points last Saturday (ok, so it was against Illinois State, but still). This is a bigger test for the Badger defense, particularly the secondary. That makes this game a good preview for next week at pass-happy Fresno State. So, what to watch?

(1) Just like last week, is this a blowout? Just like last week, it should be.
(2) How is our pass-defense? Our starting d-line should be able to get pressure. Is that enough to compensate for our average corner and safety play?
(3) Again, Evridge and interceptions. Did he learn from his mistakes last week?
(4) Bielema nailed it, what we need to see this week is improvement. Improvement at MLB (McFadden), improvement at safety (Valai), improvement on the corners (Goins, particularly), and improvement from Evridge.

The Cynic, Week 1

College football events I take guilty pleasure in:

Bowling Green over Pitt. Seriously, where has the Stache been an effective head coach? Remember this rule: one big upset at the end of the prior season doesn't make an otherwise mediocre team really good.

East Carolina over Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech remains the most consistently overrated team in college football since Dan Snyder left Kansas State.

Oregon over Washington (big). Oregon's pretty good. Washington isn't. Locker can't win by himself, and any Willingham coached team that isn't ahead at half time is in big trouble.

Alabama over Clemson. This was going to be Clemson's year. I think I hear that every year. I expect to hear it again next year.

Utah over Michigan. I just like seeing this happen to Michigan. I know they will be back and very, very good. But in the mean time, I'm going to enjoy their struggles.

Bonus: Cal Poly over San Diego State. At least our closer is better than Notre Dame's openor.

AAR (After Akron Review): Week 1


(1) Blowout. Check. Garbage time TD doesn't bother me.
(2) Defense. Umm. Nice work forcing the field goal at the end of the half. Not so sure about the sustained drive for a touchdown that preceeded it. Work to do.
(3) O-Line. Nice. Very nice. Looking forward to their progress as the year goes on.
(4) Evridge. Efficient, but that redzone pic was bad. That's what the coaches have been worried about with him. This was a freebe, and hopefully it taught him the lesson he needed. But hope isn't a method.
(5) Clay. Nice to see him getting carries. Nice to see the Badgers over 400 yards on the ground. Nice to see three tough backs running down hill. This team is going to wear a lot of people down.

I like it.

But I'm still nervous about the passing game and the defense.