The first week of the Big(11)Ten season is in the books and has confirmed for me that the Wisconsin Badger football team is pretty much who I thought they were.  Not too good, probably not too bad, but certainly not good enough to beat Ohio State and Iowa.  It’s difficult to believe that the Badgers are the 11th ranked team in the country when there are at least 3 better in their own conference.  Despite last week’s scoring record picnic over an overmatched Austin Peay team, I’ve seen no evidence so far this season that Wisconsin is any better than they showed themselves to be in yesterday’s 34-24 loss at Michigan State.

As poorly as the Badgers played, it’s amazing they still had opportunities to stay in the game, not that they took advantage of them.  Though they only had 5 penalties, they seemed to come at the worst times.  MSU had a 12+ minute advantage in time of possession, which is a killer to a team that’s built like the Badgers.  Wisconsin’s defense got pushed off the ball from the start, giving up 444 total yards to the Spartans including 175 on the ground.  About the only defender who had a decent game was end J.J. Watt, who did manage to put a little pressure on MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins.  But the linebackers were practically nonexistent and, at one point in the second half, MSU was 9 of 11 on third down conversions.  The Badgers didn’t even force them to punt until their were only 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.

Wisconsin’s offense wasn’t any better.  Wide receiver Nick Toon dropped two passes in the first half and then complained after the game about not getting enough opportunities.  I didn’t even realize that David Gilreath was available for the game until well into the second half, which tells you all you need to know about his contribution.  Isaac Anderson had one key drop of his own and John (Feet of) Clay seemed to be running in mud much of the time despite his 80 yards.  And the Badgers were unable to get tight end Lance Kendrick involved in the offense.  The only bright spot on offense was the play of freshman James White, who carried the ball 10 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns.  It’s becoming increasingly obvious that White is now the Badgers best tailback and should be starting before too long.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Wisconsin reprised the special teams play it displayed against Arizona State, giving up yet another punt return for a touchdown.  Wisconsin’s special teams ‘coaching by committee’ approach doesn’t seem to be working.

The Badgers should be better next week against a Minnesota Golden Gophers team that is truly pathetic, though they gave Northwestern all they could handle yesterday.  But, until Wisconsin puts together a solid performance against a worthy opponent, I’m not buying in.

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Speaking of teams facing weak opponents after a poor performance, the Green Bay Packers face the 0-3 Detroit Lions today at Lambeau Field.  Packer fans have had almost a week to get off the ledge after last Monday night’s debacle in Chicago.  For the record, I take full responsibility for that loss by picking the Packers in that game for PD Prognosticators.  My enthusiasm got the best of me and I should know better by now.

I think it’s funny that so many people who had the Packers already penciled in for the Super Bowl are now ready to write them off after one bad game.  Many are now examining head coach Mike McCarthy’s ability to lead his team; taking him to task for his ill-fated replay challenge on WR James Jones’ fumble and for not instructing his defense to let the Bears score to save time for their last possession.  I understand the principle involved but I don’t like the message that’s sending to the defense.  Yes, McCarthy made some questionable decisions but it remains up to his players to perform.  To point to one thing in a game where so many went wrong is problematic.  If there was a final turning point, it was Jones’ fumble.  If he holds onto the ball, there is no question in my mind that the Packers would have gone on to score and eventually won that game, eliminating the need for the challenge or the end-game strategy decision.

People who have declared that the Pack’s Super Bowl chances are on life support are as premature as the Chicago fans who have already awarded the NFC North to the Bears.

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The Milwaukee Brewers play their final game of a disappointing season today at Cincinnati.  It’s a foregone conclusion that manager Ken Macha will not be back but it’ll be interesting to see if his replacement will retain pitching coach Rick Peterson.  The Brewers front office seems committed to Peterson’s program so I expect he will have a role in the organization even if the new manager hires his own pitching coach.

Rookie right hander Mark Rogers may have put himself into contention for a spot in next year’s rotation with a solid performance in his second start this past week.  I still believe that Rogers needs at least one year of seasoning in Triple-A ball but the Brewers’ pitching situation may not allow for that.

One other thing that needs to happen before next season is the signing of second baseman Rickie Weeks to a contract extension.  Weeks finally proved what he could accomplish when he’s able to stay in the lineup and locking him up would be the final piece to their everyday lineup.  With the anticipated departure of first baseman Prince Fielder, I would also suggest dropping Weeks and leftfielder Ryan Braun to 3rd and 4th in the batting order.  Of course, that would be predicated on the Brewers finally finding a true leadoff hitter.

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The Milwaukee Bucks opened their training camp this past week. While the Bucks have a lot of new pieces to fit into place, I’m encouraged by the direction they’re taking.  A also liked what I heard from two of their new acquisitions:

6’7″ Swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts:    “I really take pride in the man I’m defending. I hate if a guy scores on me.”

6’10″ Forward Drew Gooden:  “I think my scoring days will be over with. My goal is to get more rebounds than points right now.”

Attitudes like that will greatly help the Bucks take the next step in their development.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  Stories out of Green Bay this week reported that Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins is upset that the team hasn’t broached the subject of a contract extension with him as they have with others like Charles Woodson and Donald Driver.  The guess here is that he’ll continue to be disappointed.  The fact that he is pushing 30 at a position where players routinely wear down coupled with his injury history suggest to me that the team will go in another direction when the time comes……….The NFL will almost have to fine safety Nick Collins for his altercation with a Bears’ fan following Monday night’s game but it should be a small one just to reinforce that players shouldn’t be getting into it with fans.  But a suspension should not even be under consideration given the circumstances………..The Brewers have to be encouraged that centerfielder Lorenzo Cain appears to have come out of his batting slump.  Cain should be firmly in their outfield plans for next season………..Frank Zombo has apparently taken the Packers’ right outside linebacker’s spot away from erstwhile starter Brad Jones.  McCarthy stressed the importance of availability in consideration of the oft-injured Jones in making the change.  I’ve thought all along that Jones has been regarded as better than he is largely because he exceeded expections.  Hopefully, Zombo can live up to the ones held out for him………..At least the U.S. Ryder Cup team jettisoned the lavender sweaters for Sunday’s round of play in Wales.  Along with the “rain suit disaster”, the U.S. team has already lost the fashion portion of the competition.  Let’s hope they play better in powder blue and red.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the rest of the weekend.  GO PACK!!!

 

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