Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Football Gods have been very Good to the Badgers this Off-Season

The Badgers had a pretty terrific season (albeit disappointing end) last year, but, man, do the stars seem to be doing their damnedest to align for the team in 2011.

First, Michigan is still rebuilding in the post-Rich Rod universe. Not too big of a deal for the Badgers since they don't play the Wolverines and UM isn't in their division. Bonus: Michigan's defense was so bad last year that it's probably going to take several seasons to bring it back up to a competitive level.

Second, Jim Tressel's resignation yesterday basically throws Ohio State into a summer of panic and will likely end the school's decade long dominance of the Big Ten. The timing couldn't be better for the Badger, who travel to Columbus to play the Buckeyes a year after upsetting the then-#1 team in the nation in Madison. It's hard to think about exacting vengeance when your too busy rebuilding. Then there's the potential years of probation waiting for OSU. It took take another 4-6 years before the Buckeyes are back in contention.

Right there is usually enough to put the Badgers into contention for a Big Ten title. Michigan and OSU are the two traditional powers of the conference and they are arguably at their combined lowest point in decades, but the rest of the conference seems to being doing all it can to give the Badgers a chance to run wild through the Big Ten for the next 5 or so years.

Iowa (whom the Badgers neither play, nor share a division with) is suffering from a minor off-season training issue that sent 13 players to the hospital and has since called into question the leadership skills of the team's coaching staff. Penn State may never actually be the contender it should be until Joe Paterno retires (though, if there is anyone in any sport who deserves to retire on his own time frame it's Paterno -- I would argue that, even if they don't win, in the long run, Paterno's presence is better for both the school and the football program; but we are talking about a window of opportunity for the Badgers here). Minnesota and Indiana aren't going anywhere. Northwestern, well, they're Northwestern: bowl eligibility is usually all they ever desire. Purdue, a team that can be something of a surprise, had a crappy season last year too.

That leaves the constantly over-looked/under-rated Michigan State, whom are on a roll, and the new guys Nebraska. Apparently, the Corn huskers are supposed to be pretty loaded with top notch recruits, but a.) they're still freshman and, more likely, redshirts; b.) they team had a lot of coaching turnover and will be running a new offense; and c.) will be playing in stadiums that are considerably larger, louder and more intimate than those in the Big Twelve North. That could take a few seasons getting used to.

The Badgers lost a ton of talent to the draft and graduation, but the rest of the conference seems to be going out of its way to level the playing field. These next few seasons could be just what UW needs to jump up the football ladder and contend for more than just a Big Ten title and birth in the Rose Bowl.

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