Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nebraska: Home of the Bugeaters

At the University of Nebraska (the school that brought you 29-Year-Old Sex Offender Tries Out For Spirit Squad), the new HuskerVision screen seems to be acting as a magnet for insects. The big question: are Husker fans ready to once again be known as Bugeaters?

Pay close attention to this quote as well:

"There's like a billion bugs," said Scott Bennett, a senior English major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

They learn em good in Linc'n.

(Helmet tip: Wizard of Odds)

Jamal Cooper's suspension lifted

It came out about two hours ago that Jamal Cooper will be available to play against Bowling Green. This should shore up the defensive line significantly as long as Cooper's ACL holds up. Unfortunately, this unit was one least in need of improvement, but any upgrade is an upgrade I'll take.

My gut tells me that this is not a sacrifice of principles on the part of Bielema. Cooper appears to have put himself in a hole, but has dug his way out of it. If he slides again, or if every player winds up getting an eleventh hour pardon after having been suspended, I'll start to question Bielema's ethics. But this seems on the up-and-up to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Everyone's on notice!

Here's who's on notice if you cheer for Alabama! Or Syracuse! Or Michigan! Or Florida! Or NC State! Or Florida State! Or (rolling eyes) Bowling Green! Or Wisconsin:

Note to Charlie Weis: you're on a whole mess o' notice, it would seem.

(Originally via EDSBS)

Put 'em on notice!

In which we attempt to read between the lines

Cornerback recruit Jamathan Lyle is gone, and from what his mother says, he's probably not coming back. And the problem ain't homesickness. So what's going on? Let's have a look:

[S]he took exception to a comment by UW coach Bret Bielema Monday that, "(Jamathan) is welcome to return at any time. The ball's in his court as far as when that'll happen."

Brenda Lyle feels strongly otherwise, which prompted her to contact a reporter to provide her side of the story.

Uh oh. Is Bielema creating an environment of hostility with his recruits?

While Brenda Lyle would not rule out her son returning, if her issues are addressed, she added: "From a mother's point of view, I'm not going to allow my son to be any place where I don't feel he's going to be safe (and) respected."

Eight ball says ... no. This one doesn't look like it's on Bielema. Why? Unless he's the type of guy to pick on just one person, he must be running a program where nobody feels "safe and resepcted." But that doesn't seem to be the case. None of the other recruits have defected.

One possible problem is:

[Lyle] was recruited by former quarterbacks coach Jeff Horton and former defensive backs coach Ron Lee, who were not retained by Bielema

Aha. Could it be that one of these departing coaches waved playing time in front of Mr. Lyle's nose, but when he came to fall camp, there was a special shirt waiting for him? Some sort of red shirt? Maybe?

I'd be very surprised to find out that this argument is about anything other than playing time. I have a feeling that "respect" is parentspeak for "immediate, protracted swaths of playing time."

In other news, my boneheaded analysis is likely to be the basis for radical changes to the 2007 Badger team's coaching staff. Here's why:

Bielema even did Google searches of coaching mistakes and how those coaches were critiqued after games, trying to learn from those experiences.


Bielema also appears to be committed to keeping in-state talent in state. An interesting line in the notes about Brad Thorson and his circuitous journey to Madison (snubbed by UW during the recruiting phase, committed to Minnesota, met with Bielema, decommitted from Minnesota, committed to Wisconsin):

"The first thing he did said so much about who he is and what kind of program he runs," Thorson explained. "He came in and said: 'Whether or not you accept the offer that I'm going to extend to you is beside the point. What's important is that I want to apologize for the state, for the university and for my coaching staff for overlooking an in-state player and for not giving you a fair chance to even look at our program.'"

Straight up. We'll never let another John Navarre escape our Badger clutches!

Finally, a couple notes on Bowling Green: they stink and they don't have any good players. Bafflingly, the Toledo Blade simultaneously insists that BGSU's strength will be the veterans in the trenches and that BGSU's freshmen may be their forte. Oookay.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Introducing the Carnival of College Football

It's been interesting to watch the world of blogging evolve. From the Geocities and Tripod, to the Drudge Report getting the President of the United States in trouble, to the launch of Blogger, the creation of Xanga, and the conquest of the internet by MySpace, blogs have, in their short history, been a lot of things to a lot of people. To some, they've been the source of news and opinion that the mainstream media wouldn't address. To others, they've been irresponsible rumor mills, muckrakers working for free but without the oversight of an editor -- or a conscience. But most of all, they've represented the true realization of First Amendment rights for thousands and thousands of Americans (and, of course, people the world over ... but who aren't governed by a Bill of Rights, per se). Erstwhile journalist A. J. Liebling famously quipped that "freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." Well, now any schmuck who can dial into the vast series of tubes that is the Internets has one. And buddy, you'd better watch it.

One of the innovations that bloggers have created for themselves is the Blog Carnival. With a carnival, one blogger is chosen out of the whole universe of bloggers who covers a certain area of subject matter to compile an extensive post with numerous links to various bloggers' opinions on that topic. Hundreds of carnivals exist and are updated at regular intervals: the Catholic Carnival collects thoughts about Catholicism; the Carnival of Comedy brings you TEH FUNNY; and the Carnival of Frugality is of interest to complete and total tightasses.

I was surprised to see that there is no Carnival of College Football. But there is now. Factum est!

A carnival is a great thing. It exposes your work to those who might not otherwise see it. It gives you a chance to evaluate your posts and decide what you did well. It spreads traffic around to numerous posters, allowing you to develop a following. And if you wind up hosting a carnival, it drives a LOT of traffic your way for at least a week.

So, let's give it a go! Although I'll be publicizing this idea on the BlogPoll, this venture is completely independent of that; this way, more people can participate. I'm going to make submissions due on Wednesday, just like BlogPoll votes, because let's face it; (1) most of us can only memorize one deadline anyway, and (2) every true college football fan starts getting really antsy in earnest for the weekend on Thursday, what with ESPN broadcasting a weekly Thursday night tilt and the rest of the slate not far behind.

So, the first Carnival of College Football will be hosted here on Wednesday night, September 6 (or early on Thursday 9/7). Let's see if the idea takes (I'm confident that it will) and let's enjoy the discussion!

UPDATE: The ever astute Brian points out that I have failed to include my email address. Indeed, it's on this blog somewhere (in my Blogger profile) but it needs to be more clearly displayed. Anyhoo, that address is, so send your brilliance to that address. If you have no brilliance to speak of, I do need to improve the size of my genitals (seriously, ask anyone I've cornered after half a dozen Jagerbombs) so feel free to send along any offers of mir@c1e pi11s you might have come across.

Justify my thug - preseason picks

Since we, the blogpollers, have until Wednesday morning to submit our final ballots, we actually get to think about how we're voting. And, best of all, we can interact with other voters and the nonvoters who read our sites and have our opinions swayed, not relying on anecdotal evidence for our opinions but on people who actually paid attention to games we didn't watch! It's pretty brilliant.

Anyway, I'm hoping to become a little more disciplined in what I post here and when. One of the things I really want to do is to make sure that my Blogpoll ballot indicates what I think about the current week's rankings, with my readers' opinions taken into account. As such, I intend to post my weekly ballot some time on Monday, surf the college blogosphere on Monday and Tuesday to get other opinions while reading the comments here and any emails I might receive, and submit a polished ballot to the poll at large on Wednesday. Of course, the part of this equation that's missing is YOU. So, be sure to come around and tell me what I'm doing wrong! And right, if that's your thing.

So, here's the reasoning behind my preseason poll. Hope you like it.

1. Auburn
2. LSU

It's a universal truth that the SEC is the most irritating conference in football. Heavy on the football and light on the college, it's the conference that made cheating famous. With only Vanderbilt and, to an extent, Florida to prop up its academic reputation, this is a conference that lacks class and that I loathe like no other. But most of all, I just can't stand their SOUTHERN SPEED!!! Every December and January, the SEC is supposed to tear apart the plodding brontosauri of the Big Ten teams who come down south to play the unhealthy number of bowl matchups that the two conferences share. And every year, the two conferences seem to go .500 in these bowls. Last year, Florida's SOUTHERN SPEED beat Iowa. But the hapless Badgers, the sacrificial victims for those viciously speedy Auburn Tigers, somehow pulled out a two-touchdown victory, taking a knee at the Auburn 3 with the clock running down. Nothing ever changes. In 2004, Iowa beat LSU. Minnesota beat Alabama. The Badgers, as I remember it, didn't play in a bowl game.

But you get the point. It has been empirically proven in the past that the SEC is the most irritating conference in the land (data not shown) and this year college football is bound to annoy me. We have a new coach, a shaky secondary, and a brilliant quarterback -- who will be running for his life as his inexperienced offensive line breaks down in front of him and his inexperienced wide receivers can't shake their defenders.

So, there's your #1 and #2 teams: at the top because I'm destined to be personally picked on by the college football deities.

