I recently started a new gig as an assistant scoreboard editor at the Chicago Tribune. I’m basically editing all the agate (stats, box scores, etc.) in the paper. I thought I’d post a couple examples of the stuff I’m doing. Here are two college football preview boxes I did for the Big 12 and Wisconsin Badgers.
Tag Archives: badgers
I bussed up to Wisconsin this weekend, going from O’Hare Airport to Madison to an outlet mall near Oconomowoc where I met up with my friends. I had a 30 minute layover in Madison, so I decided to some pictures of my old stomping grounds.
The majestic Memorial Union, the only college union in the U.S. that sells beer.
Boats out on Lake Mendota. I swam in there once or twice, not the best idea.
The Red Gym, an awesome looking building that is not Bowser’s Castle.
Congrats to the six Badgers drafted by NFL teams this past weekend: Kevin Zeitler (Bengals), Peter Konz (Falcons), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Nick Toon (Saints), Bradie Ewing (Falcons) and Brad Nortman (Panthers). Also, good luck to the guys who signed on as undrafted free agents, including Antonio Fenelus (Colts), Aaron Henry (Raiders), Louis Nzegwu (Falcons), Jake Byrne (Saints) and Patrick Butrym (49ers).
Thanks for your great UW careers, here are some photos I took at Badger games in 2011:
Rose Bowl; Wisconsin vs TCU, Jan. 1st
Camp Randall; Wisconsin vs UNLV, Sept. 1
Soldier Field; Wisconsin vs Northern Illinois, Sept. 17
Lucas Oil Stadium; Wisconsin vs Michigan St., Big Ten Champ Game, Dec. 3
Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone, its time to turn our eyes to the beautiful game of college basketball. I’m doing my part to get familiar with this season of college hoops by writing a series of blog posts. I started yesterday with my piece on a few under the radar stars.
My second installment is on some teams that started off the conference season slowly, but are poised to finish strong. I’ll also touch on some teams who might fade in the second half of conference play.
On The Upswing?:
Indiana (18-6, 6-6)
vs North Carolina Central
vs Michigan State
First off, congrats to Tom Crean, who won his first Big Ten road game against a team other than Penn State this weekend by defeating in-state rival Purdue. It only took three and half years.
Kidding aside, Indiana has a pretty favorable schedule down the stretch. They’re done with Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin, and five of their final seven games are at home, where they have knocked off two top five teams (Kentucky and Ohio State) this season.
The Hoosiers did lose to Minnesota at home earlier this season, so their trip up to the Twin Cities will not be a cake walk. The Hoosiers are 2-5 in Big Ten road games this season, so their game against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City won’t be a gimme either. As a Badger fan who happened to be at the Kohl Center this past New Year’s Eve, I can tell you that the Hawkeyes do have some talent.
Indiana should be able to win at least five of their seven remaining games, and they have a decent chance of winning six.
Alabama (15-7, 4-4)
vs Mississippi State
After just missing out on the NCAA Tournament last season, Alabama came into this season ranked and poised for a break-out year. However, the Crimson Tide got off a slow start in conference, dropping four of their first six SEC games.
Bama has won their last two conference games to get back to .500 in SEC play, and their schedule the rest of the way is very manageable. Ken Pomeroy has the Tide (24th in his rankings) favored to win in each of their remaining eight games. They’re done with Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and only play Florida and Mississippi State at home. Their toughest road tests will be at Arkansas and Ole Miss.
Michigan (17-7, 7-4)
vs Ohio State
at Penn State
Michigan dropped four of their first five Big Ten road games, with their only win coming against Purdue (who also dropped home games to Wisconsin and Indiana). While the Wolverines still have four Big Ten road games left on their schedule, they’re all definitely winnable. Illinois will be the toughest road test, as the Illini have beaten Ohio State and Michigan State in Champaign this season. However, the Illini are a mess right now, and I’m not sure they’ll figure things out anytime soon (More on that later on). I think the Wolverines should win at least three of their final four Big Ten road games.
