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.

1 comment:

  1. The final sequence is one of those things that makes me question hard whether I should be a sports fan. There is enough random insanity and unfairness in life without subjecting myself to more of it through voluntary sports fandom, especially of such a brutal sport like football.

    But I agree with this post. The defense was great. The offense looks to be very good, and could be great if Stave develops at all. They'll have a chance against OSU.