Monday, November 13, 2006

Football is better

I think football is better than politics, especially when the Badgers and the Packers win in the same weekend. A few thoughts:

Of the two wins, the Badgers’ win over Iowa is much more significant, even though it may not make any difference for their immediate future. No matter how much the geniuses of the BCS play with the controls, teams have a way of upsetting expectations. It is quite possible that, when the regular season is over, that the Badgers will be 11-1, with Michigan 12-0 and Ohio State 11-1. It is also quite possible that most of the teams currently ahead of the Badgers in the BCS standings, such as Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Florida and Arkansas, will all have two losses. The question will then be, why should the Badgers not be in a BCS bowl game?

The answer is simple – one conference cannot have three teams in the BCS. As a result, it is quite likely that some teams will go into the BCS with worse records than the Badgers. Two things leave the Badgers in their current position – losing a game at Ann Arbor, and being lightly regarded at the beginning of the season. It’s difficult to see why the Badgers shouldn’t be ranked in the top 5, but they aren’t, and likely won’t be. They will get a chance to prove their point in the Capital One Bowl against a good SEC team. And if the Badgers end up 12-1, they would have an excellent argument for a top 3 position in the final poll, even if the two teams ahead of them are the boys from Columbus and Ann Arbor.

One other thing – as good as the Ron Dayne-era Badgers teams were, I think this squad may be better. John Stocco as a senior is a better quarterback than Mike Samuel ever was, or Brooks Bollinger became. While Dayne is an all-time great, P. J. Hill is an excellent young runner. The offensive line is better now than it was in 1998-1999 and the defense is better, too. Barry Alvarez set things up beautifully for Bret Bielema and, so far, the transition has been smooth.

As for the Packers, I’ll say two things. First, I was wrong about this team, thinking that they would be contending for the number one draft pick. They’re doing much better than that. I’ll also say this: they are showing progress every week. Number 4 is having a much better year this year than last, even though he has arguably less talent around him. This coaching staff seems to have gotten through to Brett about what happens when you take foolish chances. Meanwhile, Donald Driver is one of my all-time favorite Packers, because he comes ready to play every game. Yesterday he was huge, with his 82-yard touchdown only the most dramatic of several fine plays. While the high-risk, high reward Packer defense continues to get burned for long plays with alarming frequency, you can see that the Packer coaching staff is starting to make adjustments. The Vikings sent Bethel Johnson downfield successfully twice in the first half. When they went back to a similar play in the 4th quarter, the Packers were ready and Patrick Dendy made a key interception. Even though the Packers blew the game in Buffalo last week, they showed flashes of improvement. That continued yesterday. Young Mike McCarthy and his staff seem to have righted the ship after last year’s disaster. It would asking a lot for the Packers to get a playoff spot, but the 2-14 I envisioned before is now looking more like 7-9 perhaps even 8-8. And that would be major progress.

Meanwhile, the Purple continues to be a mystifying bunch. I sense that Chester Taylor, who has been very good this year, is starting to wear down. Brad Johnson looks very old now and I wonder if he’ll be able to hold up much longer. He took some ferocious shots yesterday, especially when he was sandwiched by A. J. Hawk and Nick Barnett. Johnson cannot throw the deep ball consistently any more and teams are sitting on the shorter routes the Vikings prefer to run. The natives are already getting restless about Brad Childress. If Johnson goes down and the team has to go with Brooks Bollinger, the Badger reunion will be complete. Perhaps the Vikings can get into the BCS….

No comments: