'The Voice' with Matt Lepay

It is interesting to me how the result of a bowl game can define a season.  If the Badgers beat Miami tonight, it would give Wisconsin 10 wins and a much-needed victory against a ranked opponent. 

It likely would go a long way in creating some buzz going into next fall. Yes, the team will miss the departing seniors, but there are plenty of weapons returning on offense, and some young playmakers will continue to grow on defense.


I think back to 2002.  The Badgers finished the Big Ten season with a 2-6 record, but rallied to beat Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, 31-28. The Brooks Bollinger-engineered drive to score late in regulation, and the Mike Allen field goal to win in overtime helped create the lasting memories of that season.

I think back to 2005. The deflating feeling when the Badgers lost to Iowa to put a damper on Barry Alvarez's final home game as the Badgers head coach.

However, that memory quickly fades when one remembers the Capital One Bowl game against the favored Auburn Tigers. Wisconsin dominated the contest, sending Barry out with a much-deserved victory in his final game on the sideline.

Sometimes the result can work against you. The 1997 Badgers were a young team that pulled out some dramatic wins, including last-second field goals against Indiana and Northwestern in consecutive weeks. Unfortunately, that young team ran into a buzzsaw named Georgia in the Outback Bowl, as the veteran Bulldogs easily handled Wisconsin, 33-6.

Which brings us to tonight's Champs Sports Bowl. There is no question that this year's Badgers are better than last year's group. While certainly not a great team, it is a very good team that has learned from last season's mistakes. 

In fact, last season's disappointment served as a motivator, on the field as well as in the classroom. A record 22 players earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition. Accountability is a word the players and coaches use with regularity, and it would appear that, for the most part, this team walked the walk.

In the world of sports, overreaction is fairly predictable. In fact, for many, that is what makes sports so enjoyable. A win tonight and I can hear many fans shout, "Look out next year, here come the Badgers!"

Lose tonight, and the sports talk shows, message boards, blogs, etc. will be filled with angst about how this team can't beat highly-ranked squads. "Here we go again,"  and "Same old Badgers," they will say.

The truth is, win or lose, this team is better than the one we watched a year ago. A win makes it a very good year, gives the seniors a great send-off and makes for a pleased fan base. A loss, while disappointing, should not wipe out the accomplishments of this group. 

The bottom line is, win or lose this evening, the Badgers are set to return the league's offensive player of the year, the rookie of the year, and several other talented players. It also must find answers for some gifted players who will move onto the NFL or some other line of work.  

Like I have said, this is not necessarily a great team, but it has been fun to watch. From a double-overtime win against Fresno State, to a shutout of Purdue, to the pounding of Michigan, there have been enough signs to indicate this program is moving in the right direction.

I also know, and more importantly, those within the program are aware that a win tonight against a very good Miami team will go a long way in defining this season, and with it making it easier for many others to share my opinion.
ON WISCONSIN