Sunday, November 28, 2010

For the Badgers, respect doesn't come easy

The latest BCS standings are out, and it appears that the Wisconsin Badgers, who are ranked fourth in the AP, Coaches and Harris polls, have locked-up a Rose Bowl bid by edging out Ohio State with its fifth-place finish in the BCS. Although there is still one final poll next week, it is highly unlikely that it will change the Badgers edge over OSU, which actually increased slightly over last week. The odd-team out in the three-way tie for the Big Ten title, Michigan State, would appear at first to have a legitimate complaint in that they beat Wisconsin at home in the Big Ten opener; but the Badgers are clearly the best team in the Big Ten coming down the stretch. It's no coincidence that Wisconsin's offense has been unstoppable the last three games, averaging 67 points and 570 total yards; the tandem of Montee Ball and James White have combined for 974 yards and 16 touchdowns, and the running game has proved to be more potent than the one that featured John Clay. Scott Tolzien has benefitted from defenders inability to stop them; in these three games, he has completed 44 of 52 passes and seven touchdowns.

Instead of acknowledging the dominance of the Badgers’ offense, many commentators are complaining about “running up” the score on hapless opponents. ESPN’s Mike and Mike even had the temerity to have Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema on their show to “explain” why his team kept playing in the destruction of Indiana; it seemed incomprehensible to them that second, third and fourth-stringers might be eager to get some playing action rather than just laying down. It seems that because Wisconsin doesn’t have “Ohio” or “Michigan” somewhere in their name, they are automatically regarded as inferior, and commentators have this need to find some way to detract from their accomplishments. Back in the 1994 Rose Bowl, which marked Wisconsin first appearance in that game since 1963—and first victory—it was predicted that UCLA’s thoroughbreds would leave the Badgers’ “corn-fed boys” standing around like statues. In the 1999 Rose Bowl, Craig James called Wisconsin “the worst team ever” to play in the Rose Bowl—that is before they beat another UCLA team that only a month earlier appeared to be headed to the national championship game. The following year, Wisconsin became the first Big Ten team to win back-to-back Rose Bowls. In the 2005 Capital One Bowl, Wisconsin was supposed to have no chance against its SEC opponent; the 24-10 victory over LSU was not indicative of the way the Badgers dominated them. The following year, the Badgers beat another supposedly superior SEC team, Arkansas (while I’m writing this, Peyton Manning just threw his fourth interception against the San Diego Chargers—two of which were returned for touchdowns. The apologists will say that he doesn’t have his all his “weapons”—but apparently this excuse was too good for Brett Favre.).

Anyways, Leslie Frazier debut as coach of the Minnesota Vikings was at least a win. While I’m talking about the Badgers, I suppose I should admit to the fact that I am just a tiny bit saddened that things didn’t turn out so well for Brad Childress, since he served as offensive coordinator under Barry Alvarez, which explains why he was married to the running game. Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also has ties to Wisconsin; he was the starting quarterback on that 1994 Rose Bowl team; his career highlight was his 21-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter which provided the winning margin.

I also heard ESPN’s Chris Mortensen express the desire that we will have a “resolution” very soon regarding the Jenn Sterger case. Why? Maybe he is like many in the anti-Favre camp who just want to see him get his “come-uppance” and be forced to sit via a suspension. Frankly, I think Roger Goodell feels he is being forced by the media to do the “right thing” and treat Sterger as if she is a “victim.” The reality is that no one involved in this bizarre mess—Favre, Sterger, her friends or Deadspin—can come away with clean hands. All had their sleazy part, even if the media refuses to be honest about Sterger and her unclean habits. We don’t know what was the nature of the material that Sterger gave to NFL commissioners, but I suspect that it didn’t include all the “naked pics” she stored on her computer that were sent to her from “friends, celebrities and star athletes” that a former friend testified that she could “make millions” from. I suspect the commissioner is both loath to put the hammer down on Favre, yet also afraid to court media disapproval by dismissing Sterger as the seedy, self-obsessed character she is who will without doubt soon be selling her “story” to People Magazine.

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