Monday, October 09, 2006

Badger badger badger badger

Sometimes you have to write about positive things. So, let's talk about those Badgers.

Things are looking up for the Badgers. They have managed to post consecutive routs of Big Ten bottom feeders Indiana and Northwestern, and now a downcast Minnesota Gopher team is coming to Madison for next week's game. The Gophers are a better team than their record would indicate, but it's difficult to see how they will right the ship against the Badgers this week.

Bucky seems to have finally found, nearly ten years on, the new Ron Dayne. Redshirt freshman P. J. Hill is a bruising back with pretty good speed. Hill put up some Dayne-like numbers against Northwestern over the weekend, rushing for 249 yards. He checks in at 242 pounds, somewhat lighter than Dayne, but he is also a punishing runner. In the recent past, the Badgers have offered scatback types as their featured back; both Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis were excellent college running backs, but they were pretty small and took a lot of punishment during their careers.

Meanwhile, the defense seems to be playing well. Bret Bielema came to Madison with a reputation as an excellent defensive coach and strategist; it appears that for the most part, he has lived up to that reputation. Where the Badgers have had trouble is when the opponent has had vastly superior physical talent; Michigan's Mario Manningham torched the Badgers during their only loss of the season, but Manningham is torching everyone right now, including such worthies as Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Meanwhile, the Gophers played a fine game against Penn State, only to lose in overtime because of a botched extra point and a questionable pass interference penalty. The Gophs do have a veteran quarterback and their usual stable of Big Ten-quality runners and blockers, but they have not been stout on defense. And that, ultimately, will be their undoing in Madison this weekend. It could be a wild one, but I suspect the Badgers should win it pretty easily in the end, with a score of something like 41-24.

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