The University of Wisconsin football team came into the 2010 season with high expectations and it’s easy to understand why.  They were coming off an impressive win over the Miami Hurricanes in last year’s Champs Sports Bowl and were returning with most of their key starters.  Many were expecting them to challenge for a Big(11)Ten title this season along with a Rose Bowl berth and some poor misguided souls even suggested the possibility of a National Championship.   I can’t say that I ever bought into any of that hype, but I did fully expect Wisconsin to at least compete with the likes of Iowa and Penn St. for second place in the conference behind the Ohio State University.

After yesterday’s squeaker over Arizona State at Camp Randall, even the most ardent Badger fan has to consider that this team has been oversold.  The game is being portrayed in the local media as a gutty triumph over adversity but I don’t recall ever being more frustrated after a Badger win .

It was easy to dismiss Wisconsin’s performance in its first two games as the product of an undermotivated team playing against lesser competition.  But yesterday’s game against the Sun Devils was supposed to be the Badgers first test against a legitimate opponent.  And if that’s the case, then it’s one that the Badgers failed miserably.

Wisconsin came into this game as a two touchdown favorite and left it by the skin of their teeth.  It remains to be seen how well ASU will fare in the Pac-10 but the odds are at least a reflection of how well they are regarded.  Yes, the Badgers made some key plays to eke out the win but it could be just as easily argued that the Sun Devils shot themselves in the foot.  What may have been even more disturbing is how supposedly undersized ASU matched up with Wisconsin physically. 

Of course, Badger fans have seen this kind of thing before.  Even dating back to the Barry Alvarez era, Wisconsin had its best seasons when they were least expected to.  Conversely, when the bar was set high as it was this year, the Badgers have usually fallen short of those hopes.  Perhaps the most disappointing thing is that we were assured by head coach Bret Bielema that this team was mature enough that it wouldn’t fall prey to that underachieving tradition.

Conference play has yet to begin and there is still plenty of time to right their course.  But the injuries are piling up (LB Chris Borland is contemplating a redshirt year; a serious blow to the defense) and this much is clear:  if Wisconsin carries its current level of play into the Big(11)Ten schedule, it’s going to be a long and ultimately unsatisfying year for the Badger faithful.

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The Green Bay Packers’ offense will line up today without starting running back Ryan Grant for the first time in about 4 years.  Grant’s season ended with a serious ankle injury last week in Philadelphia and his loss prompted an impassioned debate in Packer Nation.

The question is whether the Packers have enough remaining at the position with backups Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn to get through the season.  Many fans were nervous at the end of training camp that General Manager Ted Thompson elected to go with only two true tailbacks on the roster and Grant’s absence has served to highten those concerns. 

There was also much speculation in the media this week about the Packers exploring a trade for the Buffalo’s Marshawn Lynch.  Lynch is listed at #3 on the Bills’ depth chart behind first round draft pick C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and Thompson was reportedly high on him coming out of college.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers even gave his endorsement to the idea of acquiring Lynch when asked about it earlier this week, though I suspect his approval was as much about ‘propping’ a fellow Cal alum as it was about any misgivings he might have about his current teammates.  Thompson, never one to panic or overreact when it comes to making roster decisions, did sign running back Dimitri Nance off the Atlanta Falcons practice squad but for now the job is Brandon Jackson’s to lose.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that Jackson deserves a chance to show what he can do.  He held the job as a rookie before an injury opened up an opportunity for Grant to establish himself as the starter.  Jackson and Kuhn may not be spectacular in their roles but in this offense they shouldn’t need to be.  Jackson acquitted himself well last week after Grant went down, gaining 63 yards on 18 carries against a tough Philly defense.  One of the funniest things I heard this last week was that “B-Jax” was stopped at the line most of the time and gained most of his yardage on only a few plays.  That pretty much describes every running back in the NFL.  Even Barry Sanders got stuffed in the backfield a lot when he wasn’t breaking off long runs.  I’m not suggesting Jackson has anywhere near that ability but the principle is the same.  All they really require of him and Kuhn is that they help move the chains. 

