Now that is more like it!

The University of Wisconsin football team finally lived up to its #10 national ranking (USA Today Coaches Poll) on Saturday with a 70-3 demolition of visiting Austin Peay.  I haven’t seen a whipping this bad since my 7th grade basketball team got smoked by an opponent with 3 future all-staters on it (sorry, Governors).  The Badgers set a modern day scoring record in a game that threatened to send the Badgers’ Bucky mascot to the hospital by halftime for exhaustion from doing excessive push-ups.

Normally I would quibble that the performance came at the expense of a grossly overmatched adversary from the Football Championship Subdivision.  But after already seeing Wisconsin struggle against lesser competition in their first 3 games, such a claim would be beside the point.  While this game may not have made for compelling viewing, it provided a much needed confidence boost for the Badgers and their fans heading into Big(11)Ten play.  At the very least, it beats another week of scratching our heads trying to figure out where the team that we expected to see from UW has been.

The game served as a coming out party for running back James White.  The freshman from Florida averaged over 13 yards on his 11 carries en route to scoring 4 touchdowns and displayed his speed in getting to the outside.  Not to be overlooked was starter John Clay, who had his 10th consecutive 100 yard game and also scored.  Even fullback Bradie Ewing got into the act with the Badgers first touchdown on the ground and later another one receiving.  Other than that, the game was noteworthy mostly for backup quarterback Jon Budmayr’s display of poise and accuracy in his first ”real” action.  The only mystery was how the Badgers managed to find time to give up a field goal.

Now that this one is out of the way, we’ll see what the Badgers have left for next Saturday at Michigan State.  They will have to adjust quickly to the size and speed of a Big(11)Ten opponent.  After yesterday, at least there’s a reasonable expectation of seeing the Badger team that we anticipated all along. 

***********************************************************************************************

I’ll be heading down to Miller Park today to watch the final home game of the Milwaukee Brewers’ 2010 season.  It could also very well be the final home game in a Brewers’ uniform for first baseman Prince Fielder.

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that it will be all but impossible for the team to meet the financial demands that Fielder will be seeking in his upcoming free agency.  That makes it imperative that General Manager Doug Melvin find a way to move Fielder this offseason.  He is just too valuable an asset to risk losing for little to no compensation.

Ironically, Fielder’s biggest shortcoming was as a fielder but there is no denying his impact in the middle of the batting order.  Fielder’s power threat clearly made those around him better.  Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee certainly see better pitches to hit because of Fielder’s presence in the lineup.  The challenge for the all the Brewers hitters going forward will be to adjust to the different approach opposing pitchers will no doubt take in attacking a ‘Fielder-less’ lineup.

At the same time, Fielder’s departure provides an opportunity for the Brewers to revamp their offense.  It’s no secret that the Brewers are overly dependent on the home run, often to their detriment.  That is the major reason why they have been prone to slumps and losing streaks despite being fourth in the National League in runs scored.  With Fielder out of the way, it could supply the impetus to fashion a lineup based more on making consistent contact and manufacturing runs.

Of course, for that to work the Brewers will have to upgrade their defense and pitching, particularly the starting rotation.  Melvin already has a headstart on the former with the arrival of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, shortstop Alcides Escobar and centerfielder Lorenzo Cain.  Assuming those three continue to develop, the Brewers should be set ‘up the middle’ for the foreseeable future.  Melvin should also take steps to insure that whoever replaces Fielder at first will be a defensive upgrade.

Improving the pitching will be decidedly tougher.  Melvin tried and failed to improve the pitching staff last offseason; he’ll need to do better this year.  While he can be fairly criticised for signing 38 year old reliever LaTroy Hawkins to a two year contract, starters Randy Wolf and Doug Davis were about the best starters available to them on the free agent market last winter.  At least Wolf has pitched well enough in the second half of the season to suggest that he won’t be the bust that was Jeff Suppan and they can bid farewell to Davis without any ongoing financial consequence.  Wolf and Yovani Gallardo will head up the rotation again next year, but the rest of it is an open ended question.  Ideally, the Brewers would recoup at least one major league caliber starter in any trade of Fielder.  Then the last two spots would come from the pool of holdovers Chris Narveson, Chris Capuano and Dave Bush.  It would be nice if Manny Parra would ever come around but, at this point, it looks like his future will be in the bullpen if not elsewhere. 

