The Voice: Badgers don't have to wait for chance to improve

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgNo matter what you think of the onside kick replay reversal, and I have an idea what many of you believe, perhaps the best line on the subject comes from Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, who told reporters on Monday that the Badgers "never should have put ourselves in that position."

So, after further review, it is time to move on.

These are interesting and challenging days for Wisconsin football. There is a coaching change at offensive line. That is the big news of the week, and it certainly is understandable.

There also is another good opponent coming to town. It is becoming more and more clear that the non-conference schedule is more difficult than most expected.

Which sets up quite the contrast in perceived intangibles Saturday night.

On one side is Utah State, a team riding high after last Friday's victory against in-state rival Utah. Through the first two games of the season, dynamic sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton has completed 77 percent of his passes. When the Aggies choose, the offense is up-tempo and features a little bit of everything.

Add to that an aggressive defense and a special teams unit that scored a touchdown on a blocked punt against the Utes, and you probably have the ingredients for a confident bunch coming to Madison this weekend.

On the other side is Wisconsin. The Badgers are in search of answers to fix an ailing offense. It probably was unrealistic to assume they could continue to put up the historic numbers of the past couple of years, but no doubt even neutral observers were surprised at what happened last weekend in Corvallis.

First, give some credit to Oregon State. It is a proud program with a proven head coach who is determined to get his own program back to its winning ways.

Second, maybe we should take a step back and understand there are three new primary starters on the offensive line (I say primary because Ryan Groy did have four starts last year, but gone are Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby). The wide receiving corps is very young, and became younger when Jared Abbrederis was injured in the second quarter last Saturday.

Beyond the adjustment to a new offensive line coach, it seems logical to suggest that the lack of established threats outside can result in an opposing defense to focus even more on the running game.

Hopefully sooner than later, those young guns can become established threats.

One more thing to consider before jumping off the ledge: While those of us in the media can spend a lot of time writing and talking about what is wrong these days, and while some fans do the same, a team just moves ahead.

An easy reference is the 1999 Badgers, which lost at Cincinnati, then dropped the Big Ten opener the following week to Michigan. At that point Wisconsin was 2-2 overall, 0-1 in the conference. It never lost again.

An easier reference is last year, after back-to-back setbacks to Michigan State and Ohio State. If I remember correctly, things improved a bit after those two games.

Yes, sometimes teams are unable to get back on track, and the above examples are different teams in different years. But perhaps the lesson isn't so much for the Badgers themselves, but for those of us who follow them.

I am not even close to being smart enough to know how this season will unfold, but I would like to believe there are plenty of folks out there who are open-minded enough to give this team a chance to fix what needs fixing.

The Badgers will have that next opportunity beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday evening.
ON WISCONSIN