Posted on: September 18, 2010 7:58 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2010 8:02 pm

Wisconsin closes the door on a threatening ASU

Posted by Chip Patterson

Arizona State has gotten a touchdown from their special teams and almost added another just before halftime against No. 7 Wisconsin.  The Sun Devils jumped out to an early lead by answering a Wisconsin field goal with a 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.  When Wisconsin scored their first touchdown with ten seconds left in the half, the special teams almost answered again.  Kyle Middlebrook had nothing but green field in front of him as the first half clock expired before he was brought down just short of the end zone.

But in the second half the Badgers powered their way back in front thanks to some hard running from John Clay and James White.  Midway through the third quarter, Wisconsin orchestrated an 8 play, 88 yard drive that finished with a 19 yard touchdown run by Clay.  It took almost an entire quarter for the Sun Devils to answer, but they finally put together their first drive resulting in a touchdown.  

Then, with only an extra point between Arizona State and overtime, they could not get it done.  Wisconsin senior cornerback Jay Valai blocked the point-after attempt to deliver the 20-19 win for the Badgers.  It was a high note for a special teams unit that had been burned by the Gophers throughout the game.  On a Saturday when we expected some serious upsets, the favorites are prevailing.

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Posted on: September 2, 2010 4:07 pm

Whither the Slab Of Bacon?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As we mentioned earlier, Wisconsin seemed to be the primary loser of the new Big Ten division alignment; they're in a different division than geographical rivals Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska, and nobody can look up at Ohio State in their division and think, "great!"

But the Big Ten did do Wisconsin a favor by awarding them a protected rivalry with Minnesota instead of Iowa or Nebraska. For one, Minnesota is a traditionally weaker opponent than the Hawkeyes or Huskers, which can only help Wisconsin's uphill climb for a division title. More importantly, though, Wisconsin-Minnesota is one the oldest rivalries in college football, taking just one year off (1906) since both programs started playing football in 1892.

The Badgers and Gophers have played for Paul Bunyan's Axe since 1948, and while it's cool that the two have shared a trophy for over 60 years, that only accounts for about half of the two schools' rivalry. And it just so happens that before the Axe was adopted, from 1930 to 1943, Wisconsin and Minnesota played for the Slab of Bacon. Yes, the University of Wisconsin assures you, a college football trophy called Slab of Bacon:

The Slab of Bacon trophy was the precursor to Paul Bunyan's Axe as the prize in the Wisconsin-Minnesota football series. Apparently, the trophy was presented to the winning school by a sorority from the losing institution. The trophy was discontinued in the 1940s and was discovered in a storage room at the UW Department of Athletics in 1994. It is currently housed in the football office at Wisconsin. 'We took home the bacon,' Coach Barry Alvarez said, 'and kept it.'

There's no small irony in the fact that Wