By: Bill Tewes
Even with this ranking, Bucky fans should temper their expectations.
After the Wisconsin Badgers put on a dazzling defensive display that upset the heavily favored LSU Tigers this past Saturday at the vaunted Lambeau Field. Many college football experts thought the Badgers would crack the top 25 after this upset win. The Badgers not only cracked the top 25, but launched all the way to the 10th spot in the AP Poll, and 16th in the coach’s poll.
It was somewhat of a surprise that the Badgers came into this season unranked, as they finished 10-3 last year under the guidance of first year Head Coach Paul Chryst. Wisconsin lost their defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, ironically to LSU, and also had major quarterback concerns with unproven Senior Bart Houston as their starter. No one can fault Aranda for taking the LSU job, but he was clearly out-coached Saturday by his successor Justin Wilcox. Wilcox was nabbed after being fired from USC and faced a daunting challenge of taking over a program Aranda turned into the top scoring defense in the league last season.
It is clear as day that the MVP of this game was none other than kicker Rafael Gaglianone. Gaglianone made all of his kicks including the game winner late in the fourth quarter. Gaglianone was playing with a heavy heart as his long time friend Nebraska Punter Sam Foltz was killed in a car accident last month. Gaglianone changed his number to 27 to honor his fallen friend, and it was an incredible sight to see Gaglianone play with so much emotion with so much on the line for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s victory is still somewhat of a shock, as their offense handed the game to LSU on a silver platter. Houston not only threw an interception on LSU’s 10-yardline, costing Wisconsin points. In the second half, Houston made a deplorable throw that resulted in an easy pick six for the Tigers which also swung the momentum in their favor, eventually giving them the lead.
This is the main reason Badger fans should temper their expectations with this squad is solely based on quarterback play. I am not sold on Houston as someone who can go into the Big House and stun Michigan by using excellent game management skills. Wilcox’s defense bailed Houston out multiple times. Perhaps the only thing Houston did extremely well was that he did not put the Badgers in a position late where LSU could put in the nail in the coffin. Which is exactly what their quarterback Brandon Harris did for us with a game ending interception.
Wisconsin has a murderer’s row of opponents coming up after they play two soft games in Akron and Georgia State. The Badgers get two dates in the Wolverine State to play Michigan and Michigan State. While they could make it an extremely interesting game against the Spartans in East Lansing, it is hard for me to believe that they can be real contenders against better programs in both Michigan State and Michigan. No one will pick Wisconsin to beat Michigan, even if they have proved capable of beating a top five team.
Wisconsin then invites the Buckeyes up to Camp Randall, followed by a date in Iowa and then finishes up their difficult schedule with Northwestern, a team that is always a solid challenge for the Badgers.
What we can ultimately take from this huge upset of LSU is that the Wisconsin Badgers are taking a step in the right direction as far as the program is concerned. While the elites such as the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines have a death grip on the Big 10 at the moment, it would not be too surprising to see the Badgers creep up into contention in the next 2-3 years. Badger fans can only hope the next couple of recruiting classes yield sound quarterback play and some more offensive talent to go along with what looks like a stout defense for years to come.