The Wisconsin Badgers have been anything but impressive in 2012.
On Saturday, Wisconsin fell to the Nebraska Cornhuskers in its Big Ten opener and dropped to 3-2 overall.
Sure, it's still a winning record, but the Badgers' three wins have all come at home and against supposed inferior opponents. Unfortunately, the performance in those games has been exploited against the tougher opponents of Oregon State and Nebraska.
Leading 27-10 in the second half over the Cornhuskers, Wisconsin saw its lead quickly diminish before the third quarter ended. The Badgers ultimately lost, 30-27, and it wouldn't be surprising if Sconnie fails to make the Big Ten Championship Game.
To that end, let's look into why Wisconsin has been an extreme disappointment thus far.
The Badgers are normally hyped among the best in college football before each season, and rightfully so since head coach Bret Bielema has taken them to a bowl game every year and has never had a losing season.
With a 60-19 record heading into 2012, another strong campaign was expected. Well, after being ranked No. 12 in both preseason polls, Wisconsin will be fortunate to finish ranked after how the year has begun.
And the preseason hype is simply one reason why Wisconsin has been disappointing.
Any time a team is ranked to kick off the year, they are expected to perform at a high level. Obviously the Badgers haven't done so, because their two losses are against BCS schools, whereas the wins were anticipated.
There is good news.
Although Wisconsin is 0-1 in Big Ten play, Nebraska lies in the Legends Division of the conference. So, provided that the Badgers win the Leaders Division, 2012 could turn out significantly better than it started.
Also, with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for postseason play, all the Badgers have to do is defeat Purdue, Indiana and Illinois to make a second consecutive appearance. Nevertheless, entering Week 5, the Badgers don't face any ranked opponents other than Nebraska and Michigan State.
That said, the Spartans may not be ranked when they travel to Madison in late October after having lost to Ohio State. Plus, playing at Michigan could be another loss for Michigan State.
Still, Wisconsin's schedule does not help in terms of strength, and it's apparent that these Badgers are not indicative of a typical Bret Bielema team.
Lack of Offensive Firepower
Wisconsin has a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist in running back Montee Ball, but the ground game has not been consistent.
Ball rushed for 120 yards and one score against Northern Iowa, then fell to just 61 yards against Oregon State. Getting back on track against Utah State with 139 yards, Ball dropped production again with only 40 yards versus UTEP.
Now, yes, he did bounce back with 90 yards and three touchdowns against Nebraska. However, this inconsistency will not bode well when facing stronger rush defenses such as Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State.
The virtually nonexistent passing game doesn't help set up the rushing attack, either. Freshman Joel Stave has fared better than transfer quarterback Danny O'Brien, but it's nothing compared to the reliability of Scott Tolzien or Russell Wilson.
It's shaping up to be a rough season for Wisconsin, and don't be surprised if the Badgers fall to Purdue and fail to win eight games.
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