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In the Wisconsin men's basketball record book, the bio information on junior center Evan Anderson begins with the following words: "Humble and hard-working Wisconsin product."
That is an excellent description of the 6-foot-10, 245-pounder from Stanley. Perhaps it helps explain why Anderson's teammates get so excited when the big man checks into the lineup and makes a few things happen.
The former standout from Eau Claire North has played in about half of the Badgers' games this season, averaging a bit more than three minutes per outing. Last Saturday at Purdue, Anderson logged seven minutes. Seven very important minutes, in the Badgers' 14-point victory. His teammates loved it.
"He got mobbed more than anybody after the game," said UW associate head coach Greg Gard. "They understand not only that seven minutes he contributed, but how he has had to work to get to that point."
"It was great to be able to go out there and help my teammates," added Anderson. "It was really important to me."
"I was able to box out (A.J.) Hammons. I believe that was his third foul (it was). That was a key to have him on the bench the rest of the first half."
I think the players and coaches appreciate Anderson so much because they know this game is anything but easy. At times, he can be very tough on himself. So a few weeks ago, when Anderson got some run late in the game against Illinois and nailed a three-point shot against the Illini, players popped out of their chairs to cheer him on.
When he gets on the floor in the guts of a game and does a lot of the little things well, it means even more.
"I thought he did a great job of staying within himself," said Gard. "He just went in, set good screens, was physical. He did a great job of blocking out and getting the over-the-back call on the third foul (on Hammons).
"He has bought into the program. He has never complained. He keeps working."
While nobody wants to get too carried away about one game, perhaps last Saturday's effort at Mackey Arena can serve as a confidence boost for Anderson. This is his fourth year in the program, and he believes experience can help him help the program.
"Being here and doing every little thing that we do," he said. "We spend a lot of time behind the scenes that people don't see. Lifting, running, all that in the summer. The experience is just great ... and we put in a lot of work."
And when that work is rewarded, it tends to make a good competitor want to keep grinding away. Nobody has questioned Anderson's competitive nature. Enough players have run into one of his haymaker screens in practice to know he can be a tough man to move. Rest assured Anderson's teammates were more than happy to see an opponent get a taste of what the Badgers deal with every day in practice.
Like most teams in the country, the Badgers would love to see continued growth off the bench. Freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are doing a very solid job. Recently fellow freshman Vitto Brown started to get some work with the regular rotation. Duje Dukan has shown he is capable of providing a boost as well.
Yet there is always room for more competition. While nobody is making any bold predictions, it was fun to see Evan Anderson get in the mix. As the always difficult Big Ten season rolls on, there is no doubt coach Bo Ryan will happily accept some more depth. You just never know when it will be needed.
With Florida State's dramatic win against Auburn on Monday night, we bid farewell to the BCS era. Some will say goodbye, while many others will say good riddance.
Whatever the case, starting next season college football moves into its next phase -- the College Football Playoff. While the now-departed method created some classic championship games, not to mention a number of other thrilling BCS bowls, the whole concept of the Bowl Championship Series has been a source of great debate, and often times, harsh criticism.
As I -- and many others -- have previously stated, the BCS was an imperfect system, but it was far better than what preceded it. Gone are the days of a top-ranked team sealing its national title by beating a No. 14-ranked squad in its bowl game.
The system also set up a number of wildly entertaining matchups, such as Boise State's stunning victory against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. This year's other BCS games were fairly decent, too, from underdog Central Florida putting the hammer down on Baylor, to Michigan State's 24-20 victory against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
Ohio State-Clemson in the Orange, and Oklahoma-Alabama in the Sugar Bowl were not bad games, either.
I think part of the frustration of the BCS is that many of us struggled to fully understand how it worked.
We did not know what made up most of the computer rankings. We were easily confused on what a team had to do to qualify for consideration to one of the "big boy" bowls. A top-14 finish? A top-16 for a non-AQ conference if it finished ahead of lowest-rated champ from an AQ conference? Otherwise, a non-AQ had to be in the top 12? Huh? What is a non-AQ? And Notre Dame has its own sets of rules?
