As disappointing as the Badger's last two games have been, their season is far from unsalvageable.
All Badger fans are familiar with the horror stories that accompany the team's two losses. Scott Tolzien, after starting the season as one of the Big Ten's most impressive quarterbacks, threw five interceptions and failed to complete a touchdown pass over the last two games. Phillip Welch, believed to be one of the nation's premier kickers, was three for six in his field goal attempts against Ohio State and Iowa. Meanwhile, John Clay managed to accumulate just 134 rushing yards in the two games.
Sure, had the Badgers corrected those mistakes and played as well as we know they can, they, not Iowa, would most likely be occupying the No. 4 ranking in the BCS poll. Well, hindsight is 20/20 and that just isn't the scenario at this point in the season. Instead, the Wisconsin football team is at a very important juncture in both the 2009 season and the program's future.
The 2008 version of the Badgers, much like the current team, rattled off four wins to start the season and had their destiny in their own hands with key games versus Ohio State and Penn State on the horizon. As history reads, however, Wisconsin overlooked Michigan and their chance at a Big Ten title was instantly squashed. The Badgers were unable to rebound and finished the season with an embarrassing 7-5 record.
The way Wisconsin performed in their last two games, it's conceivable they fall this weekend to a rising Purdue team coming off consecutive wins versus Ohio State and Illinois. A loss at the hands of the Boilermakers would likely continue the downward spiral for the Badgers and they would finish the season with yet another unsatisfactory record. However, the way Wisconsin started the season (with the Big Ten's leading offense), it's also conceivable that the Badgers brush off the two losses and finish the season with a very impressive 10-2 record.
All of the remaining games on the schedule should be wins for Wisconsin so long as they return to their beginning-of-the-season form. A mid-November date with Michigan is Wisconsin's toughest remaining game, but they should be the favorite in the matchup because the game will be played at Camp Randall.
Should the second scenario prevail and the Badgers finish the season on the upswing, the 2010 season will be looking very bright for Wisconsin. Tolzien, Clay and the young receiving corps led by sophomore Nick Toon have all showed enormous potential through the first five games of the season and will be returning in 2010. Both the offensive and defensive lines are very young (with the exception of senior defensive end O'Brien Schofield) as is the majority of Wisconsin's secondary. A strong finish in 2009 will prove to the Big Ten that Wisconsin is truly one of its strongest members.
Parody is certainly one of the major themes of the 2009 Big Ten season thus far. The traditional dominance asserted by Ohio State and Penn State no longer exists. Iowa, who started the season with a near loss to Northern Iowa, is in position to represent the conference in Pasadena. If Wisconsin can put the pieces together in their remaining games, they will be playing in a respectable bowl game in 2009 and vying for a top spot in the conference in 2010.
Wisconsin has already surpassed many of the expectations set forth by pundits before the 2009 season. Assuming history does not repeat itself, the Badgers will be in position to recover some of the respect they lost in 2008 and end 2009 on the upswing.