Michigan is undefeated at home this season, but their toughest test will come in two weeks when the rival Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor. Michigan played Ohio State tough in Columbus, and I think they’ll pull off the upset at the Crisler Center. Michigan has a good chance of entering the Big Ten Tournament having won six of their final seven games.
Pittsburgh (15-9, 4-7)
at South Florida
at Seton Hall
vs West Virginia
vs South Florida
vs St. John’s
If there’s one thing we should have learned over the last decade, it’s that you should never count out a team coached by Bo Ryan or Jamie Dixon.
After suffering through an eight game losing streak, Pitt has started to recover and may now have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers are on a four game win streak (including wins over Georgetown and West Virginia), and their remaining schedule is not too rough.
They’re done with Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame and Cincinnati. I could see the Panthers entering their game in Louisville on an eight game winning streak, and it’s not unreasonable to think Pitt could end the regular season by winning 11 of their final 12 games. If they do, the Panthers should be dancing once again in March.
Teams That Could Fade Down The Stretch:
Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4)
at Michigan State
vs Penn State
at Ohio State
The Badgers recovered nicely from their 1-3 start in Big Ten play by winning six straight games. If they had beaten Ohio State this weekend, they would have moved into first place in the Big Ten. Alas, they lost to the Buckeyes at the Kohl Center for the first time in the Bo Ryan era.
Things won’t get any easier for the Badgers. Four of their next five games are on the road, including tough trips to Michigan State and Ohio State. The road games against Minnesota and Iowa will not be easy either. Tubby Smith has done pretty well against the Badgers, and Iowa beat Wisconsin in Madison earlier this season.
The Badgers have already lost four times at the Kohl Center this season, so the home games against Illinois and Minnesota (two possible bubble teams) will not be gimmes.
The Badgers could easily go 2-5 or 3-4 down the stretch. But, Bo Ryan is still the head coach of Wisconsin, so he’ll probably work his magic to avoid that.
Florida (19-4, 7-1)
After losing to Tennessee in their conference opener, the Gators have racked up seven straight SEC wins. However, their seven game win streak is pretty hollow. Five of those seven wins have come in Gainesville, and just three have come against teams ranked in the top 100 of the KenPom ratings.
Florida will be tested in the coming weeks. The Gators will travel to Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. They also host Kentucky on the final weekend of the regular season. Five of their final eight games will be on the road. The Gators are 2-4 on the road this season, including losses to two sub-100 teams, Rutgers and Tennessee.
Illinois (16-7, 5-5)
at Ohio State
Once again, Illinois has turned a promising season into a mess. The Illini moved into first place in the Big Ten after they upset Ohio State at home on Jan. 10. Since then, Bruce Weber’s crew has lost four of five games, including losses to Penn State on the road and Northwestern at home.
The Illini will play four of their next five and five of their final eight games on the road. Illinois has currently defeated just one Big Ten team (Northwestern) on the road. Illinois still has to play four nationally ranked teams on the road (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin).
One has to believe Weber is coaching for his job right now. If Illinois misses the tournament, Weber will be squarely on the hot seat. Yes, Weber led Illinois to the National Championship game. But it was seven years ago, and it was with Bill Self’s players.
Weber has not shown an ability to recruit elite talent (in a state full of it), and he also has not shown the ability to develop talent. Many of his players (Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis, Shaun Pruitt included) have regressed over their time in Champaign.
When Weber took over the program, Illinois was one of the top teams in the country year after year. Now, the Illini are muddled in mediocrity.
Minnesota (17-7, 5-6)
vs Ohio State
vs Michigan State
First, the good news: Five of Minnesota’s final seven games will be at home. The bad news: Four of those five games will be played against nationally ranked teams (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan), and Trever Mbakwe is still out for the year due to injury.
If the Gophers are to make the NCAA Tournament, they’ll probably need to beat Nebraska at home, Northwestern on the road and win two of their four tough home games (most likely against Wisconsin and Michigan). If they do that, they’ll finish the regular season 21-10 overall and 9-9 in conference. They might be able to sneak in at 20-11 and 8-10.
I really liked one quote Ball dropped in his press conference this afternoon. When talking about people questioning his ability to improve his draft stock next year, he said, “they have no idea what I can and cannot do.” Love it, never doubt what you can do.
