Editor’s Note: SMM is late today due to computer problems.  We apologize for the delay.

WOW!  I sure didn’t see this one coming.

Despite the lofty expectations coming into the season for the Wisconsin Badgers football team, there was nothing in their performance so far this year to suggest that Bucky was capable of knocking off the top ranked team in the country.  Normally, the cynic in me would point out that THE Ohio State University was a less than worthy number one but a win like this comes without caveats (although I guess I just did-sorry, can’t help myself).

Wisconsin’s offensive line came into the game with something to prove after struggling against OSU last year and prove it they did.  UW controlled the first half behind the running of John Clay, who became the first back in 29 games to rush for 100 yards against the Buckeyes.  Clay threw in two touchdowns to boot.  In the second half it was speedy freshman tailback James White, who added 75 yards on 17 carries, that helped seal the victory with a touchdown of his own after OSU had closed to make it a 3 point game at 21-18.  The duo impressed OSU coach Jim Tressel, who noted that “they’ve always got a good one-two punch at Wisconsin”; probably shuddering at his recall of the likes of Larry Emery and Joe Armentrout.

But Clay and White have performed all season.  The difference in this one was the other players who finally showed up for Wisconsin.  The students in the top section at Camp Randall who couldn’t even make it in the stadium on time for a 6 p.m. start missed dynamic David Gilreath setting the tone for the evening by taking the opening kickoff back 97 yards for a score.  You know it’s going to be a good night when the Badgers make a play on special teams.  Wide receiver Nick Toon, who has struggled most of the season catching the ball, led the Badgers with 72 yards and had a number of key receptions in the second half.  The dominance of the offensive line allowed quarterback Scott Tolzien to play to his efficient strengths.  In fact, the biggest surprise of the night was that tight end Lance Kendricks was a non-factor in the passing game.

For their part, the defense, led by end J.J. Watt kept enough pressure on Buckeye quarterback Terrelle Pryor to keep him from exploiting UW’s secondary.  In year’s past, Pryor has made plays toward the end of the game to defeat the Badgers.  This time, the defense forced Pryor into throwing a game sealing interception to linebacker Blake Sorenson.

The win revived Wisconsin’s hopes for a Big(11)Ten title and pretty much opened the conference up to a free for all.  Michigan St. remains undefeated in the conference but still must face Northwestern, Iowa and Penn St. while the Badgers will have to prove themselves again next week against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City.

For one day at least, the college football spotlight shone on Wisconsin and they responded.  As PD guru Wally Pingel reminded us on ‘Twitter’: ‘When you say WIS-CON-SIN- you’ve said it all’.

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It will be interesting to see if Green Bay Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy learned anything from watching the films of last week’s loss at Washington.  With his defense shorthanded due to numerous injuries and starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers recovering from a concussion, the logical course of action would be for the Packers to rely on the running game a bit more in today’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

No one expects the Packers to become a ‘grind it out’ team a la the Badgers, but when something is working why not exploit it?  McCarthy claims the running gameplan was limited when tight ends Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee were lost to injury against the Redskins, yet running backs Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn  averaged almost 5 yards a carry even without Jackson’s 71 yard breakaway.  The fact that they saw only 12 other carries between them is irresponsible and counterproductive.

Clearly, McCarthy has a predilection toward the passing game.  With the weapons at his disposal and the way the game is played in today’s NFL, that makes perfect sense.  But being too one dimensional is rarely a recipe for success.  Defenses in the league are simply too sophisticated for an offense to telegraph its intent.

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My man John Rehor over at GreenBayPackerNation.com is fond of saying that injuries are no excuse and, to an extent I agree with him.  Certainly, coaching staffs have to subscribe to a ‘next man up’ doctrine if they are to have any hope of fielding a competitive team. 

As a practical matter, however, the further you go down the depth chart, the more likely the level of play is going to suffer.  Starters are usually starters for a reason.  Teams are built to absorb a certain amount of attrition but when you start piling up multiple injuries at the same position it is inevitable that there is going to be a decrease in effectiveness.  That’s the problem the Packers now face on defense at every level.  

This week, linebacker Nick Barnett had season ending surgery on his wrist and all-everything LB Clay Matthews is unlikely to play today.  That presents opportunities for reserves like Desmond Bishop, who played very well last week, but also severely tests the Packers depth.  Throw in the injuries on the defensive line and in the secondary and coordinator Dom Capers will have to be very creative just to keep the Packers in the game.

I’m not yet giving up on the season but people may want to temper the high expectations they had for this team.  Coaches always want their players to focus on “one game at a time”.  In light of everything that has occurred to the team so far this season, Packer fans may want to adopt a similar philosophy.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  The Florida Gators have lost 3 games in a row for the first time since 1988.  Gee, that’s a shame, Urban.  That should make the folks around Gainesville real happy………..There must be a double standard in the NFL when it comes to protecting quarterbacks and it appears it doesn’t apply to Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.  But the league is more than happy to accept the fine money after the fact as Washington’s Jeremy Jarmon was hit for $5K for his helmet to helmet on Rodgers last week………..What has happened to punter Tim Masthay since training camp?  At least the Packers have the satisfaction of knowing the guy they let go wasn’t any better since camp rival Chris Bryan was just released by Tampa Bay………..Carson Palmer’s backup QB in Cincinnati is his younger brother Jordan.  Exactly how does that work?……….The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly had discussions with ESPN’s Bobby Valentine regarding their vacant managerial position.  If Ken Macha wasn’t a good fit in Milwaukee, it’s difficult to imagine that Valentine would be any better………..With Wisconsin’s victory over OSU, we’re one step closer to my dream of having Boise State win the ‘mythical’ national championship………..Vikings quarterback Brett Favre is officially listed as ‘questionable’ for today’s game.  If they lose today against Dallas, you’ll be able to characterize the direction of that franchise in the same way.

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

 

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