The Wisconsin Badgers football team laid a record-setting beatdown on the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday at rainy Camp Randall stadium and later had to sweat it out as Penn State nearly put a damper (pun coincidental) on the day.

The 83 points that lit up the scoreboard on the Wisconsin side were a school record and tied a Big(11)Ten record for points scored in a conference game.  The ESPN broadcast crew covering the game, particularly analyst Bob Griese, questioned whether the Badgers were running up the score on the Hoosiers.  Even UW coach Bret Bielema quipped after the game that (UW basketball coach) Bo Ryan would have been proud of the final score.

It’s a valid point and not entirely without merit, but in reality there was little Bielema could have done differently.  Indiana, which had taken the Iowa Hawkeyes down to the wire last week, actually was playing well against the Badgers early in the game.  They had tied the game at 10 just inside the second quarter when the Badgers’ defense knocked Indiana QB Ben Chappell, the Big(11)Ten’s leading passer, out of the game with an apparent knee injury.  After that, the route was on.

Perhaps Bielema could be criticized for still passing in the 4th quarter, but it wouldn’t have made any difference.  The Badgers began the game without their starting center and tailback (Peter Konz and John Clay), yet backup running backs Monte Ball and James White (Aren’t all the Badger TBs interchangeable at this point?) combined for 311 yards and 5 touchdowns!  Wisconsin was substituting liberally in the second half; when your 4th string QB (Nate Tice) scores on a 17 yard naked bootleg in the 4th quarter, the critics have little argument.  Even a 74 yard TD pass came on a busted play where 2nd string QB Jon Budmayr was flushed out of the pocket and heaved it downfield to WR Jared Abbrederis, who had gotten behind the Hoosier secondary.  The last thing message any coach wants to send to his team is to give less effort.  At some point it’s up to the defense to stop you.

And let’s face it; for a team in Wisconsin’s position a blowout game is one of the few avenues to move up in the polls.  Like it or not, an 83-20 win over a major conference foe this late in the season gets voter’s attention.  As things now stand, Wisconsin needs to win out and hope that either Michigan State loses one of its last two games (against Purdue & at Penn St.) or that they finish in a 3 way tie with that school and Ohio State.  According to the Big(11)Ten’s arcane tie-breaker rules, that’s the only way the Badgers will get consideration for the Rose Bowl.  If Wisconsin finishes in a tie with Michigan State, the Spartans win the title by virtue of their earlier win over the Badgers.  That’s why Badger fans had to be nervous until OSU rallied from an 11 point halftime deficit to beat the Nittany Lions.

The Badgers have now scored 31 points or more in their last 5 games.  They’ll need that trend to continue next week against Michigan.  The last time the Badgers visited Ann Arbor, they turned a 19 point halftime lead into a 27-25 loss.  You can count on Bielema reminding his team of that fact more than once this week.

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The Green Bay Packers released veteran cornerback Al Harris this week, spawning yet another debate among Packer fans over the merit of going with younger players at the expense of older, higher priced veterans. 

One of the leading proponents of keeping Harris is my friend and esteemed PD colleague Chris.  Chris advocates that the Packers should have kept Harris on the roster to provide experienced depth.  While I have always respected my friend’s opinion, that position is based on a great deal of assumptions.

First of all, Harris is a (soon to be) 36 year old cornerback coming off a catastrophic knee injury.  No one has seen him play in over a year and there is no guarantee that he will be the same player he was the last time he took the field.   I fully admit that the release of Harris will look bad in the event that someone else in the Packers secondary suffers an injury.  But, at this point, the odds of that happening are no greater than the odds of Harris reinjuring himself.

Secondly, rookie Sam Shields is now firmly entrenched as the team’s nickel back and has been acquitting himself well.  To his credit, Harris is realistic enough to know that he would have been behind Shields and starter Tramon Williams on the depth chart.  But Harris is a proud man and it’s difficult to believe that he would have been content with sporadic playing time, especially after all the hard work he put in to come back.

In a post earlier this week at www.greenbaypackernation.com , John Rehor nicely sums up Harris’ career with the Packers, aptly concluding that it was time for both of them to move on.  It should be a little easier for Packer fans knowing that Harris didn’t end up signing with one of their NFC North rivals, choosing instead to go “home” to the Miami Dolphins.  In my opinion, in the end the Packers did right both by Harris and by themselves.  In any event, the Packers will no doubt be revisiting this scenario in the near future with others players such as Mark Tauscher, Chad Clifton and Donald Driver.  And the debate continues…………

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While we’re on the subject of Driver, his current injury has provided an opportunity for another one of the Packers young players to establish himself in the starting lineup.  For years, we have speculated about what linebacker Desmond Bishop could provide for the team with more playing time.  Now, wide receiver James Jones has a similar chance to prove himself.

Like Bishop, Jones has been wildly inconsistent coming off the bench for the Packers, but at the same time has shown flashes of his talent.  A regular spot in the starting lineup seems to have sharpened Bishop’s focus.  It would be to the Packers’ obvious benefit if it could do the same for Jones.

But whatever happens for Jones from here on out, he really needs to drop that third person nonsense he’s adopted in his interviews.  That crap just doesn’t play well around here.

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This is the Packers much needed bye week; an opportunity for them to rest and recuperate and also a good time to take stock of their season.

For all of the injuries and inconsistency that has plagued the team so far this season, the Packers are pretty much right where they should be atop the NFC North division.  Yes, their depth has been sorely tested and the toughest part of their schedule lies ahead.  But they’ve managed to survive and even thrive despite all the losses on defense and they’ve put themselves in a position where they can control their own destiny.

We’ll have a little clearer picture of their situation after the Minnesota Vikings play at Chicago today, but their division rivals have revealed themselves to be who we thought they were.  Coming off a couple of momentum building wins and the way things are shaping up in the NFC as a whole, I still like the Packers chances.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  University of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is under NCAA investigation for recruiting violations.  Reportedly, his father told recruiters at Mississippi State that it would take ‘more than a scholarship’ to get his son to play there.  Can’t say as I blame him.  It would take more than a scholarship to get me  to go there, too………..Heard a lot of speculation this week that the Milwaukee Brewers might be open to trading outfielder Ryan Braun for pitching.  Seeing as how Braun has a reasonably valued contract, he might be a good carrot to dangle in front of Kansas City for ace Zack Greinke………..UW freshman center Evan Anderson has decided to redshirt this season for the Badgers basketball team.  No real surprise and a good move on his part but it could leave Bucky short in the front court this year………..Newly acquired wide receiver Randy Moss said that he doesn’t make the Tennessee Titans a ‘Super Bowl’ team.  For once, I agree with him………..Remember during last summer’s ‘LeBron James saga’ when people questioned Chris Paul for staying with the New Orleans Hornets?  The early returns are making Paul look pretty good; the Miami Heat are struggling to fit all their fancy new pieces together while the Hornets remain undefeated so far this season………..UW’s Monte Ball may not be the most talented running back around but he has an uncanny ability to follow his blocks………..Now we know that former Packer front office official John Schneider must have been the reason OT Breno Giacomini hung around here so long.  Schneider signed him in Seattle after his release from Green Bay and has now brought him back after cutting him once already out there………..At this week’s CMA awards, The Zac Brown Band was named country music’s ‘best new artist’.  At least now we know what the Badgers’ junior running back is doing with his redshirt season. ;)

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the rest of your Packer-less weekend.  Personally, I’m going back to bed.

 

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