Monday, September 30, 2013


College basketball season has begun -- well, practice has begun, anyhow -- and I am working on a pre-season top 40. This ranking will be 100% model-driven, with no subjective input from me. There will, however, be numerous data-input errors, and innumerable conceptual mistakes, which should keep things entertaining.

Watch this space in the coming days for the unstoppable excitement.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Torvik's Prediction: 28-27, Badgers

Excellent work this week, Chorlton, explaining all the reasons that the Badgers could beat Ohio State on Saturday night. Too bad you lost your nerve when it came to prediction time.

I actually agree with you that this came is a tough "nut" to crack. I could certainly see OSU winning by two or three touchdowns. I can also think of a lot of ways the Badgers can win, although not by two or three touchdowns. To me, when you've got so many options, this is like trying to read a putt and you can't even tell which way it will break, much less how much. I learned long ago what to do in that situation: aim at the hole. Translation: I think this will be a close game.

Like you, I went 2-0 on last week's predictions, although I won the mini-battle by almost nailing the final score (I predicted 38-10; actual score 41-10.)

This week I'm taking the Badgers with the points and the over, while you're taking the Buckeyes to cover and the under. (I'm curious if you have a final score prediction?) So we might get some separation. (More likely is that we'll both go 1-1, one way or the other.) Given that the Badgers haven't lost by more than 7 points since ... well, I can't remember ... I think the 7.5 spread is an absolute gift.

Other than my golf analogy, I have a few other equally squishy reasons for picking the Badgers in this one:
  • The law of averages. The Buckeyes have won 16 in a row, including a lot of lucky, close wins. How long can this continue? The Badgers have lost heartbreak after ridiculous heartbreak. How long can that continue? I'm betting those streaks come to an end.
  • Overconfidence. I see it in the Buckeye fan base, and I suspect it in the players. They think that Wisconsin has been lucky to go three straight Rose Bowls, and don't properly appreciate how good the program is. This very entertaining piece says it all, calling Wisconsin "the most mediocre tyrant the Big Ten has ever seen." It's fair to put a big fat asterisk next to last year's Rose Bowl. But to deny the quality of the previous two teams is nonsense. Remember: one of those teams had JJ Watt and the other had Russell Wilson, Montee Ball, and Nick Toon. In fact, here's a ridiculous stat: 9 of the 11 players who started for the Badgers on offense in the 2011 Rose Bowl made an NFL roster this year (the other two were Ike Anderson and Jacob Pederson, who will get a shot next year).
  • Stave. I agree he hasn't played all that well this year. But we know he can throw the ball. He has made some terrible throws when he's had wide-open receivers. But he's also made some very good throws. Other than the dropped snaps, he's made really only one boneheaded play all year. (Last week's interception was Wozniak's fault, as was obvious and has been admitted by everyone involved.) I'm betting we see at least one more great half out of him on Saturday. Probably the first half.
  • Melvin Gordon III. Stars shine when the sun goes down. Gordon really looks like something special, and I think he will continue his scintillating season with a huge performance on national television. I think we will look back at this year (and hopefully next year) and marvel about that time when Melvin Gordon and Sam Dekker were on the UW campus at the same time.
  • Defense. We agree that the Badgers defense is for real. It will win this game with a goal line stand. Or two.
So there you have it: Badgers 28, Buckeyes 27.

--Bart Torvik

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Prediction time

I am off to a good start this year going 2-0 in the first week (1-0 vs. spread, and 1-0 vs. o/u). Nowhere to go but down from here. Both Torvik and I were wrong about this week's fantasy matchup as my general indifference to fantasy didn't prevent me from getting a win vs. him. On to this week's game.