As sports fans, we tend to like things to be a bit more simple, and hopefully the College Football Playoff is a step closer in that direction.
Still, in today's world, many of us will find something to be unhappy about, and we will have multiple platforms where we can vent to our heart's delight.
It is anything but a stretch to predict that the biggest outcry will come from those who want more than four teams in the playoff. However, executive director Bill Hancock repeatedly has said the four-team playoff will be in place for the next 12 years, so we probably would be wise to get used to it. Those who help run college football are very protective about the importance of the regular season. They are in no hurry to run the risk of hurting high-stakes games in October.
We also should remember that there will be two more top-end bowls, the Cotton and the Chick-fil-A. Part of the selection committee's job will be to place teams in those games, as those sites will join the rotation for the semifinal round on New Year's Eve 2016.
Whether the College Football Playoff will be more satisfying than the BCS remains to be seen. I believe it will. Yes, the team that ends up fifth in eyes of the committee will be very upset. So is the basketball squad that just misses the cut to the 68-team NCAA tournament.
Overall, I would claim the BCS worked reasonably well. If nothing else, it gave college football fans something to talk about every week of the season.
Starting next season, we can all try to figure out who will play in those semifinal games at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, with the winners meeting in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2015.
It figures to be anything but dull.
If there is one bit of wisdom I have been able to gather through the years, it is that there really is no such thing as an offseason for coaches.
It is an interesting dynamic. There is extreme focus on the present. There is trying to find a way to win the next game. How to get a certain player to make the next step in his development. And of course, there is always an eye to the future, as recruiting season seemingly never ends.
Such is the case for Badgers head man Gary Andersen, as he and his staff conclude their first season together in Madison.
On the field, this was a good team. Yes, there were missed opportunities. In each of the four losses, players, coaches and fans can go crazy playing the game of "coulda, shoulda." Clearly, that was the case in this week's Capital One Bowl setback to South Carolina. A key penalty. A missed fourth and short. Not getting a stop when momentum was on your side. The kind of mistakes that will haunt you against a top-flight opponent.
The result hurts, but the time to move on comes quickly.
"It's going to be good to take a big, deep breath and get back and get started again," Andersen said.
That is not to say the senior class -- or this team general -- will be forgotten anytime soon.
On his radio show two days before the bowl game, I asked the UW coach whether the job has been everything he had imagined. His answer is what any Badgers fan would hope to hear.
"These kids on this team have made me a better person," he said. "I feel like I am a better coach because I was able to be around them.
"It is a tremendous community. Hopefully we will be able to keep this coaching staff together and recruit like crazy because we have a good foundation built. We are blessed and lucky to be here every day, and we are excited about the future."
In about one month, the Badgers will introduce another recruiting class. With such a big senior class moving on, there will be some interesting position battles, and perhaps some of the newbies will be in the mix.
It will be fun to track the progress of young returning players such as Corey Clement, Sojourn Shelton and Leon Jacobs, as well as redshirts Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, just to name a few.
Next season starts quickly, as in nearly right away. Soon enough, the team will begin its winter conditioning. Who will make up the next group of leaders? When asked that question on Monday, Chris Borland suggested defensive lineman Warren Herring and linebacker Derek Landisch could be a couple of strong candidates.
Andersen talked about how those players who used to sit in the third and fourth rows at team meetings would now move to the front of the room. It is their time, be they seniors or other veteran players, to make the 2014 Badgers their team.
On a personal note, and I believe I speak for many, I want to thank the seniors for giving fans many terrific memories, both on the field and in the community. This is a group that defines what is good about college athletics. Maybe I have said much the same about previous groups. If so, I take great pleasure in being redundant.
Perhaps part of what has Andersen excited about the future is that the program seems to be loaded with young men who understand the Wisconsin formula -- being the right athletic, academic and social fit.
My guess is the returning Badgers have learned a lot from the Class of 2013. The time to put those lessons to use has arrived.
The first quarter of the 2014 season is about to begin.
Happy Bowl Season!
Fortunately, Badgers fans have been able to say such a thing for 12 straight years. That is correct. Next week the Wisconsin Badgers will play in a bowl game for the 12th-consecutive season, extending what is already the longest active streak in the Big Ten Conference.
I would hope players and fans appreciate that little nugget. I would guess there are a ton of schools across the country who would love to be in Wisconsin's position.
This figures to be a very entertaining matchup. South Carolina, under the direction of Steve Spurrier, ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, which began with a dramatic come-from-behind overtime victory at Missouri. It concluded with a 31-17 win against in-state rival Clemson.
To say the least, that makes for an impressive resumé.
Spurrier, who many refer to as the "Head Ball Coach," will be coaching his 300th college game.
Wisconsin's "Ball Coach," Gary Andersen, will be on the sideline for his 74th college tilt.
Beyond the obvious issue of overall talent, there are a few other factors in a bowl game that can give one team an edge on the other.
How does a team handle the four-week gap between games? Can it peak at the right time?
Is a team motivated? Will a star player go all out, or will he protect himself for the NFL draft?
My guess is both teams will be highly motivated.
South Carolina is trying to win 11 games for the third straight season. The Gamecocks program has never had such a streak.
Wisconsin is looking for its fourth 10-win season in the last five years, while the seniors are shooting for their 40th victory. If they can pull it off, it would match the school record set by the classes of 2007 and 2012.
South Carolina has an FBS low of five seniors on the roster, but a notable underclassman took part in the team's Senior Day ceremony. That man would be Jadeveon Clowney, a player many believe will be at -- or very near -- the top of the draft board this spring.
While some might wonder what Clowney has to gain in Orlando, the Badgers are expecting the star defensive lineman will be eager to leave a lasting final impression to NFL scouts and general managers.
As for the Badgers, there are a number of seniors who have had terrific seasons, but a standout performance on New Year's Day could improve their stock even more.
Sometimes, coaches and others refer to these contests as "Contract Games" or "Money Games."
While I am not a scout, and have no interest playing one in this forum, I have to believe a good game on a stage such as this would get the attention of the NFL folks.
Finally, the Badgers, especially the seniors, dearly want to end their college careers on a winning note. This group has turned in some amazing work. Three straight Rose Bowls, a stellar home record and an unbeaten mark against rivals Iowa and Minnesota are good places to start.
But they want a bowl victory, something this program has not enjoyed since 2009.
There is no doubt the Badgers will have to earn it. South Carolina is top-10 good, and has been for the last three seasons.
Hoisting a trophy at the end of this game would be a sweet conclusion to what already has been a very good season.
OK, I thought the Wisconsin men's basketball team had a chance to be good, but I will admit that the team's 12-0 start has me a bit surprised.
The victory last Saturday against Eastern Kentucky established the school's modern-era record, previously held by Stu Jackson's Badgers of the 1993-94 season. That group, led by players such as Michael Finley, Tracy Webster and Rashard Griffith, rolled through its first 11 games, breaking the 100-point mark four times.
Actually, the Badgers opened with consecutive games in triple digits. They started with a 106-84 thumping of Milwaukee. That was some payback for the Panthers beating Wisconsin the year before at the UW Field House.
Game two was in Los Angeles, where the Badgers rolled Loyola Marymount 103-67. That was the same evening as the Wisconsin-Michigan State football game in Tokyo. Maybe you remember -- there was a Rose Bowl bid at stake for Barry Alvarez's squad.
As the second half of the hoops tilt was progressing, even Stu wanted updates from Japan, so we helped him as best we could. It turned out to be a very good night for Badgers fans.