I’ll post something longer on Ball and his decision later today.
Montee Ball strikes the pose against UNLV in week one
In a year where there is no clear cut favorite for the Heisman Trophy with only two weeks left in the college football regular season, it baffles me that Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is not a serious contender for the prestigious honor. Ball plays for a ranked team in a major conference and is on pace to finish the season with over 1750 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns. Yet, Ball is not on most voters’ radars.
This is partly due to the hype quarterback Russell Wilson has been receiving all season. Don’t get me wrong, Wilson definitely deserves the hype. He’s thrown for 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions and is on pace to shatter the NCAA record for pass efficiency rating (he currently sits at 199.3, the current record held by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan is 186.0). The athletic department has been hyping Wilson for the Heisman since the Badgers defeated Nebraska in early October. The @RussellManiaXVI twitter feed was created just hours after the Badgers 48-17 victory. Wilson has also had some classic Heisman moments spoiled by shoddy defense and special teams. The senior engineered fourth quarter comebacks on the road against Michigan State and Ohio State, only to have his defense blow the games in the final seconds.
However, as great as Wilson has been the season, I believe Montee Ball is having a more special season and is more important to the success of the Badgers offense. Ball got knocked out of the game against Michigan State after he took a helmet to helmet hit in the second quarter. The offense faltered without him, and didn’t get back on track until Ball returned in the second half. The Badgers had a hard time getting anything going against Ohio State until Ball starting running free in the fourth quarter. Also, don’t forget about Ball’s spectacular touchdown grab in the first quarter that saved Wilson. Ball snatched a poor throw from Wilson, it should have been picked off, and ran into the end zone for the game’s first score.
Ball has reached the end zone 30 times this season, and scored at least two touchdowns in every game this season. He is just the fifth player in FBS history to score at least 30 touchdowns in a season. The junior has already broken the Wisconsin and Big Ten records for most rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns in a season, and with possibly three games left, Ball still has an outside chance to break Barry Sanders’ outrageous record of 39 total touchdowns. Ball is averaging a touchdown every 8.0 times he touches the ball
Ball ranks first in the NCAA in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and total scoring. Ball has accounted for 182 points this season, 32 more than Kansas State quarterback Colin Klein, who sits in second. Ball is second in the NCAA in rushing yards, just two yards behind Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey.
Wisconsin two losses hurts Ball’s chances, but it’s important to remember that the Badgers didn’t lose those games because of Ball, and both of those losses came on hail mary passes. Ball has played well in every one of Wisconsin’s toughest tests.
48-17 win vs Nebraska: 30 carries, 151 yards, 4 TDs
37-31 loss at Michigan St: 18 carries, 115 yards, TD; 2 rec, 24 yards, TD
33-29 loss at Ohio St: 17 carries, 84 yards, TD; 3 rec, 30 yards, TD
28-17 win vs Illinois: 38 carries, 224 yards, 2 TDs; 1 rec TD
According to the UW athletic department, in three games against teams ranked among the top 16 in the country in total defense (Michigan State, Ohio State and Illinois), he has averaged 141.3 rushing yards, 159.0 all-purpose yards and scored seven touchdowns (four rushing, three receiving).
Alabama running back Trent Richardson is considered by most to be a serious contender for the Heisman. Heisman Pundit believes that if the vote were held right now, Richardson would finish third, behind Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. However, Ball has better numbers than Richardson across the board. Ball has more rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and has a higher yards per carry average.
Richardson had a chance to have a Heisman moment on the biggest stage possible, last month’s “Game of the Century” between Alabama and LSU. The junior didn’t have a poor performance, he ran for 89 yards and had 5 catches for 80 yards, but he didn’t reach the end zone as his team lost 9-6 in overtime.
At this point, there are only a few reasons why someone would vote for Richardson over Ball. Richardson is considered to be the more talented player and have the higher draft stock. Most pundits have Richardson being a top five or top ten pick in next year’s NFL draft if he opts to leave early. Richardson plays for Alabama, a high profile team that plays in the most high profile conference, the SEC. Alabama is also ranked #2 in the nation, and if the season ended today, the Crimson Tide would be playing in the BCS National Championship Game. To me, none of those reasons should matter when it comes to the Heisman, the trophy supposedly given to college football’s most outstanding player.
