Wisconsin officially punched its ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game by clobbering a Penn State team that looked like it never wanted to be in Madison in the first place.
But with talents like Russell Wilson and Montee Ball, who are looking to break NCAA records mind you, does entrance into the conference’s first championship game confirm how good they are? Or does it just offer relief that they came back after losing two straight?
Let’s face it, the Badgers had their sights set on Indy all along. With Ohio State being slapped around by the NCAA and Michigan still not quite Michigan, the conference was wide open.
Michigan State proved that when it got blown out by a suspect Notre Dame team a couple months ago. And yet, Sparty is going to be across from Wisconsin next Saturday when the two teams kickoff at the absurd time of 7:17 p.m.
With the amount of offensive weapons that Wisconsin had at its disposal, anything less than a berth in the Rose Bowl would have been a disappointment. There’s no reason one of the five best quarterbacks and running backs in next spring’s NFL Draft should be playing in the Capital One Bowl — a postseason berth best described as putting two teams together that just aren’t ‘good enough.’
The Badgers haven’t been a complete team all year. The defensive line couldn’t consistently force pressure and the secondary wasn’t good when it had to be. Those are mistakes that would have been highlighted right away had the Badgers played a nonconference schedule of value.
The last time the Badgers played a nonconference ranked opponent was 2008 vs. Fresno State. The last time the Badgers played a nonconference BCS school of respectable value was 2003 vs. West Virginia. The Mountaineers claimed a share of the Big East crown that season in Rich-Rod’s third season.
And please don’t give me the argument that teams like Florida have routinely schedules patsies but have won national titles. The one glaring difference between Florida and Wisconsin is that Florida is playing in the best conference in college football. In 2006, the Gators did play Western Carolina, an FCS school that Florida beat 66-0. But Florida also played LSU, Auburn and Arkansas — teams that finished ranked No. 3, 9 and 15 in the AP Poll.
The Big Ten isn’t lucky enough to have that kind of quality. So they’ve got to schedule to get it. And now that the conference will be playing nine league games moving forward, teams will be even more choosy about who it decides to use to gear up for the season.
One game against a perennial contender will go a long way for not only getting respect form the computers but also in the minds of Big Ten doubters.
The Badgers lost a game by a last second heave that bounced off a shoulder pad and landed into the waiting arms of a former quarterback turned wideout and they lost another game by playing awful coverage after Wilson made a herculean charge to sneak away from Columbus with a win.
The AP rankings say that Wisconsin is the 15th best team in the land. I’ve heard from many people saying that the Badgers would’ve gotten national title consideration had they at least split those two games.
I say no way. And even if Wisconsin did get its shot against LSU, who’s to say the defense wouldn’t have been shredded to pieces by a potent Tigers attack?
Because we really haven’t seen the Badgers play anyone outside of the Big Ten, and that’s just a shame.