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For Badgers fans, it has the makings of a fun debate. What is more impressive, Ron Dayne's NCAA rushing record, or Montee Ball being on the brink of the NCAA record for touchdowns?
Going into Saturday's final home game against Ohio State, Ball has reached the end zone 77 times. Former Miami University star Travis Prentice holds the mark with 78, set between 1996-99. Along the way this fall, Ball has passed the likes of Mr. Dayne, as well as Cedric Benson and Ricky Williams, among others.
When the senior from Wentzville, Mo., takes the field on Saturday, Ball will be making his 29th career start. In other words, Ball has done most of his work in what amounts to two-and-a-half seasons.
Two years ago, when the Badgers beat then-No. 1 Ohio State, Ball had as many carries as you did -- none. For a brief time, he thought maybe he should move to linebacker.
I think this running back thing has turned out reasonably well for him.
This is an exciting time for Ball and his teammates. If Montee can break the record against the Buckeyes, great. If it happens next week, that's OK too. If it happens, fans and everyone else should appreciate Ball's amazing statistics that he put together in such a short period of time.
However, before I automatically say one NCAA record is better than the other, it is worth reminding ourselves when Ron Dayne was on the field, everyone in the stadium knew who was getting the football.
In the "Dayne Era," the Badgers were very much a running team. In Dayne's years, the most passing yards the Badgers produced was 2,042 in 1997. In Ball's time, the fewest yards through the air was in 2010, when Scott Tolzien and company threw for 2,593.
Last year, with Russell Wilson working his magic, the Badgers passed for 3,280 yards.
My point here is that, by and large, the UW offense has been much more balanced. Maybe not as much this season, but overall, during Montee's time, opposing defenses had to be quite concerned about the passing game.
When Ron played, it seemed as though the Badgers could publically announce -- "Hey (name the opponent), we are giving the ball to Ron, and he's going to run this way. Try to stop him." Probably not quite that simple, but you get the idea.
Also, keep in mind that in several games, Barry Alvarez pulled Dayne fairly early. It is not unreasonable to believe that Dayne could have added another 1,000 to 1,500 yards to his final rushing total.
The bottom line is both records are phenomenal, and both are individual marks requiring special performances from teammates. Dayne and Ball are both quick to credit their offensive lineman and everyone else who helped pave the way.
No doubt Ohio State has other ideas, but in a perfect world for Bucky Backers, Ball breaks the record on a game-winning score. Then UW fans can celebrate and further discuss which record is better.
* * * *
Now a quick note about a couple of early season basketball games where organizers had their hearts in the right place, but maybe needed a little better planning.
Last Friday, Ohio State and Marquette were scheduled to play on the deck of the USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Because of too much condensation on the floor, the game never started.
Also on Friday, the USS Bataan was the venue for the Florida-Georgetown tilt. They played one half, but because the floor became too slippery, so there was no second half.
Saluting the men and women of the armed forces via some college basketball games is a great idea, but maybe playing the games on big boats should be reconsidered.
Bo Ryan, at one time a sergeant in the United States Army, would love to play a game on an army base.
"Sergeant Ryan could coach the Badgers, against, well, maybe (Duke coach Mike) Krzyzewski," said the Badgers' boss. Krzyzewski was in the U.S. Army from 1969-74. Ryan served two years. I am guessing the number of Division I basketball coaches with military service would make for a short list.
Ryan has no interest in playing on boats, but hopefully at some point Bo can get his wish and honor the brave men and women who serve our country. Just make sure they play the game in a real gym.
It is fairly well documented that November has been a very good month for Bret Bielema and the Wisconsin Badgers. In the last two years, the Badgers are 8-0. Overall under Bielema, Wisconsin is 17-3.
I would guess many things go into the team's success this month. The head coach has talked about the work done by the strength and conditioning staff, led by Ben Herbert.
It seems logical to suggest good fortune with a team's health comes into play. Can your best players stay on the field? If not, can the "next man in" deliver?
Maybe there is a very simple explanation why November has been good for the Badgers. Maybe the answer is the Badgers simply have been pretty good. Good to great players playing their best football late in the season -- a goal for every team at every level.
That is the challenge for this year's group. The 2012 Badgers are a good team, but as yet, not a great team. Injuries have been a factor. The expected return of Rick Wagner at left tackle should boost the offensive line. The bye week should have bought some time for several other players dealing with various bumps and bruises.
Of course, there is the quarterback question. With Joel Stave out for the remainder of the regular season, both Danny O'Brien and Curt Phillips have competed to step in.
At his weekly news conference, Bielema chose not to publicly reveal who will be the starter. Either way, it has the makings of a good story.
O'Brien, the transfer from Maryland who many thought would have the job for the next two seasons, has at times struggled. In fairness to O'Brien, he has been in some difficult spots. He faced an Oregon State defense that is better than many expected. He came in late in the Nebraska game, trying to lead the Badgers on a long drive. Then, in Wisconsin's last game, O'Brien came off the bench in the second half against an excellent Michigan State defense.
The sample size for Phillips is smaller. Against Illinois, he appeared for one series. He entered late in the Minnesota game, and with the outcome decided, the Badgers kept the ball on the ground. In his career, he has thrown 13 passes. Yet he has proven to be tough as nails, coming back from three knee surgeries. He could have given up the game, and people would have understood.
However, Phillips has said he wants no regrets. He doesn't want to be in his late 20s wondering "what if?" He also has little interest in being the cute story of the player who returns from injury who gets to play a few snaps at the end of a blowout. If that is how it turns out, so be it, but to Phillips, he believes he can contribute to a greater degree.
Everybody understands what is on the line this week in Bloomington. The Badgers' defense will face a challenge with Indiana's up tempo offense that features the Big Ten's best passing attack.
The UW offense will look to re-establish its running game against an improving Hoosiers defense.
Yet in football, the attention usually will focus on the quarterback. And the fact is either O'Brien or Phillips will be in position to script an impressive personal comeback story.
More importantly, one or the other can help the Badgers continue their November success, and reach the conference title game for the second straight year.
Watch sports long enough, and it can be easy to believe you have seen just about everything.
Then there was last Saturday, when the UW basketball team lost point guard Josh Gasser for the season with a torn ACL. A few hours later, the football team lost starting quarterback Joel Stave.
Never mind the fact the football game ended with a gut-wrenching loss to rival Michigan State. I am just wondering how many major college football and basketball programs lost a QB and a lead guard on the same day?
Before I go any further, it is unlikely any Maryland Terrapins followers will be shedding too many tears, at least when it comes to losing quarterbacks. The Terps have lost four -- count 'em, four -- signal callers this season. Word is the "next man in" will be either a converted linebacker or a converted tight end.
Then there is the case of South Carolina star running back Marcus Lattimore, who came back from a knee injury in 2011. During last Saturday's game with Tennessee, Lattimore hyperextended his right knee, damaging several ligaments. It is not a pretty video.
When these things happen, especially close to home, I find myself getting ticked off at the circumstances. It is a very real question to wonder how Stave and Gasser's injuries will affect the Badgers. But for now, I think about a promising quarterback who is hurt, and very tough junior guard who busted his tail the entire off season, only to find out he won't have a season -- at least this season.
Trust me, I understand there are a lot worse things that can happen to people. Unfortunately, lately, I have had the chance to see a lot of that up close. What I am talking about here is the sometimes cruel nature of sports, and how the fortunes of a team, and more specifically a player, can turn on a dime.
During this open week in the football schedule, coach Bret Bielema, his staff and his players will move forward. Everyone will do his part to support Danny O'Brien and Curt Phillips (think about what he has gone through in his career), and the Badgers will continue to prepare each day for the stretch drive of the regular season. They do so knowing a trip to Indianapolis is still in their hands.
As for basketball, Bo Ryan has proven to be a master of dealing with adversity. He is hardly a rookie at this stuff. His first year as Wisconsin's head man, Ryan lost promising guard Latrell Fleming because of a heart condition, and big man Andreas Helmigk to a knee injury. A couple of years later, Alando Tucker's season was cut short because of a broken foot. Late in the 2007 season, Brian Butch dislocated his elbow. A few years later, Jon Leuer missed half of the Big Ten season because of a broken wrist.
Watch sports long enough and it is wise to understand that sometimes things happen that seem unfair.
A few days ago, Badger fans were excited about an improving football team and its young quarterback. The basketball backers already knew about Josh Gasser, and were eager to see him play the point.
By Saturday night, the mood had changed. Yes, I too am curious at how the two teams will respond. History tells me they will have no shortage of resolve.
But above all else, I just wish the best for the injured players. Yes, they know the risks involved, and now they are going through the lousy part of athletics. I look forward to watching them get back in the arena, so they can once again experience the far more enjoyable side of sports.
Last Saturday the Badgers beat Minnesota for the ninth-straight year, matching the longest winning streak for either team in major college football's oldest rivalry.
It also improved Wisconsin's home winning streak to 21 games, and the victory gives Bret Bielema's teams a 44-3 record at Camp Randall Stadium. The 44 wins on the home turf is the best among FBS teams since 2006.
There is one other note that has gone a bit under the radar. In University of Wisconsin football history, there have been 27 head coaches. With Saturday's result, Bielema has led his teams to more victories than all but one.
I am pretty sure you have heard of the coach who tops the list.
Now in his seventh year as the Badgers' head coach, Bielema's record is 66-21, with a Big Ten mark of 36-16. His winning percentage is top-five among active coaches, ahead of well-known figures such as Mark Richt, Brian Kelly, Les Miles and Nick Saban.
It is dangerous, if not reckless, to compare Bielema's first half-dozen-plus years with Barry Alvarez, whose 118 wins leads the pack at UW. The circumstances were much different. In 1990, Alvarez inherited a mess. In 2006, Bielema moved from being Barry's defensive coordinator to the head man of a program coming off an impressive bowl victory against Auburn.
Still, Bielema inherited a set of expectations, and the pressure that goes with it. The record shows he is handling it quite well, thank you.
Bielema coaches aggressively, and at times does things many would consider outside the box, be it a trick play or his use of timeouts. When those decisions work, observers consider him innovative. When they backfire, observers often have a different description.
This season has a long way to go, with perhaps the best defense Wisconsin will see all year coming to town on Saturday. Yet the fact remains the Badgers are very much in the chase to win a third-straight Big Ten championship, which would be a first in school history.
In August, many already had them at least getting to Indianapolis, if not Pasadena. By the end of September, there was reason to wonder. The offense was scuffling, and Purdue became the new sexy pick to win the division. Now that has changed, and everyone is talking about the improvement going on in Madison.
The offensive line, injuries and all, is coming together. The tight ends and fullbacks are picking up their overall play. Montee Ball (both Mon-tay and Mon-tee) and James White are running with force, and the defense continues to be among the top 20 nationally.
There is enough credit to go around, but since the head man gets the blame when things are going wrong, he probably should get some credit for what is happening now. Bielema saw something on his staff that he believed needed fixing, so he fixed it.
He saw a couple of positions that he believed needed a change in personnel, so there were changes.
The timing of such moves might be out of the norm, but to this point, the returns are encouraging.
We get to find out together how the second half of the conference season will unfold. Maybe the Badgers win out, maybe they lose out, or perhaps they will end up somewhere in between. However it plays out, my guess is Bielema will continue to do things his way, regardless of how -- as he calls it -- the "outside world" reacts.
Can't say I blame him. It seems to be working out OK.
No matter where you stand, the numbers speak loudly. In year seven, Bret Bielema is the second winningest coach in Wisconsin football history. Bielema said Alvarez told him he would be very happy to see his successor move up one more notch.
Only 53 wins to go, right?
Call me paranoid, but Saturday's Wisconsin-Minnesota football game has me a bit concerned.
The annual Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe has been a one-sided affair of late. The Badgers have won the previous eight meetings. There have been some blowouts, including last year's 42-13 pounding in Minneapolis, but four of the last eight games have been one-score contests.
The most famous of those close encounters is the 2005 Miracle in the Metrodome
, when Jonathan Casillas blocked a punt, and Ben Strickland recovered in the end zone with 30 seconds to play, giving Wisconsin a stunning 38-34 victory.
When one team is dominating another, it is easy to say it isn't much of a rivalry. Such was the case when Iowa had a 20-year run of not losing to Wisconsin. The Badgers busted that streak with a 13-10 decision in 1997.
Given Wisconsin's string of success against the Gophers, the words "isn't much of a rivalry" seem to be popping up again, be it from fans, media or other observers.
Kinda makes me cringe.
When I prepare for a game broadcast, I try to consider what those on the other side might be thinking. Compared to a coach or a player's preparation, what I do is pretty low-level stuff, but it never hurts to put yourself in the other guy's shoes.
In this case, the Gophers have issues. After a 4-0 start, the Gophers have lost two straight games. Last week, things could not have started much worse. A muffed opening kickoff that Northwestern recovered. The Wildcats needed one play to score. On the ensuing kickoff, the Gophers' return man fielded the kick, but promptly lost his footing, giving Minnesota lousy field position.
Eventually they did settle down a bit, but the Cats still won the game 21-13.
Then there is the issue of Coach Jerry Kill's health. After finishing with his media obligations last Saturday, Kill suffered another seizure. He has a history of dealing with seizures. Thankfully, once again, he seems to have recovered quickly.
Keep in mind that, while Kill's situation is unusual, most of his staff has been with him for several years. That includes offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. It only makes sense to believe they know what to do, and they know how Kill runs his program. It is hardly ideal, but when Coach Kill needs medical attention, it is logical to believe that the assistants are prepared to handle it.
On the field, the health of quarterback MarQueis Gray is a key storyline. After an injury on Sept. 15, Gray returned to the field last week and made some plays. Listed at 250 pounds, Gray is a dangerous runner, and the statistics indicate he is an improved passer.
However, he suffered another ankle injury in the third quarter.
From what I have seen and heard, all of this seems to have at least some folks expecting the Badgers to keep possession of the Axe without much in the way of drama.
Look, if that is how it plays out, great. I just think assuming such things can be extremely dangerous. Especially in the Big Ten. Especially this year.
If I'm on the other side, I am sick and tired of watching my opponent take the victory lap. If I'm on the other side, you better believe it is a big-time rivalry.
That's because it is. Lopsided in recent years? Yes. But in Wisconsin and in Minnesota, that does not change what this rivalry means.
Never has. Never will.
Don't know about you, but I am still trying to figure out baseball's infield fly rule, and why some fans might cheer when one of their favorite team's own players is injured.
It sure has been an interesting week in the world of fun and games.
Every now and then, fan behavior becomes the focus of attention, and that certainly has been the case in the last seven days.
During the baseball playoffs last Friday, the Atlanta Braves had runners at first and second with one out. The hitter, Andrelton Simmons, lifted a fly ball to shallow left field. Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma ran out to try and make the play, while outfielder Matt Holliday drifted in to do the same. The ball dropped, but umpire Sam Holbrook declared the infield fly rule, meaning the batter is out, and the runners can advance at their own risk.
Fans were irate and littered the field with bottles, cans and other assorted debris. After nearly 20 minutes, the game resumed. The Cardinals won, while Braves fans left the stadium angry -- and because of the actions of some -- looking foolish.
Then last Sunday, while the struggling Kansas City Chiefs were in the process of losing a low-scoring game to Baltimore, much-maligned quarterback Matt Cassel was injured. While opinions vary, it appeared at least some fans at Arrowhead Stadium were cheering at the sight of Cassel not getting up.
How many fans were cheering is very much open to question, but there were enough to send offensive tackle Eric Winston into a postgame rant.
"When you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don't care who it is. And it just so happened to be Matt Cassel. It's sickening. It's 100 percent sickening," said Winston. "I've been in some rough times on some rough teams -- I've never been more embarrassed in my life to play football."
While Winston has stood by his comments, the following day he did point out that he was not referring to everyone in the stadium. "It might have been 7,000. It might have been 700. It's still too many," Winston told reporters.
No doubt fans in both Atlanta and Kansas City are stinging at the national reaction to the actions of some.
Clearly, and yes, sadly, what happened in those stadiums can happen in any number of cities. While the above examples are from professional sporting events, it seems cases of anger in the stands is becoming more and more evident, even during college games.
Maybe not to the extent of what we have witnessed in the last week, but for some, going to a game is less about enjoyment and more about venting why so-and-so stinks.
It would be irresponsible to claim that fans are the only ones at fault. The media, of which I am a member, has become less about information and more about stirring the pot -- the louder the better.
A common postgame question in the sports talk/message board/Twitter world/blogosphere crowd is "Who's to blame?"
If we disagree on something, no matter how minor, it is an OUTRAGE!
All too often, we specialize in overreaction. By "we" I mean media, as well as fans.
No doubt part of this is because of the high salaries of today's pro athletes, and the big bucks pulled in by college coaches. Mega-million-dollar salaries and higher ticket prices can equal increased expectations. But I tend to believe the bigger reason is simple. We have so many avenues to vent, from talk radio, to reader comments in the online editions of newspapers, and of course, through social media.
Everyone has a voice, and it is open season, 24/7/365.
I would like to believe most fans still love the game more than they love to be angry. While not unprecedented, what happened in Atlanta is still the exception to the rule. Kansas City is known as a terrific sports town, especially when it comes to the Chiefs.
So who's to blame? Maybe a lot us, myself included, can start by looking in the mirror.
There is classroom work and study table. There are position meetings, team meetings, video sessions and practices. There is travel, which can include long flights and bus rides.
Then there are the games, with packed arenas, stadiums, and perhaps up to a few million more fans viewing every play.
A college athlete signs up for all of this. So do the coaches.
Yet, at the University of Wisconsin, the 800 or so student-athletes and coaches make time to give back to the community. For the past several years, it was thought to be a safe guess that UW student-athletes donated some 1,500 hours a year to community service projects.
Turns out the number was more than double that.
Last year, Badgers players and coaches engaged in more than 3,600 hours of community service, ranging from hospital visits and trips to schools to promote reading to projects such as Habitat for Humanity.
"It's really remarkable, with all of their busy schedules, with classes, practices, games and so on, that they make the time to do all of this," UW Associate Athletic Director for External Relations Justin Doherty said.
Yet they do it eagerly.
"Our student-athletes are just amazing with the kids," says Doherty. "The hospital visits, with reading. They have become kids themselves again."
Now the process of connecting with UW Athletics is easier. The department recently launched a new platform called "Badgers Give Back." The goal is to better serve fans and the Madison community.
Organizations can make a request online via the "Badgers Give Back" page
"It (the request) goes through compliance," explains Doherty. "It goes through our community relations coordinator (Kayla Gross). The process is easy now. We feel good about it, and we feel good that we can communicate what we do."
Coaches spend countless hours trying to figure out how to win the next game. Nobody understands that any better than UW Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. Yet, he knows the importance of reaching out to the community, and he wants every team on campus to embrace the concept.
"We've tried to take this to our players. We have to give back, too," Alvarez said. "It is not just about our fans giving to us. It is about us giving back to the community. All of our student-athletes buy into that. We know we are an important part of this city, and we want to make sure we give back."
And they have. And they will continue to give back.
In recent years, certain stories have gained a fair amount of attention, such as former Badgers quarterback Scott Tolzien's relationship with a young man who has battled cancer.
While he played basketball at Wisconsin, Michael Flowers also became friends with a young man going through a rough stretch.
Those are just two examples of countless stories where a fan can see a student-athlete away from the athletic arena.
I can tell you from personal experience that the athletes and the coaches enjoy using their platform accordingly, and often are very touched by the people they meet.
During the games it is easy to get excited when the Badgers win, or frustrated win they lose. But it is good to know that there is a lot more to UW student-athletes than where their teams are in the conference standings or national polls.
With the "Badgers Give Back" initiative, it now is a more efficient process for those efforts to continue.
Good to see that Russell Wilson wasted little time before he got involved in one of the more controversial plays in NFL history.
There's just something about Mary, as in Hail Mary, that will always be a part of this state.
If nothing else, the former Badgers quarterback showed his usual coolness under fire, and the last-second throw was where it needed to be, giving Golden Tate a chance (push-off or not).
While that was a stand-alone Monday night game, I have become addicted to a channel called NFL Red Zone, which on Sundays in the fall takes the viewer from game to game. The big sales pitch is the Red Zone channel will show every touchdown. It is great for fantasy players and anyone else who just likes to keep tabs on what's going in the league.
I am not one of those fantasy players, but for me the Red Zone channel helps me watch all those former Badgers making an impact in today's NFL.
Last Sunday I watched J.J. Watt come up with a big sack of Peyton Manning. In his second year, Watt is becoming a force. In last week's edition of Sports Illustrated, longtime NFL writer Peter King noted that he thinks by the end of the year, Watt will be the league's best 3-4 defensive end.
