The Rose Bowl is still almost a month away, and to be honest, I’m sick of hearing about it. Don’t take that the wrong way, because I couldn’t be more excited about playing on the biggest stage in college football – seriously, at this point the Rose Bowl is more respected than the National Championship game in some circles – but I’m just sick and tired of everyone’s opinions about it, except my own, of course. Perhaps because we played Boise last year, which essentially put us at the kids table and let the adults have their adult conversations privately in the other room over a few too many cocktails, I became jaded to the concept of a BCS Bowl game. Maybe I thought that by becoming the only non-AQ team to ever make back to back BCS games in the era, we could at least have one foot on level ground. Not both, of course, but at least get the benefit of the doubt that, you know, two undefeated regular seasons in a row is a difficult feat, no matter what conference you’re in. And after Boise lost, I thought this would take on a life of its own; if ESPN slurped Boise so hard all year as perhaps the best team in the country, after they lost in Reno, you’d have to think it would make our season look a little bit better because, on a given day, any team is capable of losing. But of course, you know how that ended up, and the Rose Bowl begrudgingly extended the Frogs a bid because of a loop hole. Regardless of what ESPN said or did, there was nothing that could be done about it, and while that gave me a very sick sense of self satisfaction, the backlash we’ve received since almost cancels out any good intentions the BCS committee may have had.
Ok, so I realize that it hasn’t all been bullshit and backhanded compliments for TCU, based on the fact that we opened as a 3 point favorite and that several major media pundits, including reformed TCU hater Dennis Dodd over at CBSsports, have picked up to win outright. But, as with anything, the information that’s going to stick in your mind is the stuff that you don’t agree with, and ten times out of ten it’s the negatives you have to dwell on. And I’m so fucking worn out hearing about Wisconsin’s offensive line that it’s ruining the pre-Bowl build up for me.
Ok, we get it – they have big offensive line. Even if you’re an idiot that knows nothing about college football, you’re probably aware that the Midwest part of the country, where all of the Big Ten schools are situated, is absolutely FILLED with big, corn fed farm boys whose sole purpose in life is to fill a four foot by four foot box on a football field for about 30 minutes every Saturday. Seriously, check any NFL draft from the past 20 years – I’d be willing to bet that at least 30-40% of first round O line picks hailed from Big Ten schools. With few exceptions, the schools in the Big Ten are the flagship universities in their respective states. So, it’s not like they have too many difficult choices to make – I either go to this major university in my home state, or to the one in the neighboring state. Rarely do these states lose their own kids because of proximity and, when you grow up in Iowa or Ohio, what the hell else are you going to do other than grow up rooting for the home team? All this to say – with an overabundance of tall, big kids and a small number of major schools to choose from in the area, the best of the best are going to get funneled to these schools, and subsequently into the NFL.
And, more often than not, Wisconsin has the best of these. Also more often than not, Wisconsin loses football games – including this year, when they lost to Michigan State who, contrary to popular belief, is not as popular in the state of Michigan for high school athletes as the school in Ann Arbor. In fact, they haven’t won the Big Ten outright since 1999, and they didn’t even win it outright this year. A major stat they’re going to show you is that, in two of their final three games, Wisconsin scored at least 70 points and had over 300 yards rushing, all without pre-season Heisman hopeful RB John Clay. I’m not trying to downplay this because, hey, running up 10 TDs on anyone is a heck of a feat, even a D-II school, or whatever they’re called. But, come now, ESPN and Badger Nation – doing it against an Indiana team that no longer has a coach and a Northwestern team that was playing their backup QB is about on par with beating the little sisters of the poor in the Mountain West conference, if not less impressive.
Also, in case you missed it, Wisconsin has the 12th overall ranked rushing offense in the country; TCU, the little non-BCS team that could? 8th. Another thing ESPN doesn’t want you to know.
But, back to the whole Wisconsin O-line versus TCU D-line argument. It’s been called David vs. Goliath and it’s basically the only reason I’ve heard suggested why Wisconsin should win this game. Seriously, based on my national media knowledge of Wisconsin, all I know about them is that they have a huge offensive line and that TCU is basically running out the JV cross country team as our defensive front four by comparison. They’re bigger than us, we get it… but, AREN’T OFFENSIVE LINES ALWAYS BIGGER THAN DEFENSIVE LINES????? Except for maybe someone like Air Force, who can’t have huge offensive linemen because then who would fly the planes, a defensive line is never going to be as big as an opposing offensive line. Defensive linemen, outside of nose guards, are SUPPOSED to be smaller and therefore more agile. Have you seen an offensive lineman run in the combine? Is that what you want coming off the edge trying to sack an opposing QB? If we had a bunch of Jake Kirkpatrick’s on our defensive line, we’d lose half of our games and have no tackles for loss on the year. That’s not a knock on Jake, but when you have two immovemable objects hugging on each other, trying to gain position, chances are it’s going to be a stalemate every time. But when you have someone blowing off the edge like Wayne Daniels or Jerry Hughes, it doesn’t matter that the offensive lineman outweighs him by fifty pounds – in fact, it’s a disadvantage a lot of the time because by the time they’re out of their stance, they’re out of position and then you have Max Hall crawling on the ground with not so magical feces in his magic underwear asking where his soul is. If games were won based on how many large white guys occupied an offensive line, then BYU would win the conference every single year. Sorry, I realize that was more or less football 101, but Jesus Tap Dancing Christ, Craig James, you PLAYED FOOTBALL!! ON OFFENSE!! HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW THE GAME WORKS?? IT'S PHYSICS, BITCH!
