Ever since I came to the high school class he thought as a guest speaker for jobs in television the week after I quit television, I knew that Brian Carriveau and I were taking the first steps on our road to greatness together. Three years later, he writes for Cheesehead TV and I host a morning radio show. On Mondays and Fridays, we talk Packers, and that's what we did this week as we recapped the Packers win against the Lions as well as other NFC North action. The audio is always available for you beneath the K107.1/Cheesehead TV dual logo, or since I've decided to write a separate post on the topic here's the most recent podcast.
It appears I'm about two weeks late with this Badgers Basketball preview. That's ok, we now have a few non-conference games to shed a little more light on the 2011-2012 Wisconsin Badgers.
Wisconsin currently sits at 6-0. You can't really determine too much for easy wins over Kennesaw State, Colgate, Wofford, or UMKC, but this weekend's victories in the prestigious Chicago Invitational Challenge over Bradley and BYU are somewhat nice. At least those teams are mid-majors.
The team this year will obviously revolve around pre-season All-American Jordan Taylor. It's important that Taylor doesn't try to do too much. He needs to balance facilitating his teammates with scoring points. He needs to dominate the game - tempo, scoring, and distributing.
The rest of the team is far less proven. Taylor will be joined in the backcourt by Josh Gasser with Ryan Evans at the small forward and Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren down low. It looks like Ben Brust will be an important contributor off the bench.
Let's take a look at a few of the keys to the season for Wisconsin.
1. Jared Berggren down low - It's a given that Wisconsin will have big white guys that can shoot. The question is, can they get big down low? That is the question for Berggren on both offense and defense. He will need to defend guys like Jared Sullinger and Trevor Mbakwe. As inconsistent as Keaton Nankivil was on offense, he was strong on D and I think will be a a bigger loss than Leuer. Breggren will need to D up and rebound and at least provide the possibility of a low post game for the Badgers to keep their outside shooters open.
2. Ryan Evan's mid range jumper - It's clear Evans is not a 3-point shooter, but we need his athleticism out there. He will consistently have wide open mid-range jumpers. He needs to make those. This may seem small, but it will really open up Taylor and our other outside guys and keep the swing swinging.
3a. Josh Gasser - Gasser is a good player, but we need him to be more than just a Mike Kelley or Joe Krabbenhoft. He needs to be a scorer and second ball handler to free up Taylor. I'm not sure he is ready to take up this role.
3b. Ben Brust - So this one wouldn't have been in my preview had this been a true pre-season post, but after actually getting to see a few games, it looks like Brust will be an important 6th man. He's got wild range, plus he seems to be the secondary ball handler and point guard when Taylor is out.
These are just a few important things to look for this season. As far as predictions go, there is no reason why Wisconsin shouldn't again challenge for the Big Ten. The conference is down this year and Wisconsin will always win at the Kohl Center. Ohio State should win the conference, but I can't see the Badgers being worse than 2nd or 3rd. Normal powers like Michigan State, Purdue, and Illinois will be down and teams like Michigan and Minnesota are always picked to do well but never really produce. Look for Indiana to be better and Northwestern to possibly make the NCAA tourney for the first time ever.
Overall, the Badgers are not currently a top ten team, but the way Bo Ryan teams improve over the course of the season, things could be different come March. Wisconsin should continue to be a good team, but not really a great team.
Tune in Wednesday for our first true measuring stick - at North Carolina and then Marquette in Madison.
This season did not exactly go as Badgers fans wished, but at least we get another shot at Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten Championship game. A shot at revenge and a little bit of vindication.
I don't think anyone was really worried about Penn State. They have all their internal drama going on, plus they are not that good of a team. There was a lot of talk about their great defense, but Wisconsin's run/pass combo was much too much for the Nittany Lions to handle. It was business as usual for the Badgers at home this season. 4 more TD's for Montee Ball, bringing his season total to 34, now second on the all-time NCAA list. All he does is score touchdowns. ( Just a quick aside, if you have time, check out the stats on Barry Sanders' 1988 season. 39 touchdowns in 11 games! This number does not even include his 5 touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl. That's 44 TDs in 12 games. 3.66 per game. Staggering.) Across the board this season's stats are pretty sick for Wisconsin. Russell Wilson with the best pass efficiency rating ever. 28 TDs and only 3 ints. Wisconsin with an amazing Red Zone TD score %. I'm pretty sure that stat is usually measured in just scoring, TDs and field goals, but Wisconsin is so good they just measure it in touchdowns. Dominance at Camp Randall, outscoring opponents 359 - 75. Wow.
Some amazing stats for sure, but with those stats, with this dominate season, should we not have more? Am I too greedy? I don't think so. Yesterday the "what ifs" continued to abound. The obvious one, what if we defended two last second bombs? The answer to that would be easy. We'd be the #2 team in the nation. What if we just beat Ohio State? That one is a bit more interesting. Would we be the best one loss team? Probably not in the polls, but I think Badger Nation would have a legitimate argument for a National Championship shot. I mean, who wants to see LSU/'Bama again? Not this guy. But alas, sports is full of "what ifs" and "could have beens". The reality is Wisconsin 10-2 and headed to the Big Ten Championship game against a good Michigan State team. Would a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl victory erase those painful loses? No, but they would make this a successful season. So next Saturday night I will try to suspend my imagination and enjoy the awesome 2011 Wisconsin Badgers. I have very strong dislike for Michigan State, even approaching hatred in recent years. So let's go out there and show them what Wisconsin football is all about and bring home a trophy in the process.
As someone who is the host of a morning radio show on a station that plays the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Andy Grammer, Lady Gaga and others, you can imagine that its not really the correct platform for me to rant about various topics in the world of sports. If only I had some sort of website or something where I could express those opinions.
Whats that you say? I do have a Blog? Oh boy, I should probably update that thing sometime.
Anyway, the title explains enough. Let's fire some of these out.
The Bowl Championship Series - I can't believe that I still come across articles where the "BCS? More like BS!" joke is used as if it's being written for the first time (granted, most of the times these articles are from Bleacher Report). Still, the computer generated system does look like it's going to be a mess this year as there are now just two undefeated teams left to choose from, and one of them doesn't really count. I've complained on this site more than several times about how much I don't like the BCS, and how I was going to swear off college football until the system was changed. But then I find myself watching an Oklahoma State vs. Iowa State game I wouldn't have otherwise cared about on Friday night, even when I had to work at 4:30 the next morning, just because of how intrigued I was by the whole mess. That's the thing about the BCS. It doesn't care if you like it or hate it, it knows you're still going to watch. And that means it makes money. And that means it's not going anywhere for a long, long time.
Side note - It kills me that Wisconsin is right now two once-in-a-lifetime plays away from being ranked number two in the country.
The Penn State Scandal - Everything to say has already been said, and I can't see how anyone that knew about the goings on in the locker room could even work in football, much less society, again. And I'm not 100 percent convinced that there is a distinct version of a heaven and a hell, but I know that I'm not going to the same place that Jerry Sandusky does when I die. Unless, laughing at this is grounds for hell...
Dale Sveum Becomes Manager of the Cubs - Proud for Dale, not too concerned about the move though. Dale Sveum is a great guy and all, but if Doug Melvin would have rather had Cheney Macha instead of Sveum as the manager, I think I have to respect that judgement. Although it will be really lame if the Cubs are ever better than the Brewers with Sveum as the manager.
NBA Strike - The players are arguing over dollar amounts that are in the millions and billions of dollars, meanwhile I know people that worked front office jobs in the NBA last season and you wouldn't believe the kind of jobs they are doing to try to get by right now. The NBA already had enough apathetic fans, and this lockout isn't going to them any favors. I expect a long recovery for this league if this lockout ever gets settled.
Now, after I write this, I find this article by Bill Simmons explaining the rift between the players and the owners. Great stuff.
Packers Sit at 9-0 - I'm concerned about the prospect of the Packers going undefeated because of the example that the Patriots set where they lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl after going 18-0 previously. Honestly, I'm not too concerned about the undefeated mark, I just don't want everyone to overreact when they do lose for the first time, whether it's soon or in the playoffs. Not overreact in the sense that people will think the Packers are bad, but do we even know what a loss feels like at this point? Besides a preseason game, the last time the Packers lost was in Foxboro before last Christmas. Sure, Wisconsin fans have experienced the Brewers heartache and Badgers disappointment this year, but I just don't remember how to deal with a Packers loss. Let's hope we don't have to for a long long time (actually, we can go 9-7 for all I care, let's just not lose in the playoffs please).
That's all for now, more in four weeks.
After the outcome of a few plays in two different early games, the Badgers once again control their own destiny in the Big Ten. Penn State's loss to Nebraska and Purdue's overtime upset of Ohio State put Wisconsin back in the driver's seat of the Big Ten Leaders Division before even kicking off Saturday afternoon. You can forget all the scenarios I presented last week. If Wisconsin wins its final two games, it will play in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game December 3rd in Indianapolis, another trip to Pasadena very much on the cards.
Wisconsin took care of business on the field against a pretty inept Minnesota team. Russell Wilson was 16-17 passing with 4 touchdowns. Nick Toon had 100 receiving yards and 2 TDs. Montee Ball rushed for 166 and scored 3 more TDs, setting the all-time Big Ten Record. It was much of the same for the Badgers offense. You can't really judge the defense from this one because Minnesota is so bad. Special teams was again a problem, giving Minnesota all their points (kickoff return and fake field goal for a TD).
At the end of the day, Wisconsin keeps Paul Bunyan's Ax, gets another win and are on track for a rematch with Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. These are all good things, and maybe I'm a bit greedy, but I can't help looking at loses by Boise State and Stanford and Alabama and wonder what may have happened if Wisconsin could have defended a couple last second heaves.
Four years ago I wrote to you about my excitement when my fantasy league had decided to take a last second trip to St. Louis in the middle of December, venturing down to the Gateway City to see our beloved Packers take on the lowly (at the time, and yet again) St. Louis Rams. It was a wild adventure; I crashed a van on the way there, we drank for free at one bar because of the items we stole at a different bar, I traded my Nick Barnett jersey to a beautiful young lady for her Christmas sweater in an effort to win her heart, all this and more as part of a whirlwind 48 hours that was highlighted by a Packers victory. After the weekend was in the books, it was a no-brainer to me and my closest friends that we were going to make the annual Packer road trip something of a yearly tradition. We then hit Nashville to see the Packers lose an overtime thriller to the Titans, traveled to Cleveland the following year to see a wild blowout of the Browns, and last year we saw Matt Flynn become a man in a close loss to the Patriots, which was actually the last time that the Packers have lost a meaningful game at this writing of this posting. Although this year, the San Diego Chargers did all they could to make that last statement untrue.
San Diego was the pick for our vacation this year, beating Atlanta when we took the vote many months ago. The leading factor? Obviously, the weather. Booking a trip for the first weekend in November to Southern California was a no-brainer, and despite the damage we knew this trip would do to all of our wallets, we were ready to fly westward to enjoy some Packers and some paradise. As you all know by now, the weather quite the opposite of what you would expect San Diego to offer. The only day where I really felt like I was in California was on Wednesday, the day the first batch of us flew in. After that, the cold front came in and brought some rain along with. "You folks from Wisconsin didn't have to bring the weather with you" earned the record for the phrase that I have fake laughed at the most in my life. While the weather never really was terrible (it would actually be considered fantastic for this time of the year in Wisconsin), it wasn't the California that I was promised in those commercials.
The only time that I would really say that the weather was a damper on the trip would be the first half of the Packers / Chargers game on Sunday afternoon. But that's only because I had packed for the game as if there would be 70 degree weather and sunshine. But the weather didn't seem to bother the Packers, and therefore it didn't bother me. It certainly didn't seem to bother the rest of the Packers faithful either, who had helped the Chargers fans make Sunday's crowd the third largest in Qualcomm Stadium history. You'll read that conservative estimates say that maybe one-third of "the Q" was made up of Packers fans, and there definitely could have been more than that. When the Packers were first introduced before the game, it definitely felt like a home game, as the Packers were cheered and the Chargers were booed (then again, Chargers fans did seem to be at their last wits with this ballclub and seem all too eager to criticize Phillip Rivers whenever given the opportunity). However, as soon as the game started, the Chargers fans took back their stadium and were definitely the louder of the two fan bases.
Now really, I wouldn't be surprised if some of that noise was manufactured in, but that's a feeling I've been coming away with on a couple of these trips. Take the aforementioned St. Louis trip. That was a stadium that was about 60 percent full of Packers fans at the time, yet it always seemed to get suspiciously loud whenever the Rams were on defense. I'm not saying there is a conspiracy here, but I am saying that I sat pretty high in the stands that year yet still heard the majority of the noise coming from behind me. As in, where the speakers would be located. This year the Chargers fans were definitely vocal, but I'm going to point to one play as to why I think something fishy was going on. Late in the fourth quarter, the Chargers were about to punt and needed to force the Packers into a quick three and out to get the ball back for an ensuing drive. The punt lands inside the Packers five yard line, a huge play that should keep the momentum on the Chargers side. Yet, when the ball was downed so close to the goal line, the stadium was dead quiet. Perhaps I'm mistaken and downed punts inside the five when your defense is about to take the field and absolutely needs a stop isn't as big of a deal as I thought it was, or perhaps the sound guy at Qualcomm forget to hit the magic little button to pump in some more noise.
Sure, it might be laughable to bring up an issue of fabricated cheering, but it's a claim I'm able to at least suggest because of just how many Packers fans where there.
A lot of us did make the journey from 2100 plus miles away to root on the green and gold and hopefully catch some sun, but I have to think that many of the Packers fans in attendance traveled from within the state of California. The giveaway? I have never seen that many cheeseheads in my life. Not cheeseheadscheeseheads as in the actual foam hat that graces the top of a supporters noggin. Think about the last time you went to a game at Lambeau Field - how many people wearing cheeseheads did you see? You don't see it too often anymore, at least not in Wisconsin. Yet out here in California, I'd say there were more people wearing the foam hat in my section alone than there were in the entire stadium of the last game I went to in Lambeau.
Regardless of where we were form, however, we all had the same task at hand - making Qualcomm feel as much like Lambeau as possible. Probably the biggest reason that the Chargers had to go to that silent count in the fourth quarter, and why Packers defenders and Mike McCarthy were calling for the crowd to get louder when the defense was looking for one final stop, was because of all the Chargers fans that had left the game shortly after the fourth quarter had began. At that point, the Packers had gone up three touchdowns, and you don't come back from a three touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter against the reigning Super Bowl champs. That's what the consensus seemed to be anyway among the home team crowd. Because of that three touchdown lead, the Packers fans slowly became the majority in that stadium, and the efforts of Packer nation lead to the headline "It's Tough to Win a Road Game When You're at Home" in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Monday morning.
So without the three touchdown lead, I don't think the Packers crowd is as powerful as they were at the end of the game. But without the Packers crowd being that powerful, I'm not sure the Packers are able to pull off the victory. You could definitely tell that the Packers were feeding off of their unexpected support on the road (some support expected yes, but not this much). The Packers defense rose to another level at the end of that game, so stand up and give yourselves a pat on the back (not so fast, Charles Woodson). That right there is my favorite part of these road trips. Seeing just how many Packers fans are doing the same thing we are, traveling great distances spending money we don't have to support our team, basically taking over stadiums and cities along the way. Let me be another in a long line of bloggers to suggest a way to fix the nation's economy - have the Packers play a road game in every major U.S. city.
Before I take too much credit for the Packers victory, let me stop to remind myself just how incredible of an offense we are witnessing as Packers fans. Why is all the national coverage after week nine focusing on guys like Tim Tebow, Eli Manning, and even Matt Moore? Because there's nothing to say about Aaron Rodgers that hasn't already been said. Not only is he putting together one of the best stretches by a quarterback in all-time (or the best, according to several analysts such as ESPN's Merrill Hoge), but he's doing it in a way that makes it look so effortless. There is just an enormous amount of confidence flowing out of that guy, and it's simply amazing how he's able to perform at this level week in and week out. You hate to put your entire offense in the hands of one guy for two long (see Favre, Brett and the ego of his that grew because of that tactic), but out of these last 14 victories, the Packers have won quite a few games that you don't win if you don't have Aaron Rodgers.
Some of those games have been won by the defense as well, while not always playing solid, they still have the big play ability that was evidenced by two pick sixes in the first quarter, and a near third to cap off the end of the game. Right now the only formula to beating the Packers is to outscore them, but that defense needs to be ready to win another game for when Aaron Rodgers doesn't play at this MVP-type level.
It's interesting that the Packers sit at 8-0 on the same weekend when the rematch between the Giants and the Patriots takes place, as the 16-0 regular season for New England a few years ago was constantly brought up on television and in print this week. It doesn't matter how many wins you have, the undefeated discussion is going to crop up until you suffer your first loss. I'm never going to sit in front of my television and root for the Packers to lose, but the question "Do we really want the Packers to go undefeated?" is one that might turn into an article if Green Bay is still perfect this time next month. You could go the Colts route and purposely lose games when you have everything clinched, you could go the New England route and go for the jugular, but again I'm going to save that conversation for another day. The way it stands now though, you're not rooting for any type of loss as the 7-1 San Francisco 49ers are right on your heels, believe it or not. The Lions aren't far behind Green Bay in the division either. So no, I will never root for the Packers to lose a game, but I still don't want to go into the playoffs at 16-0. Does that make sense? Kind of, but not really? I'm not sure, as again I think the talk is a bit premature even though I'm the one that just spent the last paragraph on the matter.