As impressive as the streak was 20 years ago -- and remember that team ended a 47-year NCAA tournament drought -- to me this season's start is even better.
Bo Ryan's bunch has navigated a very challenging schedule. Right away the Badgers faced St. John's, Florida and Green Bay. The Cancun Challenge was just that, as St. Louis and West Virginia provided stiff competition.
To say the least, the Virginia game was a grinder, and the annual battle with Marquette is never easy.
But, so far, the Badgers are unbeaten, and they have accomplished their record in a variety of ways.
While they are averaging just two more possessions per game than last season, it sure seems as though the Badgers are playing faster. Perhaps that is because the ball is going through the basket at a much better clip. Last year's team shot just 42 percent from the floor. The present squad is hitting 47 percent of its shots.
A major difference is at the free throw line. A staple of many of Bo Ryan's best teams -- at Wisconsin, Platteville or anywhere else -- is the ability to make more free throws than their opponents attempt.
At the 12-game mark, the Badgers have knocked down 196 throws, while opponents have ATTEMPTED just 166.
Last year's team shot just 63 percent from the foul line. It's at nearly 74 percent so far this season.
As Bo often says, it is amazing how good an offense looks when the shots are going down.
To this point in the season, the Badgers have been terrific at sharing the ball. The scoring balance is impressive. True freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have proven they belong on the floor.
Frank Kaminsky has to be one of the nation's most improved players, and the return of Josh Gasser has helped in areas that will not show up in a box score.
The fact is every player has had a significant role, including those who are redshirting. To say the least, they have made for some very competitive practices.
I have been throwing out a lot of compliments so far, but I think the best part of this team is that it knows it can continue to get better.
Talent, work ethic and the willingness to keep learning. That is a good combination, and it is making the Badgers a very enjoyable team to watch.
It makes fans very eager for the games to resume on Dec. 28.
Unlike college football, where the coaches and Harris polls carry a ton of weight, the national polls in college hoops can help generate conversation and add hype to any number of games. Beyond that, the polls have little if anything to do with positioning teams for post season play.
But if you are a Badgers fan, it still is fun to see your team ranked sixth in this week's USA Today Coaches Poll and fourth in the Associated Press Top 25.
The team is off to its best start since Stu Jackson's squad began the 1993-94 season with 11 straight wins. What makes this year's effort even more impressive is the schedule it has had to navigate. Wisconsin started the week with five wins against teams ranked in the RPI top 50. No other team had more than two against that caliber of competition.
Yes, it is enjoyable to talk about the Badgers' current status in the polls. Head coach Bo Ryan gets it, but he will not get caught up in it. Never has. Never will.
"I don't pay attention to them (ratings), but I know other people do," said Ryan. "I think some people pay attention to them to a fault.
"I have always been honest with people. If you were to ask me today who is ranked where -- who is in front of us, who is behind us -- I could not tell you."
While some might find that difficult to believe, Ryan is nothing if not consistent. I remember many years ago asking him about his team being in the top 25. He said he had no idea where the Badgers were ranked. His focus is on helping his team get better and preparing for the next game.
Maybe that sounds boring. Then again, his teams win most of the time, and what is so boring about that?
Another thing to consider. When Ryan was leading UW-Platteville to title after title, the Pioneers were ranked No. 1 or No. 2 or a regular basis.
"If we have that number on our ranking, they (the opponents) wanna get us. So shhhhhh -- keep the ratings down," said the smiling head coach.
The Badgers' better-than-many-expected start included a milestone win for Ryan last Wednesday at Virginia. It was the 300th at Wisconsin for the 13th-year UW mentor. He became the ninth coach in conference history to hit that number at a Big Ten institution. The short list includes legends such as Bob Knight, Gene Keady, Tom Izzo and Lou Henson.
Many of Ryan's old friends and former teammates from Chester, Pa., and Wilkes College were in attendance for Wisconsin's hard-fought victory to get the coach into the "300 Club." It was good timing for such a gathering.
"I think the most important thing about that number is to think of all the players and all the people involved," he said.
"I think of the young men, the commitments they have made. How dedicated they were to getting in shape, doing the hills, doing all the work in the weight room. And all the coaches and the personnel that surround the basketball program. That makes the number."
The good news for the Badgers and their fans is the number continues to climb. In the meantime, while the head man appreciates all of those games where his team ended up on the "left hand side," he continues to focus on "next."
It is interesting how quickly a team's perception can change based on one bad game.
Interesting, and at times inaccurate.
For weeks, as the Badgers football team was rolling along, more and more national observers were talking about how Gary Andersen's squad was underrated. The Arizona State game was incomplete.
With the Badgers on the brink of the top 14 in the BCS standings, at least some media members were projecting Wisconsin to play in the Orange Bowl.
Then last Saturday happened.
Suddenly, at least for some, the image has changed. Be it a talk show host or a national columnist or two, much of the love for the Badgers has faded.
So goes life in the Big Ten. This week the debate continues whether Ohio State is worthy of its No. 2 ranking. Yes it is undefeated, but critics point to its poor non-conference schedule and a league that remains viewed as weak.
Suddenly, the Buckeyes' win against Wisconsin loses some juice. How can OSU be ranked ahead of a one-loss SEC team? On and on it goes.
While Penn State deserves a ton of credit for coming to Camp Randall and dumping a bucket of cold water on the Badgers' Senior Day, let us not forget that UW has had a very good season.
Yes, the loss to the Nittany Lions will cost Wisconsin a chance at a BCS at-large bid, but take a look at the other two setbacks. We know what is on the line for Ohio State, but it is worth mentioning that Arizona State will be hosting the Pac-12 title game this weekend against Stanford.
While the officials botched the ending of the UW-ASU game in Tempe, it is worth noting that the Sun Devils are having a terrific season, and they are one win away from playing in the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1997.
To me, what is happening here is the classic case of an old saying: You are never as good as people say you are, nor are you ever as bad.
Was I surprised at last weekend's outcome? Yes, very much so. The Badgers defense had been in shutdown mode for several weeks, while the offense was taking care of its business. Penn State had just lost on its Senior Day and had yet to win a road game in the Big Ten.
The script called for another convincing victory for the home team, but PSU played one of its best games of the season, while the Badgers played their worst.
Sometimes it is just that simple. It can happen in any sport at any level. In this case it stinks, but it is reality.
As someone who has lived in Big Ten Country his entire life, I will admit to being sick and tired of the verbal pounding this league has had to absorb.
There is one sure way to stop it. Win the big bowl games.
I can tell you how I believe the Big Ten is better than many believe. I really do believe that. However, the image can only change through better postseason results.
Assuming the Badgers are headed for either Orlando or Tampa, they will play a highly-regarded SEC team. Ohio State and Michigan State will be in big-stage bowl games -- for OSU, maybe the biggest of them all.
Win those games, and the perception will begin to change.
To this observer, the Big Ten is improving. Hopefully in the next few weeks this conference will make a loud statement that can be heard nationwide.
Other than to say it has been warm and humid here in Mexico this week, I will avoid any further weather details as Bo Ryan's basketball team as it makes its way back home after playing in the Cancun Challenge.
Tropical conditions aside, the competition continues to be serious for the Badgers, with more of the same on the horizon next week. After returning to Madison, the Badgers will hit the road next Wednesday to play Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Three days later, Marquette comes to the Kohl Center.
Not exactly Cupcake City for this group.
I have to say I am eager to get home -- cold weather and all -- as the Badgers football team prepares for its home finale against Penn State.
While there will be no Big Ten championship game for this year's team, there is much at stake this Saturday. The Badgers are vying to go unbeaten at home for the third time in four years. A 10th win would make it four years out of five that Wisconsin has hit double digits in victories. The seniors are looking for a 24th conference win, which would be the most in a four-year span.
Talk about consistency. That defines this senior class. A low-maintenance group that wins and wins the right way. Good students. Leaders on the field. Leaders in the community.
Not a bad way to represent your university.
As always, emotions will run high before, during and after Saturday's game. It is always interesting to talk to players before that last home appearance. They realize the clock is ticking, but you get the impression some of them would love to call a timeout.
"I don't really want to think about it," said linebacker Ethan Armstrong. "I'm still in the denial stage. Maybe I will figure out a way to have one more year."
Like many on this team, it has been a wild ride for Armstrong, who has battled through numerous injuries to carve out an excellent college career. Not that he has taken a ton of time to think about it.
"I'll probably appreciate it when I'm old, fat and retired," Armstrong said with a smile.
Coming off one of the coldest games in Wisconsin football history, there is at least one player who is rooting for Old Man Winter to make another appearance.
"I've been telling guys that I would be happy if it snowed for our last game," said Conor O'Neill of Delray Beach, Fla. Yeah, that is correct -- a Florida native wants snow this Saturday.
"I think it would be fitting for our senior class. We haven't played in a real snow game."
For the record, the last time I can remember a measureable snowfall for UW football was the 1994 spring game. The players started having snowball fights during the game. But let Conor have his dream, OK?
Snow or no snow. Bitter cold or relatively mild, it is another huge game for the Badgers. Senior Day alone makes it big, but with the home team still jockeying for position in the BCS standings, it is one more chance to make an impression on the voters.
Those folks should be impressed with what they have seen the last two months. It is a hungry team that is winning in dominant fashion.
"It starts with the guys in the locker room," said Armstrong. "They expect to be great, and they demand that of themselves and of this team. The coaching staff does as well. Of themselves and of this team."
Quarterback Curt Phillips agrees. He has appeared in just two games this season, but Phillips is as respected as anyone in the program. And he has nothing but respect for what he has seen in the last year.
"Coach Andersen and his staff, and the spark they provided," Phillips said. "Coach Alvarez holding down the fort with everything he did last year to coach us in the Rose Bowl. It is special."
So is this senior class. Winners in every way. I look forward to seeing them play in front of the home crowd one more time.
OK, how many of you had Wisconsin holding Indiana to 3 points last Saturday? I would guess very few, if any, expected such a shutdown performance. After all, going into the weekend, the Hoosiers had scored at least 28 points in 10 straight games.
So much for that streak.
Through ten games this season, Wisconsin has held half of its opponents without a touchdown. No matter the era, that is an impressive stat. In this day of spread-you-out, fast football, keeping five opponents out of the end zone is borderline mind-boggling.
As the Badgers get ready to face Minnesota in the annual Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, they know another big-boy effort is needed in all phases.
On multiple occasions, I have written and talked about the rivalry, and how much fun it is to watch every year. This time around is even better. Why? Because the Gophers are good, and the stakes are high for both programs.
While the Badgers continue a slow climb up the BCS standings (UW is 19th this week), Minnesota checks in at No. 25. Both teams are 8-2, and both teams are rolling. The Gophers have won four straight, while the Badgers have won five in a row.
Rivalry aside, how can you not appreciate what the Gophers are accomplishing as head coach Jerry Kill works to get his health back in order? There can be very little argument that to this point in the season, Minnesota has been the league's most pleasant surprise.
While not such a surprise, the Badgers deserve a ton of credit themselves. They have managed to overcome two tough losses in September. Since then, they have done nothing but win in convincing fashion. The Badgers are playing as well as anyone in the Big Ten, and to date, continue to state a case -- on the field, and not through the media -- why they should be ranked higher than 19th.
By the way, if you are going to TCF Bank Stadium, bundle up. The forecast for this Saturday calls for a game-time temperature of about 20 degrees, which would be in the top five -- or perhaps bottom five -- coldest temps at kickoff in UW football history.