The Brewers have gotten a glimpse of their future this September with the call-ups of hard throwing righthanders Mark Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress.  But those two still have to build up their arms and develop some consistency along with a third pitch to make them effective starters.  Realistically, though, you’d have to figure that they’re both at least a year or two away from making a positive contribution.

No matter what happens this offseason, the Brewers will look much different next March than they did this last April.  Considering how this season played out, that might be a very good thing.

***********************************************************************************************

It appears that the Green Bay Packers will be heading into Monday night’s NFC North division showdown in Chicago with their starting offensive line intact.  Both left tackle Chad Clifton and left guard Daryn Colledge missed time in practice with injuries this week with rookie Bryan Bulaga taking reps in their stead.  Clifton’s availability was of particular concern since he was replaced in last week’s game by Bulaga.  But reports out of practice Saturday indicated that both starters would be ready to go with Clifton allegedly moving much better in the coaches eyes than he did last Sunday.  It’s reassuring to know that the veteran will be able to play against the Bears’ premier end Julius Peppers and also that Bulaga is prepared to step in for either Clifton or Colledge if the need arises. 

All the people who were concerned about the Packers having Jordy Nelson return kickoffs don’t have much evidence to support that position after the first two games of the season.  Nelson is currently 5th in the NFL with a 31.0 yard kick return average and 3rd in total yardage with 217.  According to head coach Mike McCarthy, the team spent much of the offseason adjusting their return patterns to Nelson’s running style.  So far at least, the effort appears to be paying off.

***********************************************************************************************

RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  Saturday was apparently “Cupcake Day” in the Big(11)Ten.  In addition to the Badgers victory over Austin Peay, Ohio St. beat E. Michigan 73-20, Iowa defeated Ball St. 45-0,  Michigan routed Bowling Green 65-21 and Michigan St. beat N. Colorado 45-7………..The Golden State Warriors waited until just before training camp to dismiss coach Don Nelson.  Yeah, that sounds like a formula for success………..The Milwaukee Brewers are currently 10 games under .500 and they don’t have to look far to find them.  Milwaukee is 8-18 against Cincinnati and Chicago.  For years, the Cardinals were their NL Central nemesis; now the Reds appear to have taken over.  A bad sign when you consider that the Brewers open the 2011 season in Cincinnati………..How is it that Brewers’ manager Ken Macha keeps trotting Kameron Loe out to the mound but can’t find innings for future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman?……….In his post-game notes and quotes on JSOnline (  http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/sports/103798724.html ), Dave Heller cleverly notes that the Badgers are 1-0 under coach Bret Bielema when scoring 70 points.  Cute.  Heller also links to a data base detailing the top passing games in Badger history.  Ironically, only one of the top 9 performances resulted in a win: Jim Sorgi’s 380 yards against Michigan St. in 2003………..Packers DE Mike Neal, their 2nd round draft choice from Purdue, has yet to be active for a regular season game because of an injury to his side.  I know it’s early but I hope he’s not going to turn into another Justin Harrell………..Congrats to former Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux, whose Texas Rangers team just clinched a division title.  Too bad he couldn’t accomplish that feat in Milwaukee………….Interesting to note that, only 2 weeks into the NFL season, 6 teams have changed starting quarterbacks.  The best part is that, no matter how bad things get in Minnesota, the Vikings won’t be one of them.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the rest of the (suddenly fall) weekend.  Go Packers!

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Packers-Therapy/113896815298853?ref=sgm Chris

    I don’t think Harrell was ever the player that Neal seems to be. He showed more in pre-season that JH ever did. But while he might be a better player, it was be a real pisser if they both ended up as injury victims.

    My concern about Neal is that his injury might related to his workout habits, which are reportedly epic. Could this be a case of over-development that may lead to a lingering, prolonged recovery? I sure hope not. GB needs that guy on the field.

  • Jon

    I’m not wild about scheduling games against teams like Austin Peay, but this one was exactly what the doctor ordered. Jon Budmayr needed game minutes and he looked good. It also provided a chance to adjust to the absence of Chris Borland. Bring on the Spartans.