There may be only 22 days left until Christmas, but there's also only 29 days left until the Mother of all college football bowl days, January 1, 2014. With Auburn's latest last second miracle against Alabama registering 7.5 on the BCS Richter Scale, who will play who on New Year's Day is as hot a topic as it's ever been.</p>
<p style="text-align: left;">Water coolers everywhere are overflowing right now due to the discussions lingering there on just who should play in the so-called national championship game. We'll all have to wait at least one more week , however, as the money making conference championship games must be played out before any fan can faithfully log onto Travelocity for a package to a major bowl destination.</p>
Here in Wisconsin, fans were literally in a fog all day today, and will be until the outcome of the Michigan State-Ohio State game this Saturday night in Indianapolis. For the first time since its inception two years ago, Badger fans will watch the contest at home rather than travel to Indiana to witness Bucky in the Big Ten Championship game.
Due to a mystifying performance last weekend against Penn State, Gary Anderson's BCS hopefuls must now face the fact they are 21st in most people's eyes, and as a result will have to wait for their fate in either the Outback Bowl in Tampa or the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on January 1st. Although conveniently situated close to the southern home of Mickey Mouse, most Wisconsinites regard the Capital One Bowl as anything remotely resembling that comparison. Frankly, any trip to a warmer climate can be considered a moral victory this time of year for those of us still inexplicably residing in this climate.
However, after having dreamed of an Orange Bowl earlier in the Thanksgiving week, all hopes were dashed as quickly as Joel Stave could overthrow Jared Abrederris on Saturday at Camp Randall. Before a Senior Day sendoff,the "pound-the-football-until-your-opponents-drop" offensive formula for success was abandoned against the Nittany Lions, and Dave Aranda's previously stifling defense couldn't get it's player personnel math right for most of the game and were ultimately torn apart by a true freshman quarterback wearing a white, perfectly clean helmet all day.
So now the 9-3 Badgers (or 9-2-1 to over-served patrons here) await their New Year's Day opponent. Most bowl prediction machines are spitting out likely candidates such as Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A & M, and yes, Auburn.
Far be it from the Wurst Brewer Fan In The World to make any bold predictions here, but what I will say is the that the Missouri matchup is the most intriguing, and perhaps, best chance Wisky has to end it's streak of post season bowl losses. After three consecutive embarrassing defeats at the hands of TCU, Oregon and Stanford in the Rose Bowl, all games in which the Badgers had a legitimate shot at winning, perhaps the palm trees in Florida will present a better backdrop for a win than the ones in Southern California. When Badger football fans stare in the bowl picture and see Missouri, they see a very similar team to the one that makes Madison its home.
One thing is certain, the man at the helm now will put his players in a better position to walk away with a victory than the previous regime. No offense Barry Alvarez, but having Gary Anderson on the sidelines this year instead of our exalted athletic director filling in for the departed Bret Bielema, is definitely a step in the right direction. It is in fact, if I must say, a very capital idea indeed.
And For What
Everybody knows one of the most enjoyable features of the traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner is the stack of leftovers that resides in your fridge the next few days, or weeks, in some cases. Whether it’s a simple turkey sandwich , with a little salt an pepper, mayo, lettuce and tomato on your favorite slices of bread, or the customary microwaved plate of meat, sweet potatoes, and stuffing all lathered with gravy, it all provides comfort as another long winter looms in front of us.
The leftovers are the consolation prize awarded after the main event has passed. What once was a beautiful, shimmering display of culinary extravagance, festooned with china, crystal and silverware littered with seasonal table arrangements, is quickly reduced to a Tupperware convention in your fridge. It may still revive and satisfy the cravings you had leading up to the big day, but when you sit down in front of the flat screen with all of it plastered onto a paper plate, it just doesn’t carry the same cache.
Such is the current state of the 2013 Green Bay Packers, the official leftovers of every Cheesehead’s NFL season. What was once a promising three course meal of offense, defense and special teams at the outset of the season has been reduced to an artificial dish of soon to be discarded entrees, served with a plastic knife and fork.
Gone is the centerpiece of the big meal, the big bird, Aaron Rodgers, his collarbone cracking under the weight of none other than a despicable Chicago Bear. The nice juicy wing that held so much promise, Jermichael Finley, was dropped and fed to the family dog just when it started to look good. The special sauce, Randall Cobb, the all-everything condiment that completed this delicious meal, was taken away too and may never return.
The drumstick of defense, usually the anchor to this wonderful dinner, wasn’t even served. Just when it was really needed to offset the loss on the offensive side of the football, it disappeared form the entire meal altogether. Large chunks of yardage fell off the plate at key points during key drives by the opposition. Littered with injuries, the large majority being pulled hamstrings in the upper thigh area, this so called 3-4 defense never materialized. When it’s all said and done and it’s time to clear the plates, it’s chef, Dom Capers, may lose his apron and hat.
How about the dessert? The special teams? Good luck there, all season long there hasn’t been any field position generated from that aspect of the team worth mentioning. Thus no pumpkin pie, no cherry pie ala mode, not even a spoonful of rice pudding. Of course, absolutely no turnovers from the afore mentioned defense either.
What’s left is a pathetic array of scraps that would normally be toiling on the practice squad to satisfy the appetite of the diehard Packer fan. Instead of a Cobb, you get a Boykin. Substituting for Finley you have a choice of Quarless or Bostick. And filling in for the big bird of Rodgers is the Discount Double Check antacid of Tolzein and Flynn.
Lost in all of this re-heated mess is the one and only nugget worth his weight, Eddie Lacy. If not for his bulldozing rookie efforts into a line that never blocks for him, there would be absolutely no need to waste your time on this team going forward.
As it is, this leftover group of bedraggled professional football players will themselves be fed to the Lions on Thursday, for all the nation to witness. Take my advice, Packer fans, and postpone your Thanksgiving Day dinner until much later in the day, when the stomach ache left by another dismal Green Bay performance has subsided. Take solace in the fact you’ve been eating these substitutes for the real thing for most of the season anyway, and that only four weeks are leftover in what was once a promising year.
And For What
If you live in Wisconsin, the football gods are treating you in very strange
ways these days. To the north the Green Bay Packers are suffering like they
haven't suffered in quite some time, but to the south, in Madison, the Badgers
are surging toward a possible BCS bowl game berth. As a football fan in
Wisconsin, your weekends have become football purgatory, stuck somewhere in
between the very good and the very bad.
When Shea McClellin introduced Aaron Rodger's left collarbone to the unfrozen
Lambeau Field turf that fateful Monday night, little did Packer fans know that
at that moment their hopes of another playoff season had ended. When Seneca
Wallace, of all people, appeared under center, the 2013 season was officially
over in Ashwaubenon. Three games later the Green and Injured have fallen into
the muck known as the rest of the NFL, with a 5-5 record, sporting a three game
losing streak, featuring back-to-back losses at hallowed Lambeau for the first
time since who knows when. Their new starting third string quarterback is none
other than Illinois native and Wisconsin Badger alum, Scott Tolzein.
Tolzein, like his boyhood idol, Brett Favre, the NFL's all-time interception
leader, likes to put up nice statistics among 2-3 interceptions per
contest. He's racked up more yardage in his first two games than any quarterback
in Packer history, but his lack of experience and penchant for throwing untimely
picks should be noted as nothing unusual for a guy added to the practice squad
just three weeks ago. Problem is, he's winless.
But give him a break, because Tolzein is the least of the Slackers problems.
Besides a litany of injuries to the likes of Rodgers, Cobb, Finley and Matthews,
just to name a few of the very many, it has been the incredulous performance of
the marshmallow D under the direction of one Dom Capers that has fueled their
demise. The Vikings come calling this Sunday, and now even the likes of
Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel or a one-legged Adrian Peterson strike fear in the
hearts of the Cheese Head faithful, especially those who still believe Rodgers,
with one arm, can admit them into a first round Wild Card defeat in the
Further to the south in the Dairyland state, in Madison, another football
program is headed in the opposite direction. Under the direction of first year
head coach Gary Andersen, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and offensive
coordinator Andy Ludwig, the Wisconsin Badger football team has put together an
8-2 record as it heads into the Twin Cities for the Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe
with another 8-2 team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. It's been an intriguing
year in the capitol city for the Badgers, suffering only the disputed "defeat"
in the desert to ASU and bumbling an opportunity to knock Ohio State in
Columbus, these being the only blemishes on an otherwise impressive season in
the post Bret Bielema era.
The vaunted Wisconsin running game has been elevated to new levels behind the
powerful trio of James White, Melvin Gordon and true freshman Corey Clement, and
the defense has started to execute Aranda's schemes to almost flawless
perfection. If not for an erratic, but mostly efficient quarterback in Joel
Stave, and a suspect kicking game, this team could have easily been a shoe-in
for a top 10 bowl game date. As it stands, with victories over Minnesota and
Penn State pending, Bucky will probably wind up in the Cap One Bowl or even the
Orange Bowl on January 1st. Wisconsin-South Carolina? How about Wisky versus
Johnny Manzeil and Texas A &M? Either matchup would be a nice reward for a
team that has garnered zero national respect, mostly due to the reputation of
the Big Ten as a weak conference.
So there you have it football fans, if you are stuck in Wisconsin for the
remainder of this football season, Saturdays have been Heaven and Sundays mostly
Hell, at least lately. In the meantime you're stuck in football purgatory. A
word to the wise, save your prayers for the Green and Gold, their season is
over. Put your faith in Wisky, they deserve a better fate.
And For What
If as you're tired of the "10 Things Your Team Needs To Do" blogs that
proliferate Twitter, than you'll understand where this next, albeit shorter,
post comes from. Given the wealth of material being offered up by the
Ashwaubenon Eleven lately, I thought I'd jump into the fray and give you these
choice tidbits to mull over before The Slack get annihilated against the Giants
this Sunday. By the way, the Packers trip to New York this weekend will be as
close as they get to the Super Bowl this year.
Here we go - Five Ways Green Bay Can Win Another Game:
1) Play Aaron Rodgers with one arm tied behind his back. "Aaron Rodgers with
one arm tied behind his back can beat the Giants", shouldn't be a punch line,
it should be part of a solid game plan that would also include cutting Seneca
Wallace, and signing Matt Flynn, thereby solidifying the crazy quarterback
carousel spinning around in Green Bay. The way things are going, Scott
Tolzein's four quarters of work against Philly last Sunday qualify him for Iron
2) Fire Dom Capers - hire a tackling coach. It's apparent that the game has
passed Capers by, at least when the Green and Injured have to play offenses that
were not conceived in the mid-1990's. Thus the inept result, a "Take It Easy"
approach, against the likes of the 49ers, Bears, and, of course, the
Eagles. Compounding the lack of aggressive defensive schemes is an utter
inability to tackle anybody, from the front four to the pathetic, undersized
secondary. The lack of tackling disease manifests itself most noticeably in
the fourth quarter (Bears, Eagles) usually during the last ten minutes of the
contest, regardless of the score (Redskins,Vikings).
3) Fire the trainer, or anyone else on the sideline responsible for the lack
of preparation that results in the consistent pulled hamstrings, groins, and any
other muscle (most of the muscles used for tackling, apparently), that continue
to fail on a regular basis, week in and week out. Replace the current trainer
with Mason Crosby, who appears to stay healthy on a somewhat regular basis.
However, as part of this deal, make Crosby kick with his left foot, since lately
his right foot isn't very accurate.
4) Get another club for Clay Matthews, one to match the one on his right
hand. This "Rock 'Em Sock "Em Robot" like appearance will instill so much fear
in the opposition's offense that Matthews mere presence on the field should be
enough to help someone make a tackle. And have MadeOfClay cut his blonde locks,
they obviously are not helping him stave off pulled hammy's and other steroid
abuse related injuries.
5) Hire a detective and find out who the person is sticking the injury pins
into the official Packer Voodoo doll. Personally I would start in the southern
part of the country, maybe Mississippi, concentrating on a certain rural
district where a retired former quarterback resides. A bigger clue might be that
this particular suspect is also the NFL's All-Time Interception Leader. Until
someone can wrest the doll from his mangled fingers, the plague of injuries will
continue to take it's toll on the Slackers in 2013.
If these five items aren't addressed ASAP, it's goodbye playoffs, hello
And For What
"Spring forward, Fall back", that's the mantra you remember so you know when to adjust your clocks for the seasonal time change. In the Midwest, it means the leaves have fallen, the lakes have "turned over", your snow blower has replace your mower's spot in the garage, the Packers are back in first place and the Wisconsin football team is dreaming of a BCS bid. The clocks will be wound back an hour this Sunday too and that also means basketball fans will be wound up as the hardwood season begins in earnest across the collegiate and professional arenas all over the nation.
Miami and Chicago christen the NBA season tonight, with the return of Derrick Rose adding more electricity to that contest as the Heat accept their Championship rings in Miami. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, each fan in attendance will be given two programs to help them decipher who is on the 2013-14 roster, and those in attendance will pray that the floor is in enough of a playable condition to finish the game. How the Bucks continue to survive in the city of Milwaukee and the Bradley Center is anybody's guess, but here they go again teasing their loyal fans with the flicker of hope for another one and done playoff appearance.
Meanwhile in the Mad City, Bo Ryan puts his incomprehensible run of 11 consecutive NCAA appearances and no worse than 4th place finish streak in the Big Ten on the line with another underrated group of athletes led by the likes of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser. Ryan, with his 132-54, .710 career record in the Big Ten and 650-204 mark in Division I (2nd highest winning percentage among active coaches) may be facing his toughest test to date. Whereas the Big Ten football conference gets slapped around in the media every day for it's mediocrity, the lineup of teams representing its men's basketball conference landed no less than five teams in the coaches poll Top 25 (including Wisconsin). With the likes of MSU, OSU, Michigan, Indiana and also Iowa figuring to be in the mix, Bo and roster of mostly underclassmen will be hard pressed to finish fourth or better again, but don't put it past him.
With Halloween a mere 48 hours away, it's a scary thought that hoops are in the air again, but that's a good thing. As any hard core sports fans knows, it doesn't get any better than this as the confluence of college and pro football, and basketball, plus hockey fill the sports pages and on line apps with all the updates and scores humanly imaginable day after day.
Don't forget to turn your clocks back, and don't forget to raise a toast to a beautiful beginning of the craziest five months of sports a fan can possibly hope for. Spring forward, Fall back? No, Sports forward, Fall back.
And For What