* * * *
Part of what makes watching sports so enjoyable is we never know for sure what is going to happen. In the last week, Badgers football and basketball fans have witnessed history.
First, it was James White's 93-yard touchdown run against Indiana. It is the longest run from scrimmage in program history.
Tuesday night at the Kohl Center, Frank Kaminsky's 43 point effort against North Dakota set a UW single game record. Talk about efficiency -- Kaminsky needed just 19 shots. He made 16, including for 6-for-6 from 3-point range.
North Dakota's Troy Huff wasn't too bad, either. The former Brookfield Central standout dropped in 37 points. Both Huff and Kaminsky did their damage in just 28 minutes of playing time.
It was an entertaining night in what has been a fun start for Bo Ryan's team. An early-season storyline of different players stepping up is continuing. Kaminsky's historic night followed his critical contributions in the three-point victory against the Phoenix, when he scored 16 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots.
In the last two games, Bronson Koenig 's minutes have picked up, and he is playing well. At Green Bay, Koenig scored seven points and, on Tuesday, added five more.
Yes, this group wants to be better defensively, but the Badgers have faced good teams and some special individual players. So far, so good as Wisconsin's busy stretch of non-conference games continues.
While the Badgers slowly move up in the BCS rankings, coach Gary Andersen continues to stay above the fray. It is only natural for fans to be concerned, if not angry, at the lack of movement, but do not expect Andersen to publically campaign for more love from those who vote in the coaches and Harris polls.
"Not my style, not my deal," said the Badgers boss during this week's Big Ten coaches teleconference.
Different strokes for different folks. Andersen is extremely consistent in his stance. I asked him that very question a few weeks ago, and his answer was the same.
Maybe stating his team's case is unnecessary. A number of neutral observers, including ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit, continue to praise the 7-2 Badgers. Maybe it will make little if any difference, but it never hurts to have a national pundit remind fans and voters that one of those losses will always remain questionable (I'm being as nice as possible here), while the other setback was a one-score game at Ohio State.
If nothing else, it is refreshing to hear Herbstreit and colleague Rece Davis suggest that maybe the Big Ten Conference is better than advertised. Unbeaten Ohio State still needs help, but it is very much in the mix for a shot at the national title. Michigan State plays shutdown defense, and to this point is proving to be a very strong team.
Meanwhile, the Badgers are playing some of their best football. In addition to a high-powered offense, they also have one of the country's top defenses. That defensive group proved it again last week by slowing down a red-hot BYU offense for most of the day.
Another challenge is waiting this Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. While Indiana has had a world of trouble trying to stop people, the IU offense is one of the best you will see. It is another team that pushes the pace -- to the tune of running a play every 19.3 seconds -- very much like BYU.
Even if fleet-footed running back Tevin Coleman is unable to go because of an ankle injury, the Hoosiers offense is loaded. Fellow RB Stephen Houston averages 7.3 yards per carry, and there are five players with 1,000-plus career receiving yards. It is the first time in league history that five receivers with those stats have played together.
Knowing that, it probably makes sense that Andersen and his team remain focused on preparing for a game, and not on stumping for votes.
* * * *
It was a fun atmosphere Tuesday night for the Badgers basketball team's home opener against Florida. After Wisconsin's 59-53 victory against the Gators, I suggested to one of the players that, with the schedule they have to open the season, it is like jumping into the deep end of the pool.
"But we are swimming," the player responded.
The season has just started, but it is encouraging to watch this young group pick off a couple of wins against good teams. Last Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D., Duje Dukan played well off the bench. Tuesday evening, freshman Nigel Hayes gave his team a lift. There has been good scoring balance, and when big shots are needed, the Badgers have made them.
It is way too early to draw any conclusions, but for a team with so many new faces, getting through the first two games is encouraging. Now they head to Green Bay for a Saturday night matchup against the Phoenix, a preseason favorite to win the Horizon League.
Bo Ryan's group will remain in the deep water, but it hopes to keep swimming as a busy month of November continues.