Owen Daniels isn't half bad, either. A teammate of Watt's in Houston, Daniels scored a big fourth-quarter TD against Denver. But I can't pull too hard for the Texans because Jim Leonhard is a Bronco. Right now his primary role is as a punt returner, but I will not dismiss his chances of working his way into the Denver secondary.
Before Monday night's game with the Packers, the channel allowed me to watch Seattle's first two games, including Wilson's regular-season debut, when he nearly led the Seahawks to victory at Arizona. It is fun to watch the not-quite 5-foot-11 quarterback continue to impress, if not amaze, the doubters with his play-making ability. I also get a kick out of watching John Moffitt and Chris Maragos.
It is much the same with Kevin Zeitler and Chris Pressley of the Cincinnati Bengals, and Joe Thomas with Cleveland. Then there is O'Brien Schofield with the surprising Cardinals, DeAndre Levy with Detroit, Matt Shaughnessy with the Raiders and Brad Nortman with the Carolina Panthers.
While I felt badly for Travis Beckum when he was hurt in the Super Bowl, I had to smile knowing his Giants won it all, and the one-time Badgers tight end had earned a championship ring.
There are others of course, but you get the idea. For a program that supposedly doesn't land very many Parade All-Americans, the Badgers sure have a lot of guys in the NFL.
Yes, I make every effort to set aside three hours to catch the Packers. You can't live in this state nearly half of your life and not get caught up in the rich tradition of the franchise. The fact that it is such as well-run operation makes it even more fun.
However, being a fan of the game in general, it is my own Sunday tradition to keep an eye on those former Badger standouts that are making a mark at the next level.
Considering there are some two dozen Badgers getting NFL paychecks, keeping up with them is a challenge, but it sure makes Sundays more enjoyable.
At this early stage of the college football season, it appears to be a familiar story at the top of the rankings. The SEC is well represented, with four or five other teams still jockeying for position. Otherwise, it looks as though there will be some wide open races for conference championships.
That includes the Big Ten.
For now, this proud, tradition-rich league will have to put up with criticism from various pundits and fans across America. So far, the conference has not performed well in the bigger stage games. Fair or unfair, the jabs go with the territory.
However, it is fair to suggest that this is a league where several of the better programs are in transition, from new head coaches at Penn State and Ohio State, to new starting quarterbacks and wide receivers at Wisconsin and Michigan State.
The process of change can be painful at times, and three of the four above mentioned teams already have a loss. The fourth, Ohio State, while unbeaten, seems to be far from a finished product.
In the meantime, everyone just keeps working to get better. Including the Badgers, who last Saturday extended their home winning streak to 18 games.
No, it wasn't pretty, but no apologizes are needed either. Utah State has made a habit of taking BCS teams to the very end, and last weekend was no exception.
The game reminded me of the 1997 season, when the Badgers needed a late touchdown to beat Boise State 28-24. This was before Boise State became the national name it is today. Badgers quarterback Mike Samuel somehow avoided what would have been a game-sealing sack and converted a game-saving fourth-down play that led to the clinching score.
In college football, sometimes looking pretty can be important. Other times, it can be overrated. Right now for the Badgers, scoring one more point than the other guy is pretty enough.
They have company.
Take a look at Stanford. The Cardinal is coming off an emotionally charged victory against USC, a team many tabbed as a BCS favorite. The seven-point win against the Trojans is not the tightest game Stanford has played this season. So far, the closest call was against San Jose State. The Cardinal won that game 20-17. Not very pretty, but I would guess the good folks in Palo Alto said thank you very much and moved on.
Remember Oklahoma State, a team that last fall was on the cusp of playing for the national title? Like the Badgers, the Cowboys are 2-1. Unlike the Badgers, the one loss was a beat down, 59-38 at Arizona. I am guessing fans in Stillwater prefer winning ugly to losing ugly.
At the moment, the national stage shows a fairly clear separation between the national title contenders and the rest of the pack.
The Big Ten shows a much different picture. Each week, opinions vary on who is the best team. There is talent, but everyone shows a flaw or two. It will be interesting to see which team can make the most improvement in the shortest amount of time. In what is shaping up to be an up-for-grabs conference title chase, little if anything will be easy.
Something tells me that several teams in this league have their best work ahead of them. If I am right, the image of the league could change for the better sooner than later.
More importantly, it would lead to one crazy and entertaining season of Big Ten football.
No 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.