Wisconsin's Bret Bielema Spares Himself by Firing Mike Markuson

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Wisconsin's Bret Bielema Spares Himself by Firing Mike Markuson
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema is 61-20 in his seventh season.

After Wisconsin's narrow five-point season-opening win over Northern Iowa, the FCS school with 22 fewer scholarships than the Badgers yet still outplayed them on many fronts, fans were beginning to worry.

Now, after getting totally humiliated in Corvallis, Ore. by an Oregon State team that was picked to not just finish last in the Pac-12 but also fail to make a bowl game, fans are getting testy. 

Think about that for a second. The Badgers hopped on a plane winners of the Big Ten Conference for the last two seasons, earning trips to Pasadena, and couldn't get it together against a mediocre BCS school.

But it didn't take long for Wisconsin to start the healing process. Bret Bielema has already ousted offensive line coach Mike Markuson. That's quite convenient considering the No. 13 Badgers racked up a whopping 35 yards on the ground that led to them being knocked out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2009, a string of 36 straight weeks.

In Bielema's Monday press conference (h/t uwbadgers.com), he made mention of Markuson's family—a wife, a daughter and a son—in Mississippi, and how he missed them. 

"I know everybody's got their own foregone conclusions of what transpired, " Bielema said. "It was really something that wasn't a knee jerk thing by me. It's something we talked about and processed through."

Granted, everyone misses family. But why didn't Bielema understand those family factors pulling on Markuson before he pulled the trigger and offered him the job? Because a Heisman Trophy finalist tailback put his trust in Bielema to not only have another special year but also increase his NFL draft stock.

Unfortunately, after just 61 yards and no touchdowns, Montee Ball can expect that the Downtown Athletic Club won't be mailing him an invite to this year's Heisman Trophy ceremony and his draft stock is falling faster than the Big Ten's reputation. 

I understand that Bielema wanted to make a move to get back to the Wisconsin brand of football by pounding out yardage on the ground and then making waves downfield with pinpoint play-action.

However, with six new assistants at the start of this season and now with former grad assistant Bart Miller leading the offensive line, this team is the epitome of learning on the fly.

Bielema may have said it's not a knee-jerk reaction but in reality it was. If the Badgers get the correct call and keep possession of the onside kick and eke out a 14-10 win against the Beavers, does Bielema still make the change? I doubt it. 

Granted, the Badgers have returned two starters in left tackle Ricky Wagner and center Travis Frederick from a team that averaged over five yards a carry last year.

But the entire offense has taken on a different complexion with new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Gone are the days of chucking it downfield and opening up running lanes. Now the running lanes are stuffed and so is the short passing game.

By letting go of Markuson, Bielema does take himself off the coaching hot seat. 

But all this could've been spared by not hiring Markuson in the first place. 

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