Now, if people have Baylor’s Griffin over Ball, fine, that’s a different story. Griffin has had an outstanding season. He’s putting up video game numbers (33 TDs, only 5 INTs and over 4000 total yards) and he’s exciting as hell to watch. But if you’re going to punish Ball for playing on a two-loss team, then Griffin should be as well. Baylor has lost three times, and needed overtime to beat Kansas, one of the worst BCS teams.
Ball has possibly two more chances to shine on a big stage before Heisman voters turn in their ballots. The Badgers play Penn State this Saturday in a de facto Big Ten Leaders Division title game, and with a victory, UW will face Michigan State in the first ever Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 3. Perhaps, Ball still has a chance to capture the nation’s attention.
I’m currently doing some freelance research work for the Wisconsin Radio Network. My job is to find “shining moments” in Badger history to be featured in commercials for the Marshfield Clinic. Once I find the significant games, I have to assemble a fact sheet and find someone involved in the game to be interviewed.
We just finished the ads for the football season, and they will be uploaded to this site week-by-week.
I had to find significant moments/games against Penn State, Michigan State, Indiana and one other game against a team that UW was not playing this year (I chose the 1981 game against Michigan). Here are the “shining” moments I found:
Oct. 26, 1974: Wisconsin defeats Indiana 35-25
Freshman Mike Morgan rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start as the Badgers defeated Indiana 35-25 in Bloomington.
Morgan filled in for all-Big Ten running back Billy Marek who was sidelined by knee and wrist injuries.
Fullback Ken Starch added 99 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Gregg Bohlig completed 10 of his 17 pass attempts for 160 yards.
The Badgers climbed to .500 in Big Ten play. UW lost their previous two games to powerhouses Ohio State and Michigan.
Wisconsin finished the 1974 season 7-4. It was the Badgers first winning season since 1962.
WHO WE INTERVIEWED: I attempted to get a hold of Mike Morgan to no avail. Since we never got in touch with him, we didn’t use this game and we ended up replacing it with the 1997 UW/IU game. Matt Davenport kicked a field goal with four seconds left to give the Badgers the lead and the win. Davenport would go on to kick another game winning field goal the very next week against Northwestern. (Davenport was interviewed)
Sept. 13, 1981: Wisconsin defeats #1 Michigan 21-14
Former UW Head Coach Dave McClain
“It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never had so much fun coaching as today. I told the squad before the game that nobody outside this locker room thinks we have a chance. Only we know that we can win this game.”
-Wisconsin Head Coach Dave McClain
“Our problems were simple. Our offense wasn’t any good, our defense wasn’t any good, our kicking game wasn’t any good, and our coaching was poor. It’s a miracle we were only beaten by seven points.”
-Michigan Head Coach Bo Schembechler
Wisconsin beat the #1 ranked team in the country for the first time in school history when they defeated #1 ranked Michigan on Sept. 13, 1981 at Camp Randall.
Wisconsin had not defeated Michigan since 1962, and the Wolverines had outscored the Badgers 176-0 in their previous four meetings.
It was Michigan’s first loss in a road opener since Harvard did them in 100 years earlier.
Wisconsin’s defense shut down Michigan quarterback Steve Smith (3-18, 39 yards and 3 INTs) and held star wide receiver Anthony Carter to just one catch.
Meanwhile, the Badgers were able to rack up 439 net yards. Quarterback Jess Cole completed 8 of his 17 passes for 182 yards and threw touchdowns to Marvin Neal and John Williams. Fullback Dave Mohapp led the Badgers with 19 carries for 87 yards. Running back Chucky Davis rushed for 71 yards and one touchdown.
WHO WE INTERVIEWED: Safety and punter David Greenwood.
Oct. 16, 1982: Wisconsin defeats Michigan State 24-23
Wisconsin held on for victory as safety David Greenwood intercepted a pass on Michigan State’s two point conversion attempt in the final seconds.
The Spartans got the ball back trailing 24-17 with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Late in the drive, Spartans quarterback John Leister escaped a savage rush to hit wide receiver Otis Grant with a 28 yard strike, moving the Spartans to the Wisconsin 10 yard line.
Two plays later, Lesiter found split end Ted Jones alone in the end zone, cutting the deficit to a point, 24-23.
Michigan State head coach Muddy Waters decided to avoid a tie (there was no overtime at the time) by going for two points and the victory.
“There was never a doubt about going for two points. We played to win,” said Waters after the game.
Leister rolled right, and with Grant open deep in the end zone, he under threw the pass and the ball fell right into the hands of Wisconsin safety David Greenwood.
The Badgers escaped with a 24-23 victory
WHO WE INTERVIEWED: We actually we’re unable to do a piece on this game. I got a hold of David Greenwood, but he had no recollection of the game. Instead, we interviewed Greenwood about the 1981 Michigan game. Bill Scott from the Wisconsin Radio Network replaced this game with the 1992 UW/MSU game that took place in Tokyo. The Badgers won that game to clinch a berth in the Rose Bowl. (Barry Alvarez was interviewed)
Sept. 30, 1995: Wisconsin defeats #6 Penn State 17-9
Former Badger QB Darrell Bevell, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.
Wisconsin went into Happy Valley and ended the Nittany Lions’ nation-best 20 game winning streak that dated back to the 1994 season. The loss also snapped Penn State’s 12 game Big Ten winning streak.
It was the first time Wisconsin and Penn State had played since 1970, and the first time the two teams had played as Big Ten Conference foes. PSU joined the Big Ten in 1993, but they did not play UW their first two seasons in the league.
Darrell Bevell completed 18 of his 22 pass attempts for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Bevell’s first quarter touchdown pass to tight end Matt Nyquist put the Badgers up 10-0. Nyquist ended the game with 4 catches for 40 yards and the one touchdown.
Bevell later connected with wide receiver Tony Simmons on a 21 yard touchdown pass that put the Badgers up 17-3 early in the fourth quarter.
The game was Joe Paterno’s 500th as a member of the Penn State coaching staff.
WHO WE INTERVIEWED: TE Matt Nyquist; 4 catches, 40 yards, 1 touchdown
Camp Randall; Madison, WI, Sept. 2007
It’s game week. I’ll be at Camp Randall this Thursday for the kickoff of the season. These are some of the things I’m most pumped to find out about the 2011 season:
1. How will Russell Wilson look in the Badger offense? Will his speed threat lead to dynamite play-action game? Can he be as efficient as Scott Tolzien this season? How often will he run? Which receiver will be his favorite target?
2. How will the defense, specifically the defensive line, look without J.J. Watt? Most people are saying the UW D-line is very deep, but which lineman will step up? Will Louis Nzegwu finally turn into a legit pass rusher? Nzegwu was pretty unspectacular last season, and that was when J.J. Watt was constantly drawing double teams on the other side of the line.
3. Can Chris Borland and Mike Taylor stay on the field this season. Both are very talented line backers, but they’ve had their share of injuries. The Badgers don’t have a deep stable at LB, and would have a hard time replacing either in the lineup (along with Kevin Claxton, the third starting LB).
4. How will the receiving corp be? Can Nick Toon stay healthy? Who behind Toon and Abbrederis will see significant playing time? Doe, Duckworth, Frederick, Garner (if he gets healthy)?
5. How dominant will the new three headed monster at running back be (Montee Ball, James White, Melvin Gordon)? The word out of camp is the Ball and White both look improved from last season and that Gordon is a beast that can’t be kept of the field. With Ball and White improved, and the addition of Gordon and Wilson to the team, can the running game actual be better in 2011?
The expectations for the 2011 season just got much higher, Big Ten title or bust.
After the Wisconsin Badgers football team finished setting school records for points scored and margin of victory in their 70-3 pounding of Austin Peay on Sept. 25, fans at Camp Randall Stadium were not only saying “Wow,” they were also saying “Why?”
Why would Wisconsin of the Big Ten conference, the 11th ranked team in the country at the time, play a school from the Ohio Valley Conference and the FCS Division (Formerly known as 1-AA)?
Match-ups between teams of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) are not uncommon. 10 of the 11 teams that make up the Big Ten have at least one FCS opponent on their 2010 schedules.
Scheduling FCS opponents has become as big of a Wisconsin football tradition as Jump Around or the Fifth Quarter under head coach Brett Bielema. In each of Bielema’s five years as head coach, the Badgers have scheduled a FCS opponent to round out their non-conference schedule.
Still, the 70-3 pummeling of an obviously overmatched Austin Peay raises the question: Why bother?
A big part of the answer is money.
Austin Peay had never played a team from a conference that qualified for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) until they visited Camp Randall. Just two weeks earlier, Austin Peay played their first game ever against any FBS team, losing 56-33 to Middle Tennessee State of the Sun Belt Conference.
That’s because the 2010 season was the first time FBS teams could schedule Austin Peay and have the game count toward their season record, according to Brad Kirtley, Austin Peay’s director of sports information.
Austin Peay became a full-scholarship FCS program in 2006, but under NCAA rules it had to go through a four-year period before FBS teams could play them and have the game count.
But it’s worth the wait. FCS teams often get a check of between $300,000 and $400,000 to make a one-time visit to a FBS team’s home stadium.
According to Kirtley, Austin Peay will make most of its football revenue in 2010 from the game checks they receive from Wisconsin and Middle Tennessee State. In previous years, Austin Peay’s revenue came exclusively from ticket sales.
For a team with a stadium capacity of 10,000 and just five home games scheduled each year, getting those checks from FBS opponents are a sometimes painful necessity.
Neither Kirtley or Brian Lucas, director of athletic communications for Wisconsin, would comment on the exact amount of the check Austin Peay got for playing at Wisconsin.
Despite the 70-3 blowout, Austin Peay football coach Rick Christophel does not have any second thoughts.
“We have no regrets at all about playing this game,” he said. “Certainly it helps our athletic department from a financial standpoint.
“But more than that, it helps our program. We tend to forget what we are in this business for — the wins and losses and the money — but we also are trying to teach kids about the world, see different places and different cultures. Basically, you want them to see and experience what is out there. That is so important.”
Wisconsin also benefits financially from match-ups with FCS opponents. FCS teams like Austin Peay do not expect as much money in return for their visit as FBS opponents like Oregon State.
In most cases, FCS teams also do not expect a home game against the Badgers in return. This is often not the case for FBS teams.
In 2011, Oregon State will visit Camp Randall while the Badgers travel to Corvallis to play the Beavers in 2012.
In the perfect scenario, Wisconsin can pack Camp Randall, keep a larger share of the game revenue and get an easy win over an inferior opponent.
However, that is not always the case.
While Camp Randall was sold out for the first three FCS match-ups in the Bielema Era, the last two games (against Wofford in 2009 and Austin Peay in 2010) have not been sell-outs.
Match-ups against FCS “cupcakes” are not always as sweet as FBS teams and their fans expect.
“It’s still 11 on 11 and it’s playing football,” said Bielema in the week leading up to the Austin Peay game.
“The playing field has gotten closer and closer. They’ve raised their level of ability and also you catch teams that are in bad situations and maybe not at full strength and bad things happen,” he said.
Michigan can attest to that. So can Virginia Tech. And so can Wisconsin.
In what many call the greatest upset in college sports history, Appalachian State defeated fifth ranked Michigan in 2007.
Just this year, James Madison knocked off 13th ranked Virginia Tech on the road.
In 2008, the Badgers needed overtime to beat Cal Poly. The Mustangs would have been celebrating an upset victory of their own if not for 3 missed extra point attempts and one missed field goal by their kicker.
No matter how Badger fans feel about seeing FCS teams at Camp Randall, they should be prepared to welcome another next season. Coming off a victory over Minnesota this season, South Dakota visits Madison on Sept. 24, 2011.
I wrote this story in Oct. 2010 for my intermediate reporting class.