Like Mike McCarthy said, the Packers are 8-0. And that's a fact. Yes, there were negatives in this game, and there are plenty of things that the Packers need to correct if they are going to repeat. But last time this year the Packers were 4-4, and there was a pile in the middle of our apartment of all the Packers items we owned, because of how disgusted we were after losses to both the Redskins and the Chiefs. Yes, 8-0 is a lot better than 4-4, but having a Super Bowl title would be a lot better than not having one. I think Mike McCarthy will have these guys on the right track to hold off on any real celebrating until the end of the season, and I think Packers fans are willing to do the same.
Plus, I'm not sure if I'm ready to do anything real partying after how much we partied on this trip to San Diego. From the Gaslamp District, to Pacific and Ocean Beach, we definitely hit the town hard and with force. And while this trip was another classic adventure between myself and the guys in my fantasy league, we don't have any of the stories to tell that we did in years past. No random hookups with the locals, no adventures that kept us up until 11am the next morning, no clear candidate for this year's LVP (we usually designate the person that was the weakest link on the trip, but this year everyone was simply the same level of mediocre, and we were all fine with that). We partied yes, but no one really did anything stupid. Let me tell you, for this group of guys I'm with that's almost more impressive than the Packers 8-0 record right now.
We've seen some good games in these five trips, but I don't think we've seen one this exciting, and definitely haven't been to an opposing stadium that felt more like Lambeau when we were there (although the stadium itself was really a piece of garbage. The walkways felt like the basement of a church, nearly every seat is a distracted view in one way or another, the scoreboard and graphics weren't even cutting edge when they were renovated in 1997, and the banners with the logo of every team that hang around the stadium gave Qualcomm the touch of my bedroom when I was twelve years old). It's going to take awhile for my bank account to reboot after running into the wall that was $15 Captain Diets, but continuing this journey with my closest friends as we continue our quest to hit all 32 NFL stadiums was another great success. Southern California showed us a good time, and with the 49ers, Raiders, and possibly Vikings/Jaguars on the move out West, we'll be back out to California in the future. Hopefully with a little more sun next time.
No reason to complain though, because even though the weather may not have been perfect, the Packers still are.
I'll book that trip anytime.
There is probably not really a need to write about the Badgers 62-17 win over Purdue, but I thought after the last two devastating weeks for Wisconsin football, we could concentrate on the positive for once.
There isn't really too much to say about the game expect that the Badgers dominated. It took about a quarter for the wheels to really get rolling, but once they did, this one was never in doubt. Montee Ball continued his great season, rushing for a career high 233 yards and scoring three more touchdowns, bringing his season total to 23. That puts him only 3 away from the all-time Big 10 record. He should have no trouble breaking that record in the final 3 games. Russell Wilson went 15-20 with 2 TDs, another solid game for Russell. But truth be told, Purdue is not very good. We will not judge our season on how we play against the Purdues and Indianas, but how we do against the top teams. We still have a very good chance at a BCS bowl.
Let's take a look at the remaining schedule for those in contention for the Leaders Division.
Wisconsin: @MIN, @ILL, PENN STATE
Ohio State: @PUR, PSU, @MICH
Penn State: NEB, @OSU, @WIS
The schedule definitely favors Wisconsin, but we can't really look past Minnesota and Illinois because we haven't won a game on an opponents home field yet this season. What worries me would be Ohio State getting hot and running the table with Penn State losing their final three games. This would tie Wisconsin with OSU and we'd lose on head-to-head. I'm not certain of the tie-breakers for a three way tie, which is also still possible. If it is head-to-head again, OSU would be 2-0, Wisconsin 1-1, and PSU 0-2. But if it is BCS ranking or overall record, then Wisconsin would go to the Big Ten Championship game.
All we can worry about is taking care of our own business. I think the rest will fall into place. Best case scenario, Penn State loses to Nebraska and beats Ohio State, setting up a winner take all match in Madison (night game please ABC) November 26th.
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