Maybe it’s the lack of flashy recruits. Maybe it’s the grind-em-down style of offense. Maybe it’s the cheeseheads. Whatever it is, the Badgers don’t seem to get a lot of respect, and with that lack of respect comes the denigration of the B1G West.
The numbers don’t really bear that out. Let’s make a blind comparison of these two teams from 1996-2012.
Team A: 152-67 (.694 win percentage), 16 bowls, 5 BCS bowls
Team B: 118-92 (.562 win percentage), 11 bowls, 0 BCS bowls
Pretty significant drop-off, isn’t it? Team A is Wisconsin, and Team B is Michigan State.
For many, the two schools appear about even, and having Wisconsin swapped for Michigan State seems like a push. But history shows that Wisconsin has been a much stronger team than Michigan State. Indeed, let’s take a look at the Badgers against another blind comparison.
Team C: 148-64 (.698 win percentage), 14 bowls, 6 BCS bowls
Awfully close, isn’t it? So who is this Team C? Michigan. That’s right, looking at resumes, Wisconsin and Michigan are almost indistinguishable.
So if you’re playing the “swap” game in comparing conferences, it would be much more accurate to treat Wisconsin as trading places with Michigan rather than Michigan State. And that, combined with the fact that the Badgers are the three-time defending B1G champions, makes the divisions seem much more balanced.