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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Devil Speaks: Wisconsin, Cheese, Sandwiches

BaggyPantsDevil returns from points unknown to give his take on the Michigan-Wisconsin game this week.

When you need some cheese to make your sandwich, what better place to go than Wisconsin? OK, Michigan isn't actually going to Wisconsin, Wisconsin is coming to Michigan—don't forget to bring some cheese, guys!—and I'm sure there are better—by which I mean worse—teams to play than Wisconsin.

Before any of the Badger faithful get upset, I actually kind of dig Wisconsin. Beer, bratwursts, cheese, old school, smash-mouth football, and Barry Alvarez who generally managed to lose to Michigan but won his Rose Bowls. So, when the Badgers aren't playing Michigan, I'm generally pulling for them.

And, let's face it, after demolishing Notre Dame, playing a visiting Wisconsin team sure beats the hell out of heading out west to play Oregon. If poor special teams play or a crowned field don't get you out there, the worst referees this side of the Sun Belt Conference will.

This is clearly a game Michigan should win. Even most of Wisconsin's fans think so. Of course, there are a few of the Badger faithful who still believe. More power to you, guys. That's what being a fan is all about.

It can be helpful to see how Michigan and Wisconsin compare statistically. Last week, the statistics indicated Michigan's defense pretty much had it all over Notre Dame (Michigan's then 4th in rushing defense against Notre Dame's 71st in rushing offense and Michigan's 3rd in sacks against Notre Dame's 85th in sacks allowed). Although Michigan didn't get as many sacks as I would have expected, I think the pass rush forced Quinn to make bad throws and interceptions. Anyway, I'll give it a shot with Wisconsin.

Wisconsin does match up against Michigan a little differently than Notre Dame did. Statistically, Wisconsin's defense—particularly its pass defense—is a lot better than Notre Dame's. Wisconsin is 46th in rushing defense against Michigan's 18th rushing offense and is 4th in pass defense to Michigan's 87th passing offense. Of course, those numbers may be skewed by Wisconsin's schedule of Bowling Green, Western Illinois, and San Diego State.

Wait a minute. Western Illinois is a Division I-AA school. Shame on you Wisconsin, shame on you. You guys are better than that. Leave the Division I-AA opponents for the likes of Nebraska and—ha ha—Colorado. A quick aside here, this coming Saturday, Western Illinois plays Northern Colorado, school o' stabbing second string punters.

Anyway, the rather lowly competition Wisconsin has faced tends to make me skeptical of their fourth best pass defense in the country ranking, but one could have said the same thing about Michigan's rankings on offense and defense last week and we know how that worked out.

On offense, Wisconsin being Wisconsin, they run the ball better than Notre Dame does but are worse at passing it (Wisconsin is 22nd, Notre Dame was 71st). So, Wisconsin's offensive strength will go up against Michigan's defensive strength (1st in the nation against the run, baby). Additionally, Wisconsin is worse than Notre Dame in turnover margin—Wisconsin, tied for 54th while Notre Dame's was 11th—in which Michigan is second in the country.

So, statistically, this game should have a lower score than the Notre Dame game with offenses that mostly run the ball and the Michigan defense forcing a fair amount of turnovers. Of course, last year, Mario Manningham had 106 yards receiving including a 49 yard touchdown pass.

Also working in Michigan's favor is last year's game. Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco's four yard touchdown run with 24 seconds remaining in the game should give Michigan plenty of motivation to beat the crap out of him a la Brady Quinn.

I think the revenge factor with Wisconsin and Minnesota will do a lot to prevent a letdown the next couple of weeks.

You and I have unfinished business.

(HT to Brian at AOL's Michigan Fanhouse for the Wisconsin in the "acceptence" phase of grieving stuff.)


Can't spell Lloyd without 2 "L's" said...

Yes, I'm leary of the seemingly inevitable letdown game. It is now that I am glad we lost 5 games last year, because that means revenge games abound, and hopefully, no letdown. *fingers crossed*

ferenc said...

Obviously, I really enjoy the the writing on the site. However, it was really nice to read something again from Baggy. You have something man...something relatively special.

Anonymous said...

Nice read with the exception of referring to Alvarez in the present tense. He's retired now, so to hell with Wisconsin. Beat Bielema's boys back to Madison.

Go Blue!!

surrounded in columbus said...

your analysis of the badgers is dead on (good to read your stuff again). the success of their program under Alveraz is a monument to woody hayes' adage that it's not important if the other team knows what you're going to do; what's important is that YOUR team knows what it's going to do.

despite the predictability and vanilla flavoring, the badgers are consistently one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the conference. and they get there by following their game plan every play, every game, every season.

they never abandon the run. they get behind, they still run. they play the same consistent defense. they go out every week and execute their game plan almost as if what the other team is doing is immaterial.

they make you execute your game almost flawlessly, and force you to be patient. at the end of the day, the more talented team usually wins when we play them, but the badgers make you earn/pay for everything you get- they never give you anything. they never beat themselves, and if you don't bring your "A" game everytime, they'll beat you. very impressive for a program that wasn't on anyone's map 15 years ago.

one last salutory note on the cheeseheads- it often gets ignored here in cowtown when tosu fans sit around patting themselves on the back about how brilliant their coach is, but switzer/tre$$el is a very Lloydish 1-3 against Wisconsin (Lloyd on the other hand, lost to them for the first & only time last season). funny how that doesn't get mentioned much...

cottoncandy said...

Everyone has to admit it just won't be as fun seeing Wisconsin get beat without Alvarez getting pissed off about it. Cooked parrot anyone?

BaggyPantsDevil said...

Ferenc—thanks, my mom doesn't let me on the computer that much as the other guy's moms do after she found some of the sites I was visiting, but I am trying hard to post more.

Anon 9:53—rereading it now I can see how it looks like I might think Alvarez is still the coach. I know he's retired, but I'll always associate him with Wisconsin football, he did a great job there. And, losing to Michigan but beating everyone else just further endears him to me.

Surrounded—yeah, Wisconsin was a football non-entity while I was growing up. The Big Ten has been better with them being good. And, excellent point about the Ohio State record against Wisconsin, it doesn't get mentioned often. The Buckeyes better get it done this year because the Badgers are back on their schedule in 2007.