Coming off the heels of the monumental victory over top ranked Ohio State, optimism is high!
I would suspect that it will remain high after today’s loss. I have been convinced this team would lose this game all year, I remain so. I also remain convinced that UW will play extremely well today. The Iowa-Wisconsin matchup has become one of the better ones in this league, particularly with the demise of the Michigan-Ohio State matchup. The Battle for the Bull is tied at 41-41 all time, with Iowa having won the last two.
What will decide the battle for the heartland bull? Quite simply the gap between these two teams at this point is probably the health of Wisconsin and the strength of Iowa’s defense. UW may be without Nick Toon, they are without Jordan Kohout, not to mention the continued absence of Chris Borland. This will be classic football, power running, no nonsense, no spread, no trickery…line up and hit each other in the face.
Here’s how it will go: UW’s offensive line can push Iowa around. At the end of the day, who ever turns it over will lose. Both teams figure to move the ball, long, arduous, physical drives. Ricky Stanzi and Iowa have a fine passing game, and can run it. Tolzein and Wisconsin can throw it, and have a superb run game. UW figures to try and replicate the game plan from Saturday and keep Stanzi on the bench. They will probably succeed in some measure–but at the end of the day there will be a turnover that costs this game. Wisconsin is simply not as sound as Iowa is on defense. I like Wisconsin to battle and make this one of the better games, but the game is in Iowa City and the game will be tight until late. I like Iowa by a field goal. No letdown, I suspect Wisconsin will remove themselves from BCS contention but gain respect in the process.
Iowa 20 Wisconsin 17.
ESPN.com college football writer Pat Forde is on record in calling for a tight UW victory. I’m going to join him. Here’s why:
1. Night Football: As a former season ticket holder during the height of UW football greatness, I had several opportunities to see night games here. Scott Van Pelt once commented that Madison is the best college sports town in America…he hasn’t seen a UW night football game. They have been rare, but when they happen…look out. I remember the game in 1996, when tOSU blocked the field goal late, Lorenzo Styles had 21 tackles, Donny Brady was horrendous, the game was a loss, but the atmosphere was electric. I expect that to continue Saturday. Those types of atmospheres are rare and must be taken into account.
2. There is little reason to pick Wisconsin over Ohio State, which looks like the nation’s best team. One reason has to be the fact that the Wisconsin offense unlike any that tOSU has dismantled can actually run and throw. They are a run team first and foremost coming at #11 in the nation. They have fine running backs, a huge OL, and a crafty playcaller. But unlike the doormats that tOSU has pounded in conference, both Illinois and Indiana are awful and are either one dimensional as in the case of Indiana or none dimensional as in the case of Zook is to be fired in December Illinois. White and Clay are the types of backs that can beat an OSU, they have diversity on this side of the ball, great TE play, and solid QB play. The play of Nick Toon must improve, I will call him out right now. He’s been poor, to put it kindly.
3. Bret Bielema: what? Bret as a reason for victory? Yep, he’s had one victory in many chances against a top 25 opponent…it has to happen sooner or later. Saturday is later.
Not a real convincing case for victory, but consider that UW has traditionally defended tOSU well. They physically whupped the Buckeyes last year in Columbus only to fall short as a result of a pair of pick sixes by Tolzein. Those were devastating. That game should have been a Buckeye loss. This team offensively seems to be better suited to finish. Defensively, there are worries all over the field. Wisconsin on defense can be solid for 15-20 plays in a row and then lay an egg for an entire series, I hope they can be more consistent Saturday. UW’s run defense has been solid over the first 6 games, they need to be more consistent in coverage and generate some pressure versus Pryor in order to have success. It is this side of the ball I’m worried about. Not to mention that the UW special teams have been butt bad at times, horrendous in all non-kicking related areas. OSU traditionally is outstanding in this area, UW will need to match them in order to be successful.
Prediction: Clay and White both break the seal. OSU has gone 11 games without allowing a 100 yard rusher. Saturday they give up 2. Wisconsin can overpower the OSU DL and this will be the key factor in the game as UW keeps Pryor off the field with ball control. A Goose Island IPA would go great with this victory, that prediction is assured!
UW: 24 tOSU: 20
Apologies on the lack of Packer posts. It’s been a ridiculously hectic two weeks, but I’m back. Quite the two weeks. No Lynch trade, rumors of a DeAngelo Williams trade, Moss to the Vikings, and injuries galore. 1265 Lombardi set up a MASH unit this week in the parking lot. The only Packers signing over the last two weeks has been Hawkeye Pierce.
Some of you may have missed a key league transaction on Tuesday morning. After the Monday night disaster, the Dolphins fired their special teams coordinator John Bonamego. Granted, fans can be a little over the top sometimes, but this is evidence that there are some NFL executives who refuse to put up with poor performance. Are you following this McCarthy? In my season preview, I said Slocum would be gone by the bye week. How can he make it to week 10? It’s insane. I can’t even stand watching it anymore. As soon as Slocum threw Masthay under the bus for his 65 yard punt against the Bears because he didn’t kick it to the sideline, he should have been fired.
Let’s get on with the preview of this week’s game
KEYS TO THE GAME
1)Injuries- Burnett and Barnett are out for the year, Chillar’s out, Collins could be out, both tackles are hurt and we still don’t have a running back. On the Redskins sideline, Portis is out 4-6 weeks. Bottom line- the Packers will be playing guys they don’t trust. If they trusted Bishop, he would be starting already. If they trusted the DB who shall not be named, he would be more than a special teams penalty waiting to happen. One would assume the Redskins game plan will be to target these guys and put them on an island. My hope is they’re too dumb to figure it out.
2) Big day for Rodgers?- The Redskins are 31st in the league in total defense and passing defense. They are allowing over 300 yds per game through the air. They have one playmaker on defense, Brian Orakpo. They’ve already given up 30 points twice, to the Texans and Rams. Yes, the Rams. It’s time for Rodgers to get into a rhythm and finish drives off. I’m thinking 26-32 for 320 and 3 TDs. Book it.
3) The other guy- Let’s be honest. The Redskins beat the Eagles last week in spite of Donovan McNabb. He was 8-19 for 125 yards. In the NFC, only Derek Anderson has a lower completion %. Only Brett Favre has thrown fewer TDs (how’s that for a stat!!!). He’s past his prime and the Packers D should be chomping at the bit.
4) Attitude- Seriously, what are we playing for? The Packers played uninspiring football Sunday against the Lions. Even Tony Robbins would have left Lambeau depressed. We need to see some attitude and passion. This is a huge game. The Skins are back home and in need of a win to stay in the NFC East race. They’ve got a running back in Ryan Torain who wants to put Clinton Portis in his rearview mirror in over the next 6 weeks. The Packers have to show up.
PREDICTION- Green Bay 31, Washington 16
We bashed much in our previous post. Here’s a couple big positives from the game.
James White: he just continues to impress. With Clay and Ball committing to be slow, and not explode through holes, Bielema is right: James White is a great change up. Maybe its time that he be the fast ball and the others be the change up.
J.J. Watt: He played with purpose and commitment. His play was by all accounts superb, statistically a great day for him. He continues to be a great leader. When his time is done here, J.J will have high NFL hopes.
Umm…that’s really it. I’m watching the game now, not good.
Yesterday I DVR’d the game and committed to watching it after the fact without knowing the results. I had a prior conflict, I was jacked, I thought it would be a great game! I wandered into a place in the waning stages of the game, and boom…learned of the outcome. I was initially pissed. I read and heard more about the game before I committed to watching it and then saw Gladiator on. I thought, you know…I’d rather watch something where someone is committed, hard working, and lives up to this ability. Piss on it. So I’m writing without having watched it. But despite that, I have seen parts of the game, read about, and heard about it. So here are some snap judgements.
1. If Bielema doesn’t hire a special teams coach, I’m done with this program. They are woeful. Their returns are pitiful, they have strong specialists, yet the units are outlandishly bad. They give up impactful returns week in and week out. I’ll hang up my badger football gear until he coaches his way out of town. If football has shown us anything in the past five years in this state it is that SPECIAL TEAMS IS IMPORTANT. This is killing this program.
2. Good news/bad news: John Clay will be back. Good news–John Clay will be back, hopefully in the form of last year. Bad news–the John Clay that we see walking through holes is so pedestrian that if the NFL draft were 112 rounds I wouldn’t pick him.
3. OL: I thought this group would just dominate…I wasn’t alone. Most had this group as the nation’s best. Gabe Carimi has been poor by his standards, Josh Oglesby, is injured, disinterested, and lazy. All John Moffitt seems to do is give quips and quotes to the media. I did like his “I’d break a sweat pealing an orange” comment, how about this one. Maintain a block.
4. Secondary: this needs to be a primary need. Year after year, this program recruits under recruited players from football hotbeds thinking they’ll find gold. Line up and land an elite recruit at this spot, our secondary is poor. I know, I know, Jamar Fletcher was off the recruiting radar…so were the rest of these guys. I see a pattern.
5. Defense: if I hear or read about Dave Doeren being a genius one more time. I’m fining the next person 450 yards, I mean dollars. This defense has been suspect all year. Now they’ve added a nice new wrinkle, never getting off the field on third downs. Yesterday is was 9 of 18, many qualifying as third and long. Nice.
So a season starts with high hopes for a BCS birth and then you limp through the non-conference, and you get pummeled at your own game in the big ten opener. Nice. One analyst this morning has them targeted for the Insight.com bowl. Seems a far cry from the Orange Bowl matchup some were touting. At least now we kinda know why.
On a side note, for anyone who watched Iowa pummel Penn State with execution and a defense that was just flat out unforgiving and ALWAYS IN THE RIGHT SPOT…remember this: several of you were laughing at me because of how I touted Norm Parker, and Kirk Ferentz as the Big Ten’s best. Keep in mind UW and Iowa are mirror images, they recruit against each other, they have similar academic requirements, similar athletes, and yet Iowa almost NEVER beats itself and can win big games. Now comparing someone to Bielema as a coaching yardstick is like grabbing Cher for a comparison about musical ability–but I will be accepting apologies for how those remarks were laughed at.
Let’s be honest. The NFC North was supposed to be a two horse race between the Packers and Vikings. It still might turn out that way, but right now, the Bears have crashed the party. In fact, they may be imposters, or even decoys. I think they’re GLG-20s. Spies, Like Us. So without further ado, the Monday Night preview, Akroyd and Chase style.
Keys to the Game
“You may begin…now!” – Remember the Foreign Service Board Exams? Millbarge and Fitz-Hume need to pass to move up the ladder. Well, welcome to the big stage Mr. Bulaga. Your exam is against Julius Peppers. We don’t care how you pass this exam Monday, just pass it. Protecting Rodgers is the vital cog in the Packers’ offensive wheel. The Packers are going to have to give Bulaga some help, much like Akroyd assists Chase in this classic scene.
“For every wrong answer, I cut off a finger.” - Green Bay needs to take care of the rock Monday night. The Bears defense used to feast off of turnovers and every one Monday would be like cutting off a finger. You can include penalties in this mix as well. Eight penalties in two games is a good start. Keep it going under pressure.
“Yeah, I found it in a box of Lucky Charms.” - I can imagine Mike Martz putting Jay Cutler in the basement under Soldier Field all summer trying to figure out Martz’s complex offense. “Break it down again with the machines!” Penalties and turnovers should have cost the Bears a win in week one, but Cutler is currently the top-rated quarterback in the NFL. Cutler is historically prone to the turnover and there’s been none better getting takeaways than the Packers over the last 18 games.
“Stop right there and I’ll bring back the sun.” - The Packers are on the road on Monday night against a division rival. How the Packers respond in the first quarter is vitally important. A strong gameplan, executed, will take care of the upstart Bears. I hope the Packers respond better than Millbarge and Fitz-Hume!
PREDICTION- Green Bay 24, Chicago 20
Mike McCarthy’s halftime speech has entered the pantheon of great speeches. None of us know what was really said, except for the fact that Brady Poppinga said it was only PG-13. McCarthy has joined the elite, and his speech is now alongside such greats as John “Bluto” Blutarsky. The Packers followed one of the worst quarters in NFL history (7 plays, -4 yards) with a solid 3rd quarter (14 plays, 103 yards, 2 TDs). It wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and the game Sunday wasn’t over at the half. Thank goodness.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1)Wow, do the Bills suck. This is the first key, because the Packers did not play very well. Fortunately, the Bills showed up to Sunday’s gunfight with a Fisher Price plastic butter knife. At least they upped their yardage this week. Maybe next week, they can hit 200 yds. Just an FYI- I believe the NFL record for worst average in yards per game belongs to the 1933 Cincinnati Reds with 115 ypg. They also scored 3.8 ppg that year. Surprisingly, they went 3-6-1. Something to shoot for Bills fans.
2) Our linebackers were amazing Sunday. Matthews, Hawk and Barnett combined for 23 tackles, 4 TFLs and 3 sacks (the last two were all Matthews). Throw in Chillar’s pick to open the 3rd quarter and you have complete domination. Dom Capers must just giggle to himself.
3) Having a back-up tackle was definitely a key Sunday. The Bills had no sacks this week. Imagine last year at this time. I’d have put the over-under at 15½ sacks. Bulaga may never relinquish the left tackle spot.
4) Perspective. We learned nothing Sunday. This is akin to the Badgers learning anything about themselves Saturday against Austin Peay. We woodshedded a team we were supposed to woodshed. I guarantee we’ll learn something Monday night.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Props to AJ Hawk, but Clay Matthews wins this week. 3 sacks for the second week in a row. He is the defensive Jermichael Finley. There is no one-man answer to stop him. It’s actually quite ridiculous if you think about it. And how in the hell does he weigh 255 lbs?
PLAY OF THE GAME
Dead for an entire quarter, Brandon Chillar’s pick ignited the Packers and pushed them out of the doldrums. The offense took Chillar’s cue and scored on Driver’s catch to make it 20-7 Pack. The Bills went from taking the lead to asking Trent Edwards to lead a comeback. Ballgame.