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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Bielema, Badgers at their best when flying below the radar

With how much Badgers fans have played the ""no respect"" card this week, Rodney Dangerfield should be in line for some serious royalties.

When the team debuted as No.25 and 26 in the USA Today and AP polls, many among the Wisconsin faithful took it as an affront, pointing out how an undefeated UW squad sat behind at least 12 one- or two-loss teams. But focusing on this aspect is a complete waste of time.

National respect, at least in terms of mid-year rankings, is not particularly important for the fate of a college football team. Unless the team is left out of the national title game (probably doesn't apply to Wisconsin) or an odd situation like 2004 where rankings decided who went to the Rose Bowl, it really has no effect on the team's postseason plans.

All non-BCS bowls are slotted with conference affiliations, meaning that Big Ten bowls have a selection order to take Big Ten teams (those bowls include Capitol One, Outback, Champs Sports Bowl who get picks two through five of conference teams). Unless they win the Big Ten, the Badgers would have to finish 14th or better in the final BCS standings to be eligible for one of four at-large BCS bids (in reality it's usually three since a non-BCS conference team usually automatically qualifies). The final BCS standings are, however, a long way off.

In truth, midseason rankings are really just a way to hype up the weekend's games. ""No. 9 Ohio State against No. 19 Wisconsin"" would sound a lot cooler than ""No. 9 Ohio State against Wisconsin.""

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Furthermore, having that high ranking brings with it more expectations. If those are not met, it tends to reflect even more poorly on the team.

Badger fans need look no further than recent history. The team was ranked in the top seven in 2007 and top 15 in 2008. It finished both years unranked and was considered a disappointment by fans in both instances (the same thing also happened in 2001, 2002 and 2003).

2005 and 2006 stand as a contrast, where the Badgers clawed from outside the preseason polls to rankings of No. 15 and No. 5 at the end of those respective years.

The team seems to respond better when it starts on the outside and has to move its way up. In fact, since 1994, the Badgers have been ranked in the preseason 12 times and have only finished three of those years with a higher ranking (the Rose Bowl seasons in 1998/1999 and 2004 where the team began at No.21 rose No. 4 before crashing down to No.17).

Head coach Bret Bielema may have summed it up best in his press conference Monday, when he said, ""I think our team is a team that likes to gain respect rather than lose respect.""

And there's the key to the whole damn thing.

The last two seasons Wisconsin has always been losing respect, and losing a lot of it. This year, they still have not done that much to earn it back.

The Badgers' schedule thus far has been fine—not good, not awful—just fine. The best win is probably against a middling Gopher team; Michigan State is 2-3 with one big win, and Fresno is 1-3 (though their three losses are all to good teams).

Being 5-0 against that slate is not exactly a huge accomplishment. It's a good one, but it isn't hard evidence that the team deserves much national admiration.

If the team beats Ohio State, then it will have earned that respect. If it beats Iowa, then it can earn national attention and praise.

Some may wish that Wisconsin was like Florida State, Michigan and Notre Dame, who get ranked after even the ugliest early season win. But in truth, it's probably better this way, since it's far more enjoyable to see a team come together and earn its accolades rather than see an over-hyped and overrated squad come crashing down from a lofty pre- or midseason perch.

Think the Badgers are clearly a top-20 team and that the lack of respect is simply an affront to its undefeated record? Tell Ben about ESPN's slights toward the team at breiner@wisc.edu.

 

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