Wisconsin football still can achieve great things in 2018, even with a loss to BYU.
“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” That’s a quote from Walt Disney that I think applies perfectly to Wisconsin football after its loss to BYU over the weekend.
It was clear, even after the blowouts over Western Kentucky and New Mexico, that Wisconsin wasn’t playing as well as it should have. Other teams ranked around the Badgers were rolling over their opponents with ease and the Badgers slow-played their own games to small leads early on.
Wisconsin doesn’t play the kind of football that will run up the score too well, but it’s also not surprising when it does. Something needed to change.
A loss to BYU at this stage of the season is the best thing that could have happened to this team. Well, besides a huge blowout where all of the rough edges looked smoothed out and the Badgers played like a national title contender. But that wasn’t happening.
The Badgers badly needed a wake-up call. Things weren’t going to come easily to this team if it kept performing the way it did in the first couple of weeks. I think this is as much of a wake-up call for the staff as it is the players too. Everything needs to be reexamined.
The good news for Wisconsin is this loss doesn’t really change anything for the outlook of the season. The Big Ten West is still fully up for grabs and the Badgers control their own destiny there. That also means getting to Indianapolis is just as obtainable. Winning the Big Ten wasn’t the premier goal of the program going into this year, but it needs to compete for that before anything else right now. It starts with Iowa next week.
Wisconsin can still technically make the College Football Playoff too. The Badgers will have to win out to do so, but that’s not impossible. Every Power 5 team that finished with one loss (or less) and a conference championship in the Playoff era has been granted a spot in the final bracket. The committee would have to look closely at that precedent if the Badgers ran the table, but that hypothetical Wisconsin team would have wins over Michigan, Penn State and likely Ohio State. It would be deserving of a spot. With two losses? That’s a different story.
I also believe as the season goes on we’re going to wonder why BYU was such a big underdog in this game. That program has a proud tradition and it played an excellent game on Saturday. It’s certainly trending upward. The loss will still sting, and I don’t think there’s such thing as a ‘good loss’ but losing to BYU might prove to be as close to one as you can get.
From here, Wisconsin needs to focus on two things. First, getting better. You can’t lose any more games if you want to compete for major championships like you had hoped at the onset of the season. And even if Wisconsin is winning games throughout the season, if it plays as it has so far, another slip up is inevitable.
Next, the Badgers need to beat Iowa. Dropping this game would make most of what I said here irrelevant. They wouldn’t control their own destiny to Indianapolis and the Big Ten Championship anymore. Any Playoff hopes would be squandered. That top-25 ranking? Kiss that goodbye too.
The good news is Iowa hasn’t looked very impressive this year. The rest of the Big Ten West hasn’t either. The bad news is this game is going to be at night in Kinnick stadium. And strange things seem to happen to visiting teams when they show up in Iowa City after sunset.