To be fair, Jackson is now a different player than the rookie who started the season 4 years ago.   The fact of the matter is that no one really knows what Jackson can accomplish until he gets the opportunity to line up on every snap.  The Packers options would appear to be limited but, with upcoming games against the Bills and the Chicago Bears, there’s no better time to find out.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  I wonder who suffered the bigger loss when Virginia Tech fell last week to James Madison.  The Hokies or Boise St.?……….It will be interesting to see if the Packers can continue their special teams’ competence today against Buffalo.  The Bills should provide a good test as they normally fare well in that area of the game………..How did the Michigan Wolverines suddenly become ranked 20th after beating two nondescript opponents?……….UW freshman wide receiver Jared Abbrederis puts me in mind of former Badger wideout Luke Swan.  Hopefully, he can have just as solid a career in Madison………..Speaking of former UW WRs, I’d like to see the Bills’ Lee Evans go to a team that can better utilize his talents.  It’s unfortunate to see him wasting away in Buffalo………..Count me among those interested to see how QB Michael Vick plays against Detroit this week.  The Lions’ defense held up pretty well in Chicago last week; my prediction is Vick won’t be viewed as a savior in Philly after today………..Is it just me?  Or does Clay Matthews look like ‘Riff-Raff’ from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’?……….Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Mark Rogers is scheduled to get a start later this week.  Even after all his arm problems, he still throws 95-96 mph.  It’d be nice for the Crew to finally realize something on that investment………..I suspect the Brewers will eventually regret passing on the White Sox offer of pitcher Daniel Hudson for first baseman Prince Fielder.  Hudson has been solid since coming over to the National League with the Diamondbacks and I doubt the Brewers will get anything better in return for Fielder in the offseason………..I’m on the fence about the Yankees’ Derek Jeter faking an injury to get on base against the Rays in a game this week.  If the umps ruled that he was hit that’s on them but calling the trainer out of the dugout is a bit over the top. 

If anyone’s interested, I’ll be at Lambeau today with PD guru Wally Pingel; Sec. 103, Row 53.  Stop by and say ‘hi’.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend and “Go, Pack!”

 

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  • http://greenbaypackernation.com John Rehor

    Clay Matthews as Riff-Raff-I would pay money to see him get up and perform Time Warp.

    Enjoy the game! GO PACK GO!

  • http://www.retaggr.com/page/crichar3 Chris

    UW is a fringe Top 25 team…at best. I realize they are just three games in, but I haven’t seen the improvement from game to game that is supposed to happen early in the season. And with the mounting injuries, I don’t see things getting better.

    On the other hand, they are 3-0 and should be able to find four more wins in their schedule, giving me a bowl game to care about. While that is not what I hoped for this season, I will take it — I remember too many seasons that were lost by October to bitch too hard about an oversold team like this one.

  • Jon

    The Badgers are not Top 10 material,but I am also not nearly as pessimistic as the Snake Man. No Borland is big trouble for UW and exposes are very average secondary. Nevertheless, there are enough playmakers in the front seven to keep UW competitive against everyone on their schedule. Offensively, not having Toon play is huge…he is a great complement to Clay and Kendricks. Tolzein played better and if he will remember that he does not have a Favre-like arm capable of throwing the ball into miniscule windows he will be fine. The offensive line needs to play better. UW looked strongest last year when Travis Frederick played…by taking a redshirt this year it will help the team long term but removes a blocker more explosive than Moffitt and Nagy from the equation. Despite the criticism, Josh Oglesby is better than Ricky Wagner and needs to play when healthy. The special teams? Ugh. Just kick the ball out of bounds and lets play ball at the 40. The Austin Peay game falls at a nice place to get things ready for MSU.

  • Rich Ward

    “But yesterday’s game against the Sun Devils was supposed to be the Badgers first test against a legitimate opponent. And if that’s the case, then it’s one that the Badgers failed miserably.”

    …If it’s possible to fail miserably in a win, absolutely right. So hard to watch. I kept thinking, “OKAY stick the knife in already.”

    4 blocks from Lambeau? bitter-close-to-violent-jealous envy boiling up within. Jk.