Line is OSU by 7 1/2, and o/u is 54 1/2

My week long efforts to convince myself that UW will win this game have ended in a stalemate. I just don't know where this game is going. It will not surprise me if this game is a 38-35 shootout, a 13-10 grinder, or a 42-7 blowout. I think I have a good handle on UW, I just don't have any idea how good this OSU team is. These have been two of the highest scoring teams in the country this year against bad defenses, but the o/u of 54 1/2 follows the historical trend that defense will prevail in this matchup. OSU is averaging 52.5 points per game and UW 41 so this o/u appears low, but only twice in the past 12 matchups have these teams been over 54 1/2, (59 both times in 1999, 2011) so I'm picking the under.

When I think about UW winning this game I can see a game where UW is dominant running, OSU just can't stop Gordon and White and UW outscores OSU. I can see a game where Borland racks up 20 tackles with 10 of them on Miller who just can't bust loose and UW gets a close win by holding OSU to 10 points. When I see them losing I see a game where the running game and defense do enough to keep UW close, but special teams and Stave's turnovers cost UW the win.

I'm sure Squishy Torvik will disagree with me, but I just don't see Stave leading this team to a win. All the hope about Stave basically stems from 2 good halves of football, the first half against Nebraska and the first half against MSU last year. He was very good in those 2 halves, but hasn't been very good otherwise. In 3 of his 4 starts this season he has thrown an interception and he threw an interception in 2 of his 4 full games last season. It's not like UW is chucking the ball around, and Stave rarely throws under pressure so this is a lot of picks for a team that just needs a QB to hand off, take care of the ball, and throw a few deep balls each game.

The injuries bother me too. Anderson is holding all his cards close to the vest, but if several of UW's guys can't play then that will greatly hamper UW. So all my efforts this week have gone for naught. I am picking OSU to win and cover. I was surprised to see the spread at 7 1/2, and I am tempted to pick OSU to win, but take UW and the points against the spread. In case you haven't noticed I have very little confidence in this pick, and in that case one should probably just not bet at all. Since this is just for pride and not for dough, I'm still making picks. I can stand to lose some pride anyway.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Last try to convince myself

This is a twofer. #3 is the UW defense and #4 is UWs track record of recent success against OSU.

I believe the UW defense is very good. Others who watched ASU score 32 points against them could reasonably disagree with me, but I think over the course of the season this defense will prove me right.

The other 3 offenses UW faced this year were awful, so while UW shut out 2 and held Purdue to 10 points and 180 total yards, it's hard to judge them based on those performances. Even with Braxton Miller back I think UW will slow down the OSU offense which is currently 6th in the nation at 311 rushing yards per game, and 4th in scoring at 52.5 points per game. OSU like UW scores based on a great running game, and only ranks 76th in passing yards at 218 per game. UW's strength is stopping the run, and they should be able to keep OSU under control. UW is big, experienced and physical in the front 7 with 7 seniors likely to start this game.

The recent run of success I am referring to started in 1999 in the famous dancing on the horseshoe game when UW blew out OSU 42-17 in Columbus. Since that time UW is 5-7 vs OSU, which is still a losing record, but is as many wins as any team has had against them over that same span. Over those 12 games UW is 3-3 in Columbus, hardly an intimidating record. OSU has only averaged 21.7 points per game over the 12 game span, and the most points they have scored is 38. In 9 of the 12 games OSU has failed to reach 24 points.

The point spread in this game is OSU by 7 1/2, and the over under is 54 1/2.

We'll see tomorrow if I have come around on a road win for UW.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


In my week-long series trying to convince myself that UW will win at OSU this Saturday, reason #2 will be the UW running game.

The UW running game looks to be picking up right where it left off last season despite the losses of Monte Ball, Ricky Wagner and Travis Fredrick to the NFL. After rushing for 388 yards against Purdue, UW ranks 3rd nationally in rushing, averaging 349.8 yards per game. UW is getting big plays out of the running game and has a running play of at least 50 yards in each of the first 4 games. The average yards per carry in the 4 games are 8.1, 7.2, 7.6, and 8.9. None of the first 4 opponents have a defense anything close to what UW should see at OSU, despite what I wrote yesterday.

