Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Long Awaited Wisconsin Article

Many of you have been asking me about my thoughts on the Badgers this year, and more specifically about the coaching staff. Ross Gellar has sent a few emails, Sober sent a text or two, even my dad has been bugging me to put my thoughts down about the Badgers. Surprisingly, Fuzz has been noticeably absent in his phone calls and emails on Saturday mornings, but then again I haven't actually heard from him since he disappeared on Saturday night of Homecoming weekend in Madison. So, what do I think of Bret Bielema and the 2008 Wisconsin football team so far?

Keep your pants on folks, this season ain't over yet.

I think it's always a little ridiculous to start judging a team/coach in the middle of the year, because a million things can happen throughout the course of a college football season. With that said, for those of you calling for Bielema's head....shut up. This is not the SEC. We do not murder people over a football game. We do not fire coordinators 6 weeks into a season. We do not run coaches out of town when they are/or should be legends (technically, Lloyd Carr retired and was o.k. doing that). So for those of you calling for Bielema's head after the losses this year...shut up. The guy is a good football coach. He's learning how to be a great one. I'm willing to let him learn.

Now, has it been frustrating as ever to watch some of these games? Absolutely. I couldn't talk for a few hours after both the Michigan and Michigan State games. Both were just inexcusable losses. And yes, they can be blamed on the coaches. But neither loss was a fireable offense, especially when you're only 38 years old and have an absurd career winning percentage. Right now, Bielema is not the best coach in the Big Ten. In fact, he may be the second worst in the Big Ten this season, ahead of only an overmatched Bill Lynch at Indiana. But good things are happening around the program, and Bielema should get credit for those things too. It's all part of the humbling learning process that head coaches go through. Bielema just happens to be going through his on a much bigger stage than most.

So for now, keep your pants on Badger fans. This season is not over yet, and a 7-5 Alamo Bowl appearance is not the end of the world. So what is going well right now for the Badgers?

1) The receiving core is developing and turning into a force. Behind MY BOY! #85 David Gilreath, and my future BOY! #1 Nick Toon...the Badger receiving core is beginning to make some plays. Not too much was expected at the beginning of the year out of this group, but they sure have come on strong in recent weeks. Nick Toon finally got a chance and his play has earned him the opportunities that he continues to capitalize on every week. Gilreath showed tons of potential last year, and looked legit in the spring, but was slow out of the gates this year. But after his amazing touchdown catch at the end of the Michigan game, he has been nothing short of great for the Badgers. One thing to remember, is that this is an extremely young group, and while their development may have seemed slow this year, they are developing...and they will soon be an asset to the Badger O.

2) Injuries haven't crippled either side of the ball when they have occurred. Injuries are inevitable in college football, and in past seasons they have decimated the Badgers offense or defense (i.e. Anthony Davis back in the day, PJ last year, WR/CB/DL last year). This year, that hasn't been the case...and you can credit that to coaching and recruiting. Think about all the players that have missed time this year due to injuries. Jonathon Casillas, Mario Goins, Aaron Henry, Kirk DeCremer, Gabe Carimi, Kraig Urbik, Eric Vanden Huevel, PJ Hill, Chris Pressley, Lance Kendricks, Travis Beckum. That's quite the list. And while you can argue that the UW season has been disappointing and that with all those players healthy they would be better...that's just not realistic. In previous years, losing all those players (especially leaders like Casillas and Beckum) for any amount of time would have crippled the Badgers. That is not the case this year. UW is by no means a great team, but it is not because there has been a huge dropoff when backups have had to come in the game. The depth is much improved, and it is mostly young players providing that depth.

3) Wisconsin has a legit rivalry that is getting better and better by the minute this week. In case you didn't know, the most played rivalry in college football resumes this week...and finally, it has the feel of a rivalry again. Minnesota football is back, and Brewster is not downplaying the importance of this game. He tried to build it up last year, and while it didn't work out then, he set the foundation for the incredibly awesome back-and-forth that is going on this week. For the uneducated, last year Timmay! said that he'd be the first one to sprint across the field and grab Paul Bunyan's Axe when Minnesota won. After UW prevailed, Bret Bielema was the one sprinting across the field to shake Brewster's hand for about .2 seconds. Brewsters son talked trash after the game, even though he didn't play and his team lost. Bielema then came out and gave probably his best line to date as a head coach, "You want a rivalry? You got one!" Damn right Bret. That only set up this year, when Gabe Carimi said that he hates Minny, simply because he is from Wisconsin. Rumors are spreading that the Badgers may put the Axe behind Minny's bench (not the norm for the losing team to have it on their bench) just so the Badger players can sprint into the MN sideline and grab it again. Add in a few recruiting battles over the past two years, two competitive teams...and you've got yourself a rivalry.

Enjoy it Badger fans. And keep your pants on too.

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