Friday, September 26, 2008

Know Your Foe - Wisconsin

This Saturday marks the beginning of the Big Ten season. The Wolverines play host to Wisconsin this week. Michigan had two weeks to bounce back from a sloppy loss to Notre Dame. I was unable (fortunately or unfortunately - you make the call) to see the game due to hurricane issues down here in Texas. So far this season, Wisconsin has three victories over "mid-majors," including an impressive road victory over perennial giant-killer Fresno State. Likewise, this is Michigan's first game this season against a ranked opponent.

With that, I give you this week's installment of "Know Your Foe."

The University of Wisconsin is a public University that was established in 1848. The Madison campus is known for several things, including the liberal activism and hard partying ways of its students. In fact, in the May 2006 issue of Playboy, Wisconsin was named the #1 party school in the country. I remember I bought that issue just so I could read that article - really, the articles are great.

Madison, Wisconsin. The campus is located about a mile from the state capitol building. From all accounts I have read, it is considered a beautiful campus, and Madison often is found in the "nicest places to live" lists put out by various publications. The home football games are played at Camp Randall Stadium, which has a capacity of just over 80,000.

The nickname "Badgers" was borrowed from the state of Wisconsin. The territory was dubbed the "Badger State," not because of animals in the region, but rather because of an association with lead miners. In the 1820s and 1830s, prospectors came to the state looking for minerals, and without shelter in the winter, the miners had to "live like badgers" in tunnels burrowed into hillsides. The badger and the wolverine are actually part of the same family of carvinorous mammals known as Mustelidae. The family also includes weasels and ferrets.

Colors/Logo/Fight Song
The official colors are "cardinal and white." Just call it "red," will ya? The logo is kind of a stylized block W. I think it's called the "Motion W" and the university sued some high schools whose logos looked too much like the Badgers' logo. It seems to me to be a little bit petty, since afterall, it's really just a font? Can you trademark a font?

The fight song is a pretty good one, but it's obviously centered around football. Do they sing this during basketball games?

On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, plunge right through that line.
Run the ball clear down the field, a touchdown sure this time.
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, fight on for her fame.
Fight, fellows, fight, fight, fight, we'll win this game.

On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, stand up Badgers sing.
"Forward" is our driving spirit, loyal voices ring.
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin, raise her glowing flame.
Stand, fellows, let us now salute her name.

However, what I remember most about this fight song is its use in some sort of ad campaign for cheese back in the 80s. It used the same tune, but the lyrics were something like "On Wisconsin, on your taco, on your cordon bleu, on your *something*, on your *something*, the taste is good for you." The use of their fight song in a cheesy cheese ad for cheese automatically downgrades it.

Bucky the Badger is one of the more recognizable mascots in the country. I particularly like the 20s style striped sweater that badgers have been known to wear in nature for thousands of years.

According to US News and World Reports, Wisconsin (Madison) ranks a respectable 35th, on par with the likes of Georgia Tech, Lehigh, UC-San Diego, and Rochester (Michigan ranks 26th). The University is a leader in stem cell research, and is one of thirty "sea grant colleges" in the US. These colleges are involved (which include UofM and MSU, among others) in scientific research, education, training, and extension projects geared toward the conservation and practical use of U.S. coasts, the Great Lakes and other marine areas.

Barry Alvarez put the Badgers back on the football map when he took over in 1990. His first season, they were 1-10. With the exception of 2001, Wisconsin has been to a bowl game every year since 1996. In 1998 and 1998, the Badgers finished in the top five in the country for the year. Bret Bielema took over the head coaching duties for the 2006 season, and has continued the success. Wisco's men's basketball program has also become a consistently successful one. They have made the NCAA tournament the last nine years, including one final four. The men's and women's hockey teams each won national championships in 2006. Also, the men's and women's rowing teams have won 27 non-NCAA titles (whatever that means) between 1990 and 2006.

Famous Alums
This is a pretty good list, but lacks true "star power." The list includes lots of football and hockey players. Among the more interesting alums are major league baseball commissioner and former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers Bud Selig, Second Lady Lynne Cheney, musician Steve Miller, actress Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm In The Middle), aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh, broadcaster Greta Van Susteren, ESPN basketball writer Andy Katz, Democratic Senator and owner of the Milwaukee Bucks Herb Kohl, Sierra Club founder John Muir, and movie producers Jerry and David Zucker, who were responsible for producing and directing what might be the single funniest movie of my childhood, the 1980 classic "Airplane!" Surely, everyone is familiar with that movie. "I am familiar with it. And don't call me Shirley."

The Game
Despite the fact that the Wolverines' first three games have been uninspiring (to say the least), I have a good feeling about this game. The Badgers' style is pretty straightforward. They will run PJ Hill until he collapses from exhaustion. Fortunately for Michigan, their strength is the defensive line. Unfortunately for Michigan, the linebackers have been inconsistent. If the defense is able to control the Wisco running game, there is a good chance that Michigan comes out of this game with a victory. If Hill runs for less than 50 yards, it means that they have pretty well controlled the line of scrimmage. If he runs for over 120, that's a bad sign. On the other side of the ball, if Michigan can get competent play from their QB this week, they have a chance. For that to happen, the the big fellas on the offensive line have to play a lot better, and the little fellas have to hang onto the ball. Call me crazy, but if Fresno State can hold Wisco to 13 points, Michigan should be able to do the same. The question is whether or not the offense can generate any points. There was significant improvements offensively against the Irish (except for those pesky fumbles), but the Badgers are a lot better then ND. I say the offense gets some footing and is able to run the ball against the Badgers defense. The home field is the key here, and the Wolverines win their Big Ten opener: Michigan 21, Wisconsin 13.

Go Blue!


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