I had thought OSU did a good job shutting down UW's running attack last year at Camp Randall, but that's not entirely true. UW ran the ball 56 times for a net 206 yards rushing and a 3.7 YPC average. That average includes 4 sacks of Phillips for 36 yards. The 2 running backs both had solid days -Monte 39 rushes for 191 yards, a 4.9 YPC average, and James White had 8 carries for 33 yards and a 4.1 YPC average.

This production was despite a total lack of respect for the passing game due to UW starting Phillips, their 3rd string QB who in his only previous start in 2012 against Indiana was a less than prolific 4-7 for 41 yards. That's right, 7 passes and 41 yards for the entire game against Indiana in his only start in 2012 prior to the OSU game. Even with OSU selling out to stop the run Phillips was completely ineffective against OSU until the final tying drive. He completed 5 passes for 48 yards on the final drive, and was 9-20 for 106 yards the rest of the game.

While UW rushed for over 200 yards, they only scored 14 points. UW will need to score more than 14 points to win Saturday. UW did waste a few scoring attempts in that game when Monte fumbled inside the 5 yard line, French missed a 40 yard FG attempt, and UW opted to punt from the 30 yard line instead of attempting a long FG which resulted in a touchback and 10 net yards. The running game did enough to win if UW hadn't been crushed on special teams and Monte hadn't fumbled.

I know, I know, if and buts, candy and nuts. The point is that UW ran the ball on that defense, and they should run the ball on this OSU team.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

First impressions on the OSU matchup

I am trying to convince myself that UW is going to win this game, so here is the first installment of reasons why I should pick UW in this game.
1) The OSU defense
OSU put up a shut out today in their last non-conference warm up game vs. Florida A&M. As you may expect, this is not very impressive as Florida A&M's best offensive performance was 27 points at home against Miss Valley State. Florida A&M also scored a paltry 7 points at home against Tennessee St. Enough said.
OSU also had a dominant performance against San Diego St beating them 42-7. At first this seems impressive as SDST has been a good team of late going to a bowl for 3 consecutive years. In the process they also lost their head coach Brady Hoke to Michigan and more recently offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to UW. SDST is 0-3 this year including a 40-19 home loss to Eastern Illinois.
In OSU's first game of the year they jumped on Buffal0 23-0 after the first quarter, however Buffalo climbed back in the game and got it to 30-20 in the third quarter. This was due to 2 Buffalo TD passes, but also a defensive score. 2 things struck me about this game. The first was from the ESPN recap which stated that OSU came into their season opener with 10 of 11 new starters on defense. Any team replacing that many people is vulnerable to a drop off regardless of the talent base they recruit from. The other is that while the Buffalo offense only accounted for 14 points, this was their highest offensive output of the season. Buffalo scored 13 against Baylor, and just 10 in regulation against Stony Brook (They won that game scoring 26 points in regulation plus 5 overitmes).
That leaves us with OSU's only real test of the year, the road game against Cal. OSU jumped on Cal early, getting up 21-0 6 minutes into the game, and won that game comfortably. Despite the early lead again, Cal was able to keep it interesting because the OSU defense gave up 20 points before halftime and OSU lead just 31-20 going into the 3rd quarter. For the game Cal put up 34 points, 28 first downs, and 503 total yards. In Cal's 2 other games this year they put up 37 points in a home win vs. Portland St, and 30 points in a home loss to Northwestern.
All the talk in Columbus is about who is starting at QB. Perhaps it's time someone started talking about the defense.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thoughts on the Great Transfer Debate

Alas, it is still the offseason for college basketball. That means people are talking about things like transfer rules, which are in the headlines because Coach K staked out a public opinion
on the transfer rules and their exceptions:
"There should be no exceptions," Krzyzewski told "Everybody should have to sit out, that includes a fifth-year player, just to make it equal. I think it's a farce, really." 
"Giving certain kids the right to play and others not the right to play, it should be done the same," he said. "If they want to let everybody play right away, then let everybody play right away. Everybody should be treated the same. I don't understand why there are exceptions to this rule."
Gary Parrish agrees with Coach K that everyone should be treated the same, but he takes a hard line in favor of everybody playing right away. His arguments proceeds in a negative fashion, by knocking down what he perceives to be the best argument in favor of the forced redshirt year: "The one I hear most often is that it would create 'free agency' in college athletics."

First, Parrish expresses doubts that free transfers would actually create free agency. He makes a good point that transferring colleges is a big pain in the ass, and few people will do it lightly. I agree with him that unfettered, chaotic free agency is unlikely to result from unrestricted transfers. It will affect only the very best players, really.

Second, Parrish plays down the "rich get richer" argument against unrestricted transfers. This is the objection that low and mid-major teams will see their best players get recruited away from them by the high majors. Parrish agrees that this will happen, although perhaps not as often as some think. He just doesn't care, for reasons I'll quote in full:
The scenario most envision is a scenario where high-majors would essentially recruit from mid-majors and low-majors, just pluck the best of the best each and every year. In fairness, I agree, that would probably happen. But guess what? It already happens! And, even if it happened at an accellerated [sic] rate, why is that necessarily a bad thing?
Are you about protecting schools or creating opportunities for young people? 
I'm about creating opportunities for young people.
So, for the sake of the conversation, let's say there's a kid who is just an OK prospect out of high school and can only muster an offer from Stony Brook. This is a kid who forever dreamed of playing at a high-major, and he thinks he's good enough to play at a high-major. But, for whatever reason, he hasn't yet been able to convince a high-major coach of that by the time he graduates high school. 
Consequently, the kid signs with Stony Brook. 
Then he grows four inches and develops a jumpshot. 
Then he's a legitimate All-American candidate after two years. 
What would be so bad about that kid at that point accepting an offer to transfer to Ohio State or North Carolina or Kansas to complete his eligibility? What would be so bad about that kid at that point, after two years of hard work and development, taking advantage of an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream? 
Why would you be against that?
These are good points, as far as they go. But it seems to me that Parrish is ignoring the elephant in the room: corruption. It's not free agency per se that is bad—after all, high school students are free agents—it's the particular incentives that are associated with inter-collegiate recruiting that are troubling.

Think about that Stony Brook All-American candidate, and the incentives created by that situation. If he's already an All-American, that means he's either going pro after his sophomore or junior year. So he's either transferring or going pro.

If he transfers, he knows he's one-and-done at his new school, so he has very little to lose by playing fast and loose with the rules and getting some while the getting is good. This is all similar to the situation with "one-and-done" high school seniors now, but I assume no one associated with college basketball is looking to expand that sordidness.

Of course, most recruitments will be clean. But with the amount of money at stake, and the egos involved, there will be also be many dirty recruitments.

Fine, you might say: so what?

Here's what. College sports are weird. And I don't think we have a great understanding of what makes them special. So we should take care when we change the things that make college sports unique.

The more corrupt college basketball becomes, and the more like a pro league it become, the less interesting it is for most of the fans. Don't get me wrong—this isn't about idyllic principles of "amateurism." It's about at least the illusion of a level playing field, which is an absolute, fundamental prerequisite to interesting sporting events. This is also why pay-for-play is dangerous. If people come to believe that the big, rich programs can essentially buy players, college basketball becomes a farce like major league baseball, but only worse—because there's no draft to get things started quasi-fairly and there's even more fundamental inequality of resources.

Transfer restrictions and enforced amateurism are, I think, efforts by the NCAA to keep college basketball and football special, because that ineffable specialness is why people care (and how everyone makes money). If college sports become just a second-rate semi-pro league, there's a chance interest will wane, and profits will fall. And when that happens, eventually the opportunities for young people diminish as well. Who wants that?

