BCS Special Article Wisconsin: Sanctioned Destiny
Rarely do stars align so perfectly for a team as they did for 2012 Wisconsin. When has a football team played as poorly as the Badgers and garnered a spot in not just any BCS Bowl, but the “Granddaddy of Them All”? Wisconsin has looked less Rosy this year than their previous two trips which both ended in losses to Oregon last year and Gordon Gee’s crowned “Little Sisters’ of the Poor” Texas Christian in 2011. The NCAA has sent a quick backhand directed to Penn State and Ohio State this season…leading up to the first ever unranked representative in Pasadena since the BCS’s conception.
It’s been like climbing a mountain for Wisconsin this season. It started with a #12 ranking in the AP Poll. Two weeks later, Wisconsin lost to Oregon State and in one of the greatest examples of college football’s “What have you done for me lately?” mentality of the present day plummeted from the rankings and down the mountainside. They began their climb back up by winning 5 our of 6 and seeing a #25 next to “Wisconsin” in the first BCS rankings. Losing 3 of the next four left the Badgers at 7-5 (4-4 in conference) and third in the Leaders division. The Badgers were back at base camp…staring at the summit from far below. On the plus side, running back Montee Ball broke the all-time touchdowns record this season with 82 times hitting pay dirt. On the downhill side, if one were to count overtime losses as losing by zero, the Badgers 5 losses would be a combined 6 points. Including the Badgers 3 overtime losses, the average margin of defeat in their fives losses in still a meager 3.8 points. Every loss other than a 21-14 overtime affair with Ohio State ended with the Badgers three points short. Teams have probably encountered such an unfortunate plethora of close encounters where a single call by a referee, penalty, dropped pass, or missed assignment may have lost the contest. Wisconsin could possibly be 3,4, or why not 5 games better should one little thing have one its way. But how did a 7-5 team get to the Rose Bowl? There are two men to thank: Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno. These two men, fantastic coaches and people, committed a common error which caused much ado among the NCAA trustees. Paterno and Tressel both kept a secret from the NCAA and were apprehended later with their hands firmly in the muck of crimes past. Tressel had kept quiet about his players selling their own memorabilia for tattoos and Joe Paterno had failed to report the child abuse scandal of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Because of both men’s failures to comply with the NCAA and report these breaches of NCAA rules, the Ohio State and Penn State programs received post season bans for the 2012 Bowl Season (for Penn State the sanctions are ripe through the end of the 2016-2017 season). Thus, despite finishing third in the Leaders division, Wisconsin represented the division in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game where Nebraska proceeded to lay an egg. The Badgers had fallen to the Corn Huskers 30-27 in Lincoln earlier this season, but ran for 539 yards en route to a 70-31 mauling of Nebraska…suddenly another low has crept into Madison. Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema has decided to elope for the SEC: location Fayetteville. The Razorpigs gave Bielema a nice hunk of SEC pie and obviously Bielema isn’t turning down pie; especially when being given out by a University as desperate as Arkansas in a conference as successful as the SEC. What’s next for Wisconsin? Well, for the players there is nothing ahead except for BCS #6 Stanford. For the football program as a whole? You’d better believe Wisconsin would welcome Snooki to the sideline to coach the Rose Bowl long before Bielema is Jumping Around come New Years Day. We’ve seen this same old song and dance a few years ago when an out-manned, out-motivated, and out-disciplined team had to play after New Years Eve: #3 Cincinnati was trounced by Tim Tebow in his final game for the University at Florida in the 2009 Sugar Bowl as Brian Kelly bounced for Notre Dame. Suddenly, Wisconsin finds itself leaderless and will face one of the country’s best come January 1st. Wisconsin seemed destined to reach this Rose Bowl; however, the odds are now stacking themselves against the Badgers. Just as the odds of a team going 4-4 in conference making the Rose Bowl seemed to hover around 0%; perhaps it is sanctioned destiny for that same team to climb to the peak from the doldrums once more and win “The Grandaddy of Them All”