UW recently committed to play Alabama in the season opener in September 2015 at Cowboy Stadium. Badger fans have been clamoring for years for the team to upgrade the non-conference schedule and now they have got their wish. On the face of it this makes sense. The new playoff format will look at strength of schedule, and if the Badgers hope to ever have a chance to make it in, they will have to play some quality teams. Playing in a big time game like this will certainly be a moneymaker, and the exposure could help recruiting. If the Badgers pull off the win then it should be a big boost to the program, while a loss isn't anything to be ashamed of, so there doesn't look like there's much to lose.
Here's where my pessimism takes over.
I understand wanting to challenge the best, but UW is just not on a level with the Alabamas, Ohio States, and Floridas of college football. In 2015 the schedule will already be getting tougher because UW will also likely be playing a 9 game Big Ten regular season schedule. This leaves only 2 cup cakes on the schedule. I know fans hate watching 3 non-BCS schools come to Camp Randle, but UW has made it to bowl games most every year for the past 20 years and those cupcakes wins have helped in several years.
The Badgers have only missed a bowl game in 2 seasons since Barry's breakout Rose Bowl win after the 1993 season. The Badgers went to only 2 bowl games in all the seasons from 1970-1993. UW has had a great run lately with 7 seasons with 9 wins or more in the last 9 seasons (with last years 8 win season resulting in a Rose Bowl). In the 11 seasons before that, the Badgers had 3 Rose Bowl seasons with at least 10 wins, but just one other 9 win season. They had 2 losing seasons, and made it to mediocre bowls in 5 other years.
So the question is will the Badgers be able to continue the run of unprecedented success they have had in the past 9 years, or will the be the up and down program they were most of the Alvarez years, or will they go back to a Big Ten bottom dweller. I doubt this program could be dismantled by any coach enough to return it to the pre Alvarez era, but look what Rich Rod did to MI. Can UW continue as a perennial 10 win program? I sure hope so, but I doubt it even if they continue to schedule cupcakes. With a tougher schedule I think this team will be OK in the years they have a good team, but in the down years this team could easily lose enough games to miss a bowl game.
Would you rather see your Badger team shoot for the stars, schedule like a champion, and maybe make the playoff, but probably flame out? Or would you rather see them win games (albeit against some cupcakes) and get to a bowl game every year, although it may be a mediocre one?
After Alvarez won a Rose Bowl and got the program going he shot for the stars on the recruiting trail and found that he finished 2nd and 3rd a lot on those big time recruits while also missing out on other good recruits he could have got if he weren't holding out for these big talents he missed on anyway. He paid a price but learned a lesson and UW has used a pretty good recruiting formula ever since and has had great success. I wonder if UW is starting to make another overreach and get away from the things that have made them successful in an attempt to join the big boys.
In the formative years of my Badger Fandom UW hired Don Morton who was a big hire at the time (1987). He brought in his veer option offense and expected to be a national power within 3 years. He scheduled like it too, bringing in powerhouse Miami for a home game in 1989. Morton was a disaster and I remember sitting at that Miami game as they just destroyed UW 51-3 in a half empty stadium. UW had kicked a field goal on the first drive of the game, and I remember the student section sarcastically chanting "We scored first" after UW was down by about 30 points and obviously out classed. Morton was fired that year.
Gary Anderson is taking over a much better program, and Alvarez is still there so I don't expect Anderson to be the next Morton. I'm just not sure if the changes being made to the offense, defense, and now scheduling are going to be for the better.