Wisconsin Football: Why We Should Have Seen in-Conference Losses Coming

Tommy Torkelson@Tommy_TorkelsonCorrespondent INovember 3, 2011

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 29:  Orhian Johnson #19 of the Ohio State Buckeyes tackles Russell Wilson #16 of the Wisconsin Badgers to prevent a touchdown during the third quarter on October 29, 2011 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Wisconsin 33-29. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

When Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson stepped on campus at the University of Wisconsin, he brought with him expectations. Firstly, winning the Big Ten again and potentially more.

While the hype machine propelled the Badgers beyond what they've now shown they're capable of, Wilson and the Badgers played powderpuff games against teams like UNLV, Oregon State and South Dakota.

It's always same story as the last, for the past few years. The narrative on the Wisconsin Badgers football program is that they schedule soft teams to beat on early in the season, and then aren't ready to get up to Big Ten football level by the time conference play rolls around.

Lets be honest. Playing Austin Peay last year and UNLV again this year didn't do the team any "playing close games" favors. None of their out of conference games were close, and one can almost be certain it's by design.

Beat up bad teams, push through the mixups with Wilson if it takes time for him and/or the team to adjust to their addition at quarterback, and go from there.

That wouldn't be an issue if there wasn't a yearly pattern since head coach Bret Bielema's arrival.

Some of the blame might fall on Athletic Director and former football head coach Barry Alvarez for scheduling these teams, but it's almost surely a program mindset not exclusive to Alvarez himself.

Let's compare other teams' top opponent in their early season schedules, shall we?

Mystery team No. 1

Played @ Georgia week 2.

Mystery team No. 2

 Played Oregon in week 2. 

Mystery teams? South Carolina (7-1), LSU (8-0).

Maybe, just maybe, Wisconsin should play a better early season matchup than Oregon State, who are now 2-6 on the season.

When Wisconsin's schedule reflects its own goals (tough teams play tough opponents so they don't need to get up to another gear when they're running on fumes in big games in January) the team will turnaround its conference struggles against teams like Michigan State and Ohio State.

Maybe it's coincidence, maybe it's not, but six of the last seven teams to win the BCS Championship Game came out of the SEC, known for its strong strength in and out of conference scheduling.

If Wisconsin is to avoid later seasons of losing to the likes of a downtrodden OSU program or an upcoming Michigan State team, the program needs to start taking more risks with their early scheduling.

Here's an analogy. If I go to work at 8 a.m. and don't get out of bed until 7:30 a.m., I'm likely not my most effective when I get to work. I probably wont hit my work stride until about 1 or 2 p.m.

The Badgers are essentially sleeping in until conference play starts. They're still in 8 a.m. mode when it's 2 p.m. on their season clock.

If the Badgers would play teams at least within a ladder rung or two of themselves in the first weeks, they'd be much better prepared to kick into Big Ten mode when the games take the next leap.

In what could have been a very promising season, an under-scheduled Badgers team has instead rested on its laurels and coasted into conference play, letting any and all preseason aspirations disappear before them, regardless of how their two losses have come.


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