By this way, this explains why transfer restrictions exist only in basketball and football—because those are the only wildly popular college sports, and they are the only sports with truly national recruiting. In every other sport, the student-athletes really are students first, so transferring will always be primarily an academic and social consideration rather than a sporting one (just as it is for most football and basketball players). So nothing is gained by the forced redshirt.

Of course, I could be wrong. In fact, I probably am! It could well be that transfers (and pay-for-play) won't change things enough to affect what's special about big-time college sports. And even if does destroy what's special, it could be worth it just because it will increase the student-athletes' freedom of choice, which may just be a paramount consideration. But I am very certain that this is the question we should actually be thinking about because it is the actual reason that these rules exist. We certainly shouldn't make these kinds of changes without at least acknowledging and confronting the real risks involved.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Prediction time

Time to start the annual predictions. Last year I was great on the picks vs. the spread, and terrible against the over/under. UW is a 24 point favorite and the over/under is 47 1/2. I know I said after last season I was giving up on picking the over/under after my horrendous showing, but I'm a fake gambling addict so I just can't give it up.

As you may surmise from my previous post I am high on UW and I am picking them. The 24 points are the biggest spread of any 2 major conference opponents this weekend although there aren't that many good games. This is the 4th weekend and most teams are making money with home games against patsies. I still like UW against the big spread based on what UW did to Purdue last year, and what Cincy did to them this year. The close game against Notre Dame didn't change my opinion of Purdue.

Purdue has scored 7, 20, and 24 points in their 3 games. I think the UW defense will destroy them, and I don't think they make it to double digit points. Unless Stave throws a pick 6 or UW gives up a special teams TD Purdue may not get in the end zone. If that is correct, then UW has to score about 40 points to cover the over. I think they have it in them with the running game hitting on all cylinders. Gary Anderson doesn't seem to have the run up the score mentality that Bielema did, because he seems to have more class than any human being in college coaching today. However when the classy thing to do is run the ball to run out the clock, and your 3rd string tailback is good enough to start on most college teams, it's hard not to run it up a little.

I have UW and the over. What say you Torvik?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I finally learned something

I went into the Badgers game not knowing much about what kind of team UW was going to have this year. The questions have been answered despite a gut wrenching loss that the refs just plain screwed up (more on that later). This is a very good football team, and the defense is as good as advertised. That may seem silly after they gave up 32 points and 468 yards of offense, but ASU is a very good offense. ASU was playing at home, and due to circumstances (Punt return for TD, 3 and outs) the defense had to be on the field for over 50 plays in the first half. Here's what I liked about the defense: ASU completed just 57% of their passes (29-51); ASU averaged just 2.8 yards per rush (42 rushes for 116 yards); UW won the turnover battle 2-1 and had 2 4th down stops. This defense should keep getting better, and I think they are good enough to allow UW to compete for the Big Ten Championship.
