Barry: Badgers deserve more respect
I’m the first to admit that I’m biased. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1987 and bleed Badger red. I spent five years typing the play-by-play for the Badgers’ home football games while working for the Sports Information Department.
Those were some dark years. They featured a woeful Big Ten record over a five-year span, the untimely death of the beloved Dave McClain in 1986 and the program hitting rock bottom with the hiring of Don Morton and his patented veer offense in 1987.
Three decades later, the dark years are a distant memory. Wisconsin is flourishing. The Badgers are 8-0 and ranked fourth in the latest Associated Press poll.
So what’s my beef? I’m tired of defending my school.
Quit whining about the fact that Wisconsin doesn’t play anybody or has a soft schedule. Who cares? The last time I checked, the bottom line in any sporting event was to beat the next opponent on the schedule. The Badgers have done that.
This team has no control over the Big Ten schedule. It is what it is, and Wisconsin has beaten all the teams that are on it. Is it soft, without any teams currently in the top 25? Yes, but that’s not the players’ fault.
If you remember, last year Wisconsin had arguably the toughest schedule in the country, and I don’t recall any national pundits feeling sorry for the Badgers.
Should they have beaten a pathetic Illinois team by 10 touchdowns? According to the College Football Playoff committee, I would say the answer is yes. But I don’t think that’s Paul Chryst’s style, and that’s why I like him. He’s not a crowd-pleaser or worried about the team’s image.
My other beef involves the nonconference portion of the schedule, which has been lambasted unfairly. Nobody wants to play Wisconsin in a home-and-home series. The Alabamas and Clemsons of the world want to play at a neutral site and preferably at a southern location.
I think most people believe that Wisconsin and BYU agreed upon a home-and-home series in 2017 and 2018 just before the season started.
In reality, the agreement was made in 2012, when BYU had the 10th-best winning percentage in a 10-year span and Wisconsin was right behind at 11th. That makes me look at BYU’s current 2-7 record much differently, and it should for all those bashing the Badgers, as well.
In 2020 and 2021, Notre Dame and Wisconsin will play at Lambeau Field (2020) and Soldier Field (2021). Notre Dame (7-1) sits third in the CFP poll and fifth in the AP poll. If the Irish are a bad football team in 2020, will that matter to those scrutinizing the Badgers’ schedule that year? Me thinks so. It’s all about timing.
In the end, my point in all this is that if you’re a die-hard Badger fan like myself, don’t panic. There’s a month of meaningful games left to be played, and the rankings will play themselves out.
If an undefeated Wisconsin runs the table and wins the Big Ten title game, there is NO way an unbeaten champion from a Power Five conference is left out of the playoffs.
Trust me, if something like that were to happen, you’ll be reading an even angrier column at that point.