The Voice: Taking show on road offers chance to impress

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWith the release of the first BCS rankings, the college football season officially shifts into high gear. The annual debate about the system itself picks up steam. Fans yell that their favorite teams are not rated high enough.

Of course, there is what is becoming the annual "Boise State question," regarding whether the Broncos can crack the top 2 and play for the national championship.

Last but not least, columnists and sports yakkers across the country campaign for a playoff.

I am not going there -- at least not today.

The Badgers find themselves ranked sixth in this week's BCS standings, which seems about right to this observer. Given the strength of schedule to date, the computers will not love the Badgers as much as the human voters.

Try not to worry about it. Every year we speculate, watch ESPN's "BCS Countdown" show, and we either hear something favorable from one of the commentators or we fight the urge to throw a brick at the TV.

Speculation is part of the fun, but most of the time this BCS stuff works itself out. I say most of the time because the 2004 Auburn Tigers, which finished 13-0 but third in the final BCS rankings, would beg to differ.

While it appears the Badgers will need a few things to happen to move into the Top 2, I still would suggest that No. 6 is not a bad place to be in mid-October.  

As the late, great Al Davis always said "Just win, baby." (And in college football, if you can win by a lot, all the better).

For the Badgers beginning this Saturday night in East Lansing, I would tweak Mr. Davis' saying -- "Just win on the road, baby."  

Similar to college basketball, the pollsters tend to judge whether a team is elite by watching how it performs away from home. Last year, I thought the Badgers made their greatest statement outside of Madison.

While last October's victory against No. 1 Ohio State will always be memorable, I believe the game that truly defined the Badgers season came in the following game at Iowa. In a hostile environment against a rival, in a stadium that some folks on the sidelines told me was every bit as loud as Camp Randall at its raucous best, Wisconsin found a way to beat the Hawkeyes.

A fake punt, some clutch work from quarterback Scott Tolzien as well as tailback Montee Ball, and a team that overcame several injuries to put together a late-game scoring drive went a long way in the Badgers' championship run.

To beat a top notch team at home is great theatre. To defeat a team when 75,000 fans are against you is even more impressive.

This week the Badgers have their first true road game, and it happens to be against a Michigan State outfit that leads the Big Ten in most of the major defensive statistical categories, including total defense, where the Spartans also rank second in the nation.

Wisconsin is rolling, and so is Sparty. It also seems safe to say that this week's opponent is eager to see Russell Wilson and company. After MSU beat Michigan last Saturday, ESPN.com quoted Spartans safety Isaiah Lewis as saying "Wisconsin should know we're coming."

He later added "And just like any other team, if they're throwing the ball up, our DBs are going to go get it, our linebackers are going to go get it and our linemen are getting after the quarterback. And they're going to hurt him."

There is nothing like a juicy quote to get the fans and the pundits talking all week.

Let the road show begin.
ON WISCONSIN