Wisconsin Football: Badgers Ready for New Beginning Against Illinois

Peter RaischContributor IIIOctober 4, 2012

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 15: Linebacker Chris Borland #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after kicker Josh Thompson #19 of the Utah State Aggies kick was wide right in the fourth quarter September 15, 2012 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Utah State Aggies 16-14.  (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images)
Tom Lynn/Getty Images

The word "disappointment" has been thrown around a little too liberally when it comes to the 2012 Wisconsin Badgers football team.

In order to balance out the knee jerk pessimism most fans are liberally heaving on the team, a little perspective is needed before the Badgers begin their quest to defend their "Leaders" division crown. 

While it is clear that this year's team does not have the offensive potency of its 2011 version, it is unfair to compare the two. The disparate levels of competition in the two years' schedules alone offer some hope to the Badger faithful

For example, the 2011 Badgers' slate through its historic meeting with Nebraska was pitiful. Its four BCS-level opponents had a combined record of seven wins and 11 losses.

The 2012 schedule held no such cupcakes. In fact, that record makes a 180-degree turn as Wisconsin's BCS opponents to this point, including Nebraska, hold a collective record of 12 wins to six losses. Two of those perceived preseason weaklings turned out to be 3-0 Oregon State and 4-1 Utah State. Just like 2011 though, the only losses in the team ledger are games lost on the road.

What's more, Wisconsin is doing all of this with 50 true and redshirt freshman on the roster with only nine seniors. 

With arguably the hardest game the Badgers will play this season behind them, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue become Bret Bielema's biggest concerns. 

The first of those challenges begins with Illini in a matchup in the safe confines of Camp Randall.

Both teams are averaging a pedestrian 22.6 points per game, but Wisconsin looks much better doing it. Illinois looks disjointed as new head coach Tim Beckman is trying to find a winning formula after losing quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for a stretch thanks to a sprained ankle. This is a team Chris Borland and Mike Taylor could make regret ever getting on the bus. 

A win on Saturday could not only improve the Badgers record, but it could do wonders for a team that has faced some major adversity.