Rationalizing a Badger Win
I heard a lot of explanations on the airwaves this morning for how the Wisconsin Badgers were able to defeat the University of Miami 20-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl on Tuesday evening. Commentators, including ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge during the game broadcast, cited everything from the unseasonably cool weather in Orlando to the condition of a field that had hosted 4 high school championship games the previous week. What I didn’t hear, and what seems most evident to me, is that Wisconsin simply has a better football team than the “U”.
Most of the “expert” predictions I saw before the game had the Hurricanes handling the Badgers rather easily, with many trotting out the old stereotype of the fast team from the South running roughshod over the plodding team from the Big(11)Ten. Miami was the 15th ranked team in the country coming into this game. Led by dynamic quarterback Jacory Harris, the ‘Canes scored some impressive victories early on against a tough non-conference schedule. Number 25 Wisconsin, on the other hand, had yet to beat a ranked opponent all season. Given the problems the Badgers have had at times defending the passing game, it was not unreasonable to assume a Miami win.
But what I saw Tuesday night was a Wisconsin team that dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Badgers had Harris running for his life most of the evening and on offense mixed the solid running of tailbacks John Clay and Monte Ball with the timely passing of quarterback Scott Tolzien. Miami had no answer for the Badgers tight end tandem of Garrett Graham and Lance Kendricks. If the Hurricanes did, in fact, have a team speed advantage over Wisconsin, they were unable to exploit it for the most part.
The University of Miami may not be the college football juggernaut it was 20 years ago, but it’s certainly better than the Florida State team that laid a 48-13 beatdown on Wisconsin in the same bowl just a year ago to top off a disappointing 2008 campaign. That, to me, indicates a great deal of progress in one year.
Personally, I still have some reservations about head coach Bret Bielema’s ability to lead this program but give him and the Badgers their due. If the pundits expected Miami to roll over Wisconsin, they can’t disparage the Badgers just because the result wasn’t what they anticipated. And if Miami actually was affected by the weather or the field conditions, that’s just confirmation that Wisconsin is a much tougher football team. Give them the respect they’ve earned with this win.