3. Ohio State
My real number one pick, the Big Ten's token SEC team returns Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, and a bunch of other well-compensated neanderthals. Are you concerned about their defense? Don't be; Diamond Jim Tressel will plug in the best linebacking corps and secondary that money can buy. The Buckeyes will average 30 points a game and will stomp opposing offenses with a better-than-advertised defense.

4. Texas
Everyone seems to like Texas, and I guess I don't have much trouble buying that. Their QB will not be Vince Young, which is unfortunate for them, but they return a lot of talented dudes and they're flush with recruits from the most football-heavy state in the union. They'll be in the conversation late into November.

5. Southern Cal
See my note on Texas, replace quarterback and Vince Young with your choice of positions and Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush/LenDale White, refrigerate two hours, serve with fresh guacamole.

6. Notre Dame
I really hate having them this high, but they're the best of the non-contenders. It will be enjoyable to demote them when consecutive losses to Georgia Tech, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State cause Charlie Weis to wake up in a pool of his own ambergris.

7. West Virginia
In the interest of not having to repeat "I really hate having them this high," just prepend that statement to every team's summary until we get down to, say, #12. I would like to note that this high ranking does not reflect the fact that the Mountaineers' schedule is easier than an Ole Miss cheerleader (or the diction of her admissions essay). Rather, it stems from the absolute embarrassment that West Virginia put on Georgia during the 2006 Sugar Bowl. (The careful reader will note that this pretty much invalidates my pick of Auburn as a #1 team, but work with me). Their superstar tandem of White and Slaton will punish numerous subpar Big East defenses, and might just trounce some real teams before the season's over, too.

8. Miami (Florida)
Going out on a limb here and invoking the law of averages. After their 40-3 loss at the hands of LSU, the 'Canes will redeem themselves. This is possibly the flimsiest logic you'll see in this whole past. Possibly.

9. Iowa
Maybe it's my Badger bias, but I will not be calling Kirk Ferentz a genius, nor will I be calling Drew Tate a superstar. They just don't deserve those appellations. However, they do return a solid team, and they will challenge for the Big Ten crown.

10. Oklahoma
Losing Rhett Bomar is not as big a deal as it seems. The fact that he was able to throw ten picks and only ten touchdown passes and still the Sooners wound up with a 7-4 season and a bowl win over Oregon should tell you all you need to know about just how much of a placeholder QB this guy was. They won't do much worse than him, and they might actually make great strides without him there.

11. Georgia
They got smoked by WVU, but they almost won the game. After finding themselves in a 28-0 hole, the Dawgs lost by a mere three points. Joe Tereshinski III should be a fine leader, although no team ever wants to lose a Shockley.

12. Florida State
They're always pretty good, right?

13. Arizona State
My PAC-10 sleeper. Probably should be ranked lower given the fact that the the inmates may be running the asylum. Their defense will just plain suck, but their offense will light up everyone they face. I expect them to outscore almost everyone they face.

14. Penn State
This pick comes down to two questions: how good is Morelli, and will there be a sophomore slump? If the answers are "pretty darn good" and "not much of one, anyway," look out Big Ten.

15. Louisville
Brohm and Bush are impressive, no doubt. And Bobby Petrino is a sharp guy. But do you think they'd win head-to-head against Penn State? Or USC? Or LSU? If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, you need to take a week and just leave Kentucky, since the fumes from a certain baseball bat factory might be compromising your neurological health.

16. Nebraska
Last year's march toward adequacy will continue, and the giant that is Nebraska will awaken. Soon enough, everyone will be really annoyed with them again.

17. Michigan
Raise your hand if you honestly expect them to stay down. (OK, that's enough, you can put your hand down Enlightened Spartan. We see you.)

18. Cal
Moving solidly into guessing territory here. I know nothing of the Golden Bears except what others tell me.

19. Michigan State
If you keep saying, "This Will Be the Year!" every year, eventually you'll be right. Well, Spartan fans, This Will Be the Year! They'll rely on a PAC-10 caliber defense and JUCO transfers aplenty, but Drew Stanton will be the spark that ignites the dyn-o-mite Spartan offense. I am going to watch as many Spartan games as I can this year because I just love John L. Smith. I especially love that he's not my team's coach.

20. Florida
The Legend will not be satisfied with this low ranking. I expect them to climb. NB however that Chris Leak sucks.

21. Arkansas
I don't read Phil Steele, but lots of Blogpollers do, and they ranked Arkansas. They fit in with my "SEC exists to irritate the living hell out of me" theme, too, so I'll run with it.

22. Wisconsin
Hey, look, someone ranked the Badgers!

23. Georgia Tech
24. Tennessee
25. South Carolina

Well, I ranked the Badgers, and I still have three spots to go. Since I utterly refuse to include mid-major teams that don't need to be ranked, I decided to go for some middling southern teams. Sorry Northern Illinois, Fresno State, and UTEP. (Actually, I think the inclusion of Georgia Tech was based on the glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, they'll have what it takes to beat the Irish. Either justification works, though.)

So, that's the list. Enjoy, use the comments box to hammer me, and expect massive seismic activity here next week, after the teams above actually, you know, play.

Picking on the Pack - an occasional feature

I never cared much for the NFL. Sure, it's nice to have a day of football to watch and flip through the day after the main event concludes, but honestly, what's the point? I'm a Badger, so I like the Badgers. I've never been a Packer, so what's my investment in them?

Well, the little lady sat me down one day and explained to me that I am a Packer fan. So I guess I am. Am I whipped? Maybe. Am I marrying into season tickets at Lambeau? Damn right. GO PACK GO! So, whenever I see a Packer game, I might just offer comment on it. Read and learn.

Anyway, the game last night was over before it started. Dr. Favre entered the operating room and called for 500 CC's of suck ... stat! After a ridiculous fumble and a tip-drill interception that led to ten points, Favre came out firing ... straight off the fingertips of the Bengals' defensive backs. However, he redeemed himself somewhat by throwing a touchdown pass after driving 73 yards, and he started the second half by getting the Pack within field goal range. These things, however, provide little consolation to a team that's fallen behind 31-0. And indeed, that was the margin of victory; although the Packers did score 17 points, the Bengals made sure that their effort could in no way be interpreted as respectable, answering with 17 of their own for a final score of 48-17.

Of course, Favre does not bear the sole responsibility for the loss. The defense played atrociously, most notably $10 million dollar man Charles Woodson. T. J. Hoshahahahafzadeh was consistently beating Chuck, making him look like lost out there. All in all, an ugly experience.

After last week's 38-10 win over the Falcons, Nicole commented that the Packers had used up all the points allotted for the first three games. She didn't go far enough; the Packers, in the course of one game, spent every favorable bounce that they'd see during the course of the season.

It's going to be a long season, Packer fans. A win a month might be asking too much.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sifting through transcripts

As gameday approaches, we've been inundated with information. Today, Coach Bielema held a press conference and benevolent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel sportswriter Jeff Potrykus hosted a chat. The Badger Tracker has helpfully distilled the grain that is these long documents into a delicious, whiskey-like post, aged in oaken barrels for your maximum intoxication. Here's what you needs to know:

  • Pabulum in questions 1 through 4: Stocco will start if healthy; the defense is better than it was last year; Pressley and Randle El will redshirt if that's what it comes down to; the coaching staff will perform well together on gameday. Did you expect different answers? This isn't John L. Smith.
  • Zach Hampton is a sooper athlete and can be plugged into any situation. (The depth chart currently shows Hampton splitting kickoff return duty with Jarvis Minton and handling punt returns. He'll be fun to watch.)
  • Bielema plans to be as hands-off as humanly possible when it comes to calling offensive and defensive plays. It'll be interesting to see how much of the play-by-play stuff he gets involved with as the season progresses, especially on the defensive side of things.
  • Coach feels pressure to perform, and tries to keep the burden on himself instead of on the players. Good.
  • The door is open for Jamathan Lyle to return to the program, should he decide to come back. CB Lyle went home to Boulder, CO last week for reasons that remain unknown. Best Internets guess is homesickness, but nobody knows for certain. The recruitnik-fearing portion of my soul figures it's best not to bother the poor kid and just accept him when and if he arrives back in Madison.
  • Bielema blames himself for the poor defensive showing during the Bowling Green game last year, saying he prepared the team too much for BGSU in particular. "With an opening game, you can concentrate too much on an opponent instead of getting your own team right," says he. That sort of thing seems to have occurred this year, too, but to a lesser extent.
  • Mid-major power Marshall came into Kansas State when Bielema was on the staff there and knocked the preseason top-five team off their pedestal, so Bielema knows the importance of not looking past one of these MAC squads. However, he dodged the question "Would you ever play a MAC school in their stadium?" citing the complex nature of scheduling. All in all, an interesting exchange to end the press conference.
Moving on to Potrykus's chat, we learn the following. My commentary in parentheses:
  • With no standout WR on the team, the expectation is that the ball will be spread around, especially to the TEs and RBs. (Fortunately, Stocco is experienced and wise enough to be able to do this. His eyes and brain will be the most important body parts on the field when the Badgers have the ball.)
  • WRs Harris and Anderson should not be expected to perform like Penn State's freshmen did last year. (I'm not willing to exclude that possibility, though. OSU, Penn State, and Michigan have all plugged in exceptional talent at numerous positions with true freshmen. Who's to say one of our guys isn't the 2006 Mario Manningham or Derrick Williams?)
  • The D-line should be good but it's too early to peg them as OMG!!!BESTEVAR!!! The O-line will probably stumble at times during the first three games but should come together nicely for the Big Ten season.
  • It will be an absolute shock if Stocco doesn't play this Saturday. (My thoughts exactly.)
  • Lance Kendricks being injured doesn't help the WR position much. He's expected to remain outside the top 5 on the depth chart and might just redshirt. (I figured he'd be an immediate-impact type of guy, but then again, I know almost nothing.)
  • Auburn shouldn't probably be ranked in the top ten. (Well, there goes my credibility.)
  • Badgers should finish 5-3 in the Big Ten. Anything worse than 4-4 would be a huge disappointment. Purdue and Penn State are the swing games.
  • The 2006 Badgers could be the 2004 Badgers with a better offense, from the standpoint that the defense will carry the team. (I disagree here. If the defense this year is even vaguely reminiscent of the 2004 defense before the East Lansing meltdown I will wet myself due alternately to joy and surprise. This team will be offense-first, and that might not be a good thing till halfway through the season.)
  • Of the recent Badger quarterbacks, Stocco appears to be #2, behind Bollinger, neck-and-neck with Bevell, and ahead of Sorgi and Samuel. Evridge could be what this team needs to challenge for a title in 2007 if everyone stays healthy. Potrykus, almost definitely tongue-in-cheek, opines that the Badgers will play for the national title against USC in January of 2008. (My preliminary opinion is that if we're really this talented, the 2007 Big Ten title comes down to the Badgers versus Michigan's Henne-Hart combo, with Penn State possibly figuring in the mix as a darkhorse. This is, of course, insanely, irresponsibly premature ... but I also feel that with Evridge at the helm, it would be foolish to overlook the Badgers as a national title contender.)
  • P.J. Hill is the clear number one running back. In case you didn't know.
  • BGSU should be a pushover with 20 true and redshirt freshmen in their two-deep. A loss to the Falcons will mean a long, long season for Badger fans.

Ay, You're Gonna Lose

Actual content comes later this afternoon and/or tonight. Stay tuned!

Until then, why not drink in the song the Bowling Green Falcons will sing on the field if they beat the Badgers (which will, of course, require a bus accident or something):

Compared to that, the monotonal UW dirge "Varsity" seems like a paragon of genius.

Until tonight - U RAH RAH!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Linkfest 8/27/06: cleaning house before the season starts

It's coming! The season is just six days away! If you were born with polydactyly, you can count the days on one creepy, disfigured hand! But for the rest of us, we'll have to wait till tomorrow morning.

If you've been living under a rock and/or relying upon this fine site for your news about Badger sports, we've lost Marcus Randle El for the season. This is bad, as Randle El was the most game-tested member of our receiving corps, but experience isn't everything; hopefully one of the freshman will stand up and be serviceable. Well, two of the freshmen, I guess; it's safe to say the Badgers were counting on one of them to contribute before the injury bug bit. The people who know stuff say that DB Zach Hampton is due to take over as punt returner with Randle El sidelined. Again, the bottom line is that we ought not to panic. I mean, it's not like we lost Stocco or anything.

Which brings us to the QB situation: somewhat surprisingly, Tyler Donovan appears to be the guy. That is, if Stocco's not ready to go ... which he could be. This news has taken a few people by surprise; the vibe before seemed to be that Dustin Sherer was looking solid in practice. It certainly wouldn't hurt to have three capable quarterbacks by the time the season started.

Egad! Material aplenty in the Journal-Sentinel, including this:

That's a spicy meatball! Anyhow, if you'd rather read than look at a silly manipulated photo of Coach B, the Badger Tracker's favorite Wisconsin sportswriter, Jeff Potrykus, has a beefy feature article about the season. It's accompanied by the five questions the Badgers must answer this year, a nice game-by-game rundown of the whole season, and some fluff about how awesome the Big Ten is (WARNING: QUOTES LOU HOLTZ). And speaking of Potrykus, he's gonna get his chat on with Internets fans tomorrow, Monday the 28th, at 7 pm. If you want to submit a question, do so here. Potrykus writes well, doesn't engage in incendiary behavior or hopeless homerism, and actually treats readers and especially anonymous online personalities as if they were intelligent, respectable people. So go and shoot your mouth off, and if Potrykus thinks your question is intelligent, you might just get an answer tomorrow.

Miscellany: Some Badgers have new numbers. The basketball team went 5-0 in Italy (national championship trophy should be arriving from Milan any day now). And who recruited Jimmy Stallons? From what I can gather from the Detroit Free Press, Lake Mendota. Here's hoping that Jimmy considers algae a marinade.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

One week till the season begins ...

... and things are NOT in order at this estimable blog. Will be back in just a little while with some substance, but here are some fun facts to ponder in the meantime:
  • Notre Dame has been mentioned as a favorite for the national championship this year. They have the definition of a "storied program" -- piles of victories, national titles, and Heisman trophies that make most schools boil over with envy. On January 1, 1994, when they defeated Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, this was the same day that the Badgers beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Since then, Notre Dame has had 0 bowl wins and 0 Heisman winners. Wisconsin, on the other hand, has produced one Heisman winner and won 7 bowl games.
  • The University of Michigan has been to the Rose Bowl 19 times in its history, including seven trips since 1989. Since then, they've gone 3-4 in the big game. The Badgers have been to three Rose Bowls since 1994 ... and they won them all.
  • In the last thirteen seasons, the Wisconsin Badgers have won 3 Big Ten football titles, 1 outright. In that span, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers have combined for 2 shared titles.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

BlogPoll Roundtable, Week 1

The first official roundtable of the 2006 season has been posted, and it's up to me to provide the correct answers to the House Rock Built's queries. With no further ado:

1. What's the biggest ripoff in this preseason poll? Either pick a team that's offensively over or underrated, or you can rag on a particular voter's bad pick (hey, we're all adults here, we can handle it).

Look no further than the BlogPoll's number eleven team, the Louisville Cardinals! WHAT?! Yeah, Brohm's good. We know. We've been hearing it ceaselessly, and no doubt we'll all be sick of hearing it as the season wears on and even more sick of it from February through April, when the Mock Drafts reign supreme. But the guy is coming off of surgery, and the offensive line that protected him has departed. They'll rack up a ton of points and double-digit wins, but that will happen against a bunch of impotent nobodies. They might even make a BCS bowl, but only because the contracts were signed before all the big boys defected, leaving the Big East look like the MAC Senior. I'd like to single out Tomahawk Nation and Rakes of Mallow for special excoriation, as the proprietors of these two sites ranked the Cards #3. Must be some sort of cry for help.

2. What shold a preseason poll measure? Specifically, should it be a predictor of end-of-season standing (meaning that a team's schedule should be taken into account when determining a ranking), or should it merely be a barometer of talent/hype/expectations?

One of the reason people love sports -- and college football in particular -- is because of the possibility of wacky upsets. They happen every week. One pesky team defies expectations and knocks off the powerhouse. Maybe it's on a last-second field goal. Maybe they come out of the gate firing, shellacking the hapless favorite who only then realize that it was a mistake to look past these should-be chumps. As such, I don't feel that a preseason poll should be an prediction of how the teams will finish at the end of the season. I also think it's important to filter out the hype.

A preseason poll should answer the following question: "Who do you think is the best team right now?" You answer that, and then answer the question: "OK, if team number 1 was out of the picture, who would be the best team remaining?" And so forth. When you rank your teams, you should expect team #1 to beat #2 and #3 and #4 and so on. You should expect #18 to beat #19. #19 to beat #20.

This is why we drop teams when they lose. Coming off a loss, chances are they're not the best team right now. They need to regroup. They need to decide whether to stick with their strategy or manipulate it. If they manipulate it, how much do they change? And what do they change? And to what degree? Sunday through Friday (in most cases for most teams) are a chess match. You lose, and you're no longer the best team. Someone else is. The question is, can you become the best team again?

3. What is your biggest stretch in your preseason ballot? That is to say, which team has the best chance of making you look like an idiot for overrating them?

I believe I may have overrated the fine lads of Arizona State. At #13, their ranking isn't so high as to be unreasonable, but after Dirk Koetter went from "this is my starter" to "go ahead and transfer" in under 24 hours, well ... let's just say I'm not comfortable with that ranking anymore.

Still, I think they're bound to be the surprise team out of the PAC-10, and a BCS berth isn't unreasonable if USc slips and Cal proves to suck as much as I think they will.

4. What do you see as the biggest flaw in the polling system (both wire service and blogpolling)? Is polling an integral part of the great game of college football, or is it an outdated system that needs to be replaced? If you say the latter, enlighten us with your new plan.

