THE priority, THE problem with the Badgers is the defense. I just suffered through last year's "highlights." Sure, Evridge wasn't brilliant, and neither was Sherer (though he was a significant upgrade). Yeah, there were penalty problems and fumble problems (big penalty problems and big fumble problems). And with all that, the biggest problem I saw was with the defense. Check the numbers.
In the Big Ten, only Michigan State surrendered more points to Penn State than we did. Not Indiana, not Purdue, not Illinois.
Iowa only scored more than 24 points in conference three times; against Indiana (45), Minnesota (55), and Wisconsin (38). The only other teams they scored on more than us? FIU and Maine.
The 24 points we put up against Michigan State? That put us in good company, with Georgia (24), and only Penn State (49), Ohio State (45), Cal (38), and -- oddly -- Indiana (29) scored more. It was the 25 we gave up that was the problem.
We gave up 32 to Decker-less Minnesota. How many other conference teams let them in the 30s? None. They only got above 20 two other times in conference play.
We blew out Indiana, but not before letting them hang around with us, scoring 20 early. Only Michigan State (29) and Northwestern (21) allowed more in conference.
The 27 we allowed to Michigan? Including out-of-conference games (Utah, Miami-Ohio, Notre Dame, and Toledo), they only scored more against Purdue (42) and Minnesota (29; Michigan's only other conference win).Oh, and Florida State's 42? They only scored more against Chattanooga (46) and Western Carolina (69).
The bottom line is in-conference while we were 5th in scoring, we were 9th in points allowed. When your conference is called the Big Ten, coming in 9th isn't so hot.Now, let's recall how we started the year on defense:
Three 3+-year starters on the line. Two three-year starters at linebacker. A four-year starter at one corner (to be fair, Langford played his part very well all season), and Shane Carter, at safety, was supposed to be one of the team's best players, and one of two returning starting safeties (neither of whom ended up starting). This was basically the same defense that shut down Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl two years earlier and performed pretty well against Tennessee in the next Outback Bowl.
So what happened? Well, that Northwestern defense looked pretty good this season . . . with the Badgers' '06-'07 DC, Mike Hankwitz on the 'Cats sideline. I haven't given up on Dave Doeren after only one season, but the bottom line is his squad is the one that's most not living up to appropriate expectations. For better or worse he gets a clean slate this season . . .
Defense wins championships? Indeed.
Come on, Dave . . . we're counting on you . . .