Here’s another little known fact – TCU’s offensive line is bigger than Wisconsin’s! Look it up! Actually, don’t – here are the figures. I took Wisconsin’s 7 leading defensive line tacklers who played in all 12 games, and took TCU’s top 7 O linemen, since we rotate and have rotated all year. The numbers? Wisconsin averages a little over 6’4” and 284 pounds across their defensive line. TCU’s O Line? A little over 6’4” and a MERE 315 pounds. And, like I said earlier, our running game is ranked higher than theirs. Why is this not a MAJOR, HEADLINING GRABBING STORY!? Why wouldn't someone think to pipe in, "Hey, you know, it goes both ways, Herbie."? Because we’re TC forking U, that’s why.
Look, I’m fully aware that Wisconsin has a killer ground game, led by three big tailbacks and much bigger lineman. But, in their three games against ranked opponents, the Badgers ground game put up nearly 100 fewer yards per game than their season average, so apparently they ARE human. I don’t necessarily expect us to give them the Ronnie Hillman treatment, but we have the third ranked rushing D in the country. When you compare ours to Wisconsin's, the Badgers numbers do not compute because they are not even close - they give up 50 more yards per game on average. Shouldn’t this be part of the story here? TCU’s beefy O line and higher ranked rushing offense against Wisconsin’s smaller D line and lower ranked rushing defense? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I say yes.
And another thing - one of the biggest football cliches is that a team "runs downhill," and that's in every single description I've seen about the Badgers offense. But what the F does that mean? To be literal, a football field is flat, long ways. But, what team runs the ball uphill? Who would you describe as an "uphill runner?" These things bother me.
Of course, I could very well be wrong about this, and Wisconsin could come out, run for 1000 yards and make the Rose Bowl scoreboard explode. But with Patterson and Bumpas having a month to scheme for them, would you bet your life on that?
Another thing you’re going to hear is that Wisconsin is arguably the HOTTEST team in the country right now, which is directly attributed to the aforementioned poundings of the two worst teams in their conference; if you need proof, watch the Tech/Northwestern Bowl game when Tech’s worst team since the 90s wins by 4 TDs. But, with a month off, what does that even mean? Had we never let SDSU come back in the fourth quarter, we would be talked about the exact same way. Of course now, we’re a BCS pariah. By that logic, a sluggish first quarter and last 2 minutes of a decided game will have a HUGE impact on what goes down in Pasadena. Because we let a good, bowl eligible team whose coach was the top candidate for every open BIG TEN job available this off season, score two garbage TDs in what would be known in other conferences as a “let down game,” we’re going to get rolled. And if we’re talking about cheap wins, how’s that one pointer over 7-5 Iowa, or the one pointer AT HOME against 6-6 Arizona State looking for Wisconsin these days? Remember, these media guys are paid HANDSOMELY for their opinions.
(Completely changing horses here for a minute, I recently read an article from a Wisconsin newspaper that not so thinly veiled its complaints about the ticket allotments between the two schools. Mainly, they’re disappointed that their tickets are already sold out and are giving advice to their fan on how to get them from other avenues. They go with the usual suspects like stubhub, but the kicker to it? They’re telling their fans to exploit the Frog Club’s easy access to bowl tickets, by paying a $100 fee to join and getting in line. Clearly, this is an issue we’ve faced before with our fanbase, notably in 2005 when Tech fans chose to pay a little more for season tickets and a better seat, rather than pay a scalper for a worse seat for the one game. And while this tactic at first made me a little bit angry, I just have to wonder: How does the Frog Club continue to allow this to happen? Now, to be fair, they suggest that, due to the high demand, regardless of joining the Frog Club, a new member this year would probably not have enough priority points to have their name called. And if that happens to a slew of Wisconsin fans, that’s SUCH comeuppance as not only do they not get game tickets, but they donated to the TCU athletic department in the process. But again – HOW DOES THE FROG CLUB NOT STOP THIS? I clearly realize you can’t make the Frog Club available only to TCU alums because then you’ll never grow your fanbase… but when you get inundated with new memberships originating from Madison and Milwaukee, do the math, champ. I want to take them at their word that the priority point system will even things out, but if I get to my seat on New Years Day and I’m in the middle of a sea of red… well, I guess I’ll have to sit there and take it, but someone’s getting an earful Monday morning.
Besides, cheer up Badger fans, because here’s a list of at least 20 folks who are willing to sell some of the best seats in the house in your own section!)
To be clear, I’m not even mad about missing out on the title game; had we taken care of business against Boise last year, however, I might be singing a different tune. I’m certainly not viewing the Rose Bowl – THE ROSE BOWL!!!! - as a “consolation prize” and if we couldn’t face Auburn or Oregon, Wisconsin is hands down the team I would’ve chosen. Even with the spread dropping to 1.5, I don’t know which way to pick. But it’s just the fact that, despite the Frogs now being deemed good enough to actually join a BCS conference, our best is still not good enough. From looking around the internet landscape, it appears that we’re starting to win SOME folks over based on most putting the Rose Bowl in their Top 3 on the entire slate, but I have to feel like a lot of that has to do with it being the Rose Bowl and, to be quite frank, the bowl slate this year is garbage so we win by default. And, of course, with the HOTTEST TEAM IN THE COUNTRY coming to town from Madison, who wouldn’t be excited? I just think it’s bullshit that, no matter what we do, who we beat, or how many trips to Bristol, CT we make, we’ll never be taken seriously. We may no longer be the step child in Fort Worth, but to the rest of the world, we’re as red headed and unloved as they come.
Also, Urban Meyer just had his annual retirement this afternoon from Florida EXCEPT ITS FOR REALZ THIS TIME… let the annual overblown Gary Patterson job search suicide watch begin!