Polling is great. It's an activity that combines results and opinions, the two concepts that make sports worth watching year in and year out. With that in mind, to think that any one person would ever know enough to truly rank the top 25 teams out of 117 in an accurate and unbiased fashion is preposterous. Every pollster relies in very large part on the opinions of other people, so no ranking is truly one's own. If you consider that the average college football fan knows a lot about his team, and quite a bit about his conference (or, in the case of Notre Dame fans, not much about either), plus a fair amount about the marquee teams of the day, that still leaves him with a good five to ten teams about which he has very little knowledge to round out a field of 25. So that's the shortcoming of polling; nobody's knowledge is complete enough to really do it well.

5. You're Scott Bakula, and you have the opportunity to "Quantum Leap" back in time and change any single moment in your team's history. It can be a play on the field, a hiring decision, or your school's founders deciding to build the campus in Northern Indiana, of all godforsaken places. What do you do?

Fortunately, my school's not in northern Indiana, so I'm not saddled with that downer. But I'll tell you what I'd change: the result of the 1998 Michigan game. The Badgers lost 27-10 in Ann Arbor, Ron Dayne was held to a measly 53 yards, and the loss put the lone blemish on the Badgers' amazing Rose Bowl season. A win there would've kept the Badgers in national title conversation and would've been a signal moment for the team and its fans. So, I don't know how to improve that scenario by simply changing "a moment." Maybe I'd have stayed up all night knocking on Tom Brady's window so he couldn't sleep or something. Or maybe I would've given Ron Dayne some of those pills truckers take. Who knows.

Monday, August 21, 2006

In Limbo

I continue to be buffetted by the harsh mistress that is gainful employment, and as such I haven't had much time for updates. So I figured I'd give you some short takes on the major topics of the day, with an eye toward justifying my picks for the BlogPoll rankings tomorrow and getting this train right back up on the track on Saturday.

  • John Stocco is hurt, but improving every day. The way I see it, as long as Stocco is healthy for the San Diego State game, the Badgers will be fine. If Omar Jacobs hadn't left Bowling Green for the NFL's, er, greener pastures, I'd be panicking right now. However, I don't expect BGSU to pose much of a challenge to the Badgers, and Donovan or Sherer should be perfectly capable of piloting the team through that game and the next. Actually, scratch that; Coach Bielema could start Joe Thomas at quarterback for the Western Illinois game and the Badgers would still win by three or four dozen points. Incidentally, the only reason I feel that Stocco has to come back for the SDSU game (BGSU? SDSU? That's weird, especially when one considers that Bowling Green and San Diego are not actual states) is because it would be nice to have him on the field against some DI-A competition before he has to run the gauntlet in Ann Arbor. Bottom line: Sorgi got through this, and Stocco's better than Sorgi was. He picked a good time to get injured.
  • An injury that could severely wound the Badgers, though, is the one that fullback Chris Pressley suffered at this morning's practice. Looks like he's done for the year. Although backup Bill Rentmeester is certainly capable of fulfilling the role of starting fullback effectively, Pressley figured to be a standout at the position. Bielema was down on his work ethic, sure, but losing the guy who can squat an absolutely freakish 770 pounds is bad news, regardless of the coach's enthusiasm.
  • Hey, we picked up a quarterback. He seems to have had a good year at Kansas State and appears to have left because the offense they're installing there didn't fit his style of play, so those are two positives. Plus he chose UW over TCU and Oregon State, and while that would seem to be a no-brainer, it does show some intelligence. So, welcome aboard, Allan Evridge.
  • A lot of freshmen are expected to jump right in and play this year. Don't freak out. Every year, freshmen step up and make huge contributions. It's up to the coaching staff to identify the guys who will be four-year starters for the Badgers. One of them figures to be Xavier Harris, upon whom the Wisconsin State Journal has already embarrassingly dropped the "X Factor" moniker. (The article, though, is actually quite good, and includes the always-amusing anecdote about the young Southern kid who comes to Madison for a recruiting visit and winds up seeing snow for the first time in his life. So read it!)
  • Fox Sports just got a little more jowly: Barry Alvarez is going to serve as a color commentator. Just remember, Barry: first and foremost, you're AD at UW.
  • The running back situation appears to be emerging; power back P.J. Hill first, fifth-year senior Dywon Rowan second. Expect this to be an extremely fluid situation until one guy climbs to the top of the pile midway through the season. The possibility of Rowan taking over at FB at times further complicates matters. BONUS: the Hill article contains the dreaded "very unique" construction, which, in the Badger Tracker's universe, would carry a mandatory death sentence for first-time offenders.
  • Finally, the Princeton Review shoots itself in the foot, naming Texas the nation's #1 party school. Somehow, UW fell behind Penn State and West Virginia. WVU I can see, since they started a lot of stuff on fire last year, and Texas sure has had a lot of reasons to party in the past year (who wouldn't want their athletic programs right now?) But Penn State? Note to the Princeton Review: that's not drunkenness; it's insanity. Seriously. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stupid BlogPoll picks, preseason edition

Well, here goes. Will be back to defend my picks later. Tear me a new one or pat me on the back in the comments box.

1 Auburn 25
2 Louisiana State 24
3 Ohio State 23
4 Texas 22
5 Southern Cal 21
6 Notre Dame 20
7 West Virginia 19
8 Miami (Florida) 18
9 Iowa 17
10 Oklahoma 16
11 Georgia 15
12 Florida State 14
13 Arizona State 13
14 Penn State 12
15 Louisville 11
16 Nebraska 10
17 Michigan 9
18 Cal 8
19 Michigan State 7
20 Florida 6
21 Arkansas 5
22 Wisconsin 4
23 Georgia Tech 3
24 Tennessee 2
25 South Carolina 1

Dropped Out:


Weeks of backlog to address, no time to do it.

I will say that Stocco's surgery doesn't worry me. Based on how Sorgi recovered from a similar procedure, I'd expect him to be back in action before the Michigan game, which is the first real action UW will see this season thanks to Omar Jacobs leaving Bowling Green for, er, greener pastures. Even though Sherer and Donovan allegedly had a lousy day at practice, they only needs to beat a lackluster Bowling Green squad, D-IAA Western Illinois, and possibly San Diego State. That's not a tall order; indeed, I imagine that UW's number 2 defense is a tougher match for our QBs than anything those three teams will put on the field. Hell, the defense will probably score most of our points anyway.

The good news is that it appears that the Badgers have landed a couple of freshman stars, notably Xavier Harris. Sherer and Donovan will need sure-handed targets if they're going to succeed, and Harris appears to be exactly that.

In other news, former Kansas State quarterback Allan Evridge visited Madison yesterday and is thinking about transferring here. He seems to have been a solid performer, and a quarterback controversy next season may be just what the Badgers need to spark them to success.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Real life

is being rudely intrusive lately. If there's no update tomorrow, there won't be one till Monday.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Michigan gets Molk

Four-star offensive lineman David Molk, who seemed to be choosing between Iowa, Michigan, and Wisconsin, has chosen to enroll as a Wolverine next fall. Molk, who was listed at #14 in the most recent edition of the Midwest Hot 100, was the object of much drooling for Badger recruitniks ... but alas, he will not be joining us. Another reason why this is too bad: he had a 3.0 GPA and a 25 ACT, meaning that he appears to be a shoo-in to qualify academically year in and year out -- and his attraction to UM's highly-rated business school might not be a simple regurgitation of his parents' desires.

Another reason to hate the offseason

Check out the stories on the front page of's college football section (click the image to enlarge it):

That's a downer. Other than the death of Paul Eells, we get only stories about athletes not living up to expectations. Arrests at Tennessee and Miami. Impropriety and special treatment at Oklahoma. A dude who's already in jail being charged with a baker's dozen ADDITIONAL crimes. Low academic achievement across the board.

Thankfully, this is the time of year when the mainstream publications start to publish the previews with gusto and highlight the positive sides of our favorite athletes. But the national media like ESPN only really have time for the big stories -- and without games to talk about, those stories are invariably the negative ones.

iBlog for Cookies has more.

UPDATE: Mike at Hail to the Lion was thinking the same thing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tremendous Badger football linkfest here!

Take a couple days off, allow the Big Ten media days to begin, and what do you get? Backlog! Lots of stuff to address ...

First is the non-platitude stuff, which is to say, actual news. The Badgers picked up a verbal commitment from Milwaukee Riverside offensive lineman Brandon Brooks. Of some concern is the fact that the only other school that seemed to know of his existence was Boston College. However, this may have resulted from the fact that he didn't attend many camps.

Get to know Bret Bielema! He's young! And funny! And he wants to play tough out-of-conference opponents in the future! And he has small-town roots! And he's surprising! And he learned life lessons on the farm!

So, how many games will his team win?

As expected, the Badgers will rely on the contributions of three freshman receivers: Xavier Harris, Isaac Anderson, and Lance Kendricks.

The Wisconsin State Journal is previewing the Badgers position by position. See what they have to say about the quarterbacks, tight ends (more here), and linebackers.

The media have picked Ohio State to be conference champions. Way to go out on a limb.

And finally, some tidbits on moving some freshmen around.