A bye week could not have come at a better time for the Wisconsin football team.
The season is far from over, but the level of frustration from Badger fans has reached a high point. On paper, Wisconsin only has two losses, but the nature of these back-to-back contests has caused a great deal of heartbreak.
UW's matchup at Ohio State provided them with a favorable position as underdogs. It was either lose, as most people expected, without having their standing take much of a hit, or win and establish themselves as a surprising force in the Big Ten.
In short, it was the ultimate low risk, high reward situation. The Badgers outgained the Buckeyes 368 to 184 in total yards but lost by 18 points solely because of three plays: one kickoff return and two interception returns for touchdowns.
Still, Badger fans were not discouraged, as their Homecoming matchup against Iowa had the potential to be one of the more exciting games all year.
Wisconsin controlled the first half before getting shut out in the second. To make matters worse, Ohio State fell in an upset just hours later, meaning the Badgers could have held a share of the Big Ten lead with a favorable schedule ahead.
Now, only a far-fetched scenario would give them that opportunity.
These are the types of missed opportunities that Badgers fans have grown accustomed to over the past few years. This year's graduating class has had some great moments but has also gone through a series of what-ifs that has kept the Badgers out of higher-profile games.
The UW men's basketball team's ‘06-'07 season held tremendous promise for a trip back to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. With a healthy Alando Tucker returning, the Badgers had a senior leader who could carry them through the season.
Carry them he did, as the Badgers pretty much rolled through the beginning of the regular season, including electrifying wins on the road at No. 20 Marquette and at home against No. 2 Pittsburgh and No. 5 Ohio State. After a win against Penn State in late February, the Badgers held a 26-2 record, including a 12-1 mark in Big Ten play, propelling them to their first No. 1 ranking in school history.
This did not last, as the Badgers fell on the road to Michigan State. But the real turning point of their season actually took place Feb. 25 at No. 1 Ohio State, when junior center Brian Butch dislocated his elbow midway through the first half.
Even as UW's leading rebounder his junior year, many still labeled him as an inconsistent and soft big man. But the events following Butch's injury taught his skeptics a valuable lesson. He may have been inconsistent at times, but Butch played a crucial role in Bo Ryan's system. He spent a lot of time on the perimeter for a big man, but this spacing often gave Tucker the space he needed on offense to dominate opponents in the paint.
The Badgers still made it to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, but this time they were blown out by Ohio State. They advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament to play UNLV, but it was evident the Badgers were not the same team they had been just weeks before, leading to a startling upset.
After the season was over, I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened to the Badgers had Butch not suffered a season-ending injury. When things don't go your way, it's hard not to take this mindset.
With the same reasoning, a few plays that had gone Wisconsin's way this year might have led to a very different outcome.
But the season's not over yet, so before you go listing all the what-ifs and hypotheticals, realize the Badgers still have five games left and anything can happen.
Can Wisconsin turn its season around this year? E-mail your thoughts to Matt at email@example.com.