The offense can run the ball against a real opponent, and while Stave is not as good as past Badger QBs, he can do enough for this team to win. I was disappointed to see UW throw the ball as much as they did (31 passes, 32 rushes including a sack and the kneel down) especially when they ran the ball so effectively (32 rushes for 231 yards 7.2 YPC avg.). Stave had a few throws that made me cringe, (I'm thinking of the Favre throw in the second half) but he didn't turn the ball over once. Melvin Gordon has the size and speed that the NFL likes and they may come calling after this year, so UW should ride him all season. He could put up Heisman consideration numbers if they do.
I liked seeing starters like Borland and Southward playing on special teams. UW has had horrible special teams for years largely because Bielema didn't like to play starters due to the injury risk. UW doesn't have the depth of athletes as top flight recruiting schools, so if you don't play your starters on special teams that means you are playing lesser athletes and inexperienced players there. The result is crappy special teams. With the changed rules on kickoffs making touchbacks more frequent, there should be fewer total special teams plays reducing the injury risk. There is an injury risk, but at the college level, at a program like UW, I think playing it's best athletes on special teams is a good move. I think the potential payout of more big plays out weighs the risk of extra injury exposure.
Now to the end of the game. When Abbrederis ran out of bounds I said to my companions, UW should kick the ball now because without a timeout there is too much that can go wrong if they try to run another play. With only 18 seconds left and a kick taking 5-6 seconds and a kickoff taking another 5-6 seconds, ASU would have likely only had time for one play. When Anderson called for Stave to just center the ball and kneel rather than try another pass I was relieved, as it was a totally safe and wise call with plenty of time to spike. Given the kickers struggles this year, centering the ball made lots of sense. Then the Pac-12 refs screwed up, huddled to discuss their mistake, and ran off the field without an explanation of their indefensible decision to either the watching fans, or the coaches on the field. I hope they are reprimanded for this, but since they are employed by the Pac-12, I doubt they will be. This is now the 2nd year in a row UW has lost on the road to a Pac-12 team with a controversial call in the closing minutes (remember Oregon State). UW may want to adjust their scheduling in the future.
So losing like this really sucks, but this game is non-conference so it likely has no impact on UW's chances to make it to the Big Ten Championship game (there are tiebreakers in the case of a 3 way tie in which this game could have an impact, but what Leaders division team will possibly tie UW and OSU). Where I see a possible issue is on the money side for the Big Ten. Let's say UW has a great season going 6-2 in the Big Ten and 9-3 overall, but falls short of going to the Big Ten Championship game to OSU. OSU wins the Championship game and goes to the Rose Bowl. A 9-3 UW is probably heading to the Outback bowl or Capital One Bowl depending who the losing team was in the Championship game and which bowl wants what team. If UW had that extra quality road win at ASU and was 10-2 they would be a likely candidate for an at-large BCS game birth. While that wouldn't make much difference for fans, (UW would get a great SEC opponent in either the Outback or Capital One Bowl anyway) it makes a huge difference in payout for the Big Ten. A 2nd BCS game would bring over 10 million dollars of revenue to the conference. All speculation at this point, but that's what blogging is for.

I'll resume making picks with the Purdue game, and I've now become bullish on UW chances this year of having a great season.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Did I learn anything else?

Stave threw the ball around a little more, but other than that UW showed nothing new. They rushed 4 most of the time. They ran the ball 51 times. No secrets will be revealed until ASU. What I'm kind of hoping is that UW does the exact same thing against ASU, and is still successful. The best UW teams are ones that can just run their basic stuff and win. If they look to exotic plays this early in the season then it may be a long year.
The spread is ASU -5 1/2. About what you would expect for a home team when both teams are separated by just a few spots in the polls. ASU brings back their quarterback, RB, and a few receivers from a good offense. This looks to be a classic matchup of strength vs strength: UW defense vs ASU offense.
I have no idea where this one is going, so no picks yet. Could be a blow out for either side. Could be a down to the 4th quarter shootout. Could be a defensive struggle. My wild guess is shootout, because when you get unfamiliar teams together the offenses usually benefit.
I'm going to start my predictions for the Purdue game once this team has shown themselves.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Did I learn anything on Saturday?

Yes, but what I learned was more about the big picture. You don't want to read to much into a game that was probably less competitive than when the 1s play the 2s at practice. With that being said, there are a few things I saw that comforted me.
After Gary Anderson came in with new systems, and brought in a JC transfer QB to run his spread offense I was worried. Those fears were somewhat reduced when Stave won the starting job, as Stave is not mobile and will not be running any read option. The offense on Saturday looked pretty much the same as the offense that UW has run successfully for several years. Lots of power run plays setting up play action passing, with occasional shotgun in 3rd down passing situations. Anderson appears to value getting his best players on the field and playing to their strengths over imposing a preferred scheme.
The offensive line did what you would expect in beating up an undersized and not talented defense. The running backs are talented and fast, and Watt looks like he may join his brother in the NFL someday (if they still have fullbacks by then). The tight ends and wide receivers are solid blockers and effective enough pass catchers, but only Abbrederis is a big play threat. Stave did not look very good in the 1st half, but played better in the 2nd. With only Abbrederis to create big plays in the passing game, the offense will probably struggle as it did last season against good defenses that can slow down the run game. Will the offensive line be good enough to win games by just running the ball? We won't have much idea about that until ASU.
The defense is a bit harder to get a handle on. I assume the Badgers are not going to show their hand until at least the ASU game, so while this defense looked a lot like last years it may look entirely different in 2 weeks. Anderson said he was going to bring in a 3-4 press man coverage scheme that was designed to pressure the QB. I don't remember seeing a CB within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage before the first play of the 2nd quarter. There were a few CB blitzes, but the defense was pretty vanilla and played off the ball. On 3rd down passing situations the Badgers played without anyone down on the defensive line, but they did that last year as well.
The Badgers stayed in their base 3-4 against 3 WR sets just as they did often with their 4-3. The only difference from 3-4 to 4-3 was Kelly was standing up instead of in a 3 point stance on the end of the line. The other OLB Armstrong was standing up as well but not on the line, as he split out to cover the slot WR. Not many 3-4 OLBs are going to match up on a WR, but Armstrong is not a typical 3-4 OLB, and neither is Kelly (a converted DE). UW basically looked like a 4-3 with Kelly standing up. Kelly was in coverage a little, and didn't look very good when he was. When the Badgers did play nickel, with 2 lineman, 4LBs, and 5 DBs, they did play more press coverage, but still with limited blitzing.
There will probably be no more answers against another over matched opponent in Tennessee Tech next week.
My first thoughts on this team is that we are looking at a repeat of last year. This team is very solid defensively, but not dominant. The defense should be good enough to keep UW in most every game. The running game is good enough to beat up bad defenses, so UW should put up points against bottom level competition. This should get them at least 5-6 wins. Last year UW lost a ton of close games because they couldn't score enough against defenses that could stop the run. In the 5 games in which UW failed to score 17 points in regulation they won just 1 (against Utah State when they missed the game winning field goal). They also lost to PSU in overtime when they only scored 21.
If Stave can stay healthy and start all season long, Abbrederis stays healthy, and the offensive line can stay healthy and perform close to as well as last year's line, this team could be better offensively and win enough of those close games to get to 10 wins. That's a lot to ask. If the offense struggles and looks like it did last year, UW probably loses some close games again and finishes with 8 wins. Barring catastrophic injury problems, I have given up my fears of a disastrous 5-7 losing season.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Earn That Statue

There's a statue of Barry Alvarez outside Camp Randall Stadium. This strikes some people as premature, or gauche, or worse, for a couple of reasons: (1) Barry Alvarez is still alive, and we usually wait until people are dead to honor them in bronze; and (2) Barry Alvarez is not just still alive, but still working at the University of Wisconsin as its athletics director.

Still, most Badgers fans are fine with the statue because it cannot be denied that Barry Alvarez is a living legend. What he did as the football coach at Wisconsin is a miracle. He take a good-for-nothing, moribund non-program and turn it into a consistent winner that went to three Rose Bowls (and won them) in eight years. Then he transitioned into a role as the tsar—er, athletics director—and groomed his own successor (Bret Bielema). This is usually where the story takes a turn for the worse. As rare as it is for someone to create a powerhouse from scratch, it's even rarer for the powerhouse to survive that person's retirement. But Barry Alvarez did it. He built Wisconsin football as its coach, and as athletics director he left it in Bret Bielema's remarkably competent hands. Three more Rose Bowls ensued.

We know what happened next. Bret Bielema took the money and ran. Barry Alvarez hired Gary Anderson.

This is Barry's final test. If Gary Anderson succeeds at Wisconsin—and by "success" I mean that he wins at least one conference championship in his tenure—then Barry Alvarez will have done the unthinkable: He will have turned Wisconsin into a dynasty.

And if that happens, Barry Alvarez will, beyond any doubt, have earned that statue.

--Bart Torvik