When you schedule pre-Big 10 Season games with schools like Wofford State, Northern Illinois, South Dakota, and The Citadel, you make yourself bowl-eligible (6 wins) in short order.
You make your players and fans feel good about themselves.
What you don’t do is prepare your team to soundly trounce Michigan State and Ohio State on the road.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of the haters who feels good when the Badgers lose. I do believe most jocks are pampered, most coaches are overpaid, and that far too much is made of the won-lost record. But I am a fan, and I’d far rather see any Badgers team win than lose.
It’s clear that the philosophy of the football brain trust on Monroe Street for the past umpty-nine seasons has been to get bowl-eligible in a hurry, put up a decent showing in conference competition, and end the season with a January 1st bowl game. It’s a philosophy which has served the football Badgers well for many years.
The trouble comes when you land a highly-sought-after quarterback; you mow down UNLV, Oregon State, Northern Illinois, and South Dakota….and then discover that Nebraska wasn’t really ready for prime time just yet, and Indiana is no match. You’ve got this quarterback who most decidedly does NOT fit the “Wisconsin mold” and can throw, scramble, and run with the best of them, and people start talking “Heisman”, and the phrase “National Championship Game” starts to pop up regularly in conversation. My friend Jay Wilson puts on his professor glasses and lays out the possibilities of a Wisconsin national championship on his blackboard (which is actually green) for the Channel 3 viewers. And you start paying attention to BCS standings.
That’s when the trouble starts. And then, you get shocked with a highly improbable finish on the road at East Lansing, and a startlingly similar scenario plays out in Columbus. Suddenly it’s all disappointment and accusations of time-out mismanagement and special teams breakdowns and gloom.
The problem is, you didn’t manage your expectations.
The Badgers football team is designed to get bowl-eligible in a hurry, do well in conference play, and go to a “decent” bowl game. And so far, sports fans, it is EXACTLY on track. It is NOT designed for high BCS rankings; it is NOT designed to be on a par with Southeast Conference teams; it is NOT designed to compete for a national championship.
The Badgers will do well against Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois, and Penn State. They’ll play competitive ball. They may not win all four remaining games, but it’s not likely they’ll be blown out of any of them. And partly because of their W-L record and partly because Badgers fans love to party and travel well, they’ll be in a decent bowl at the end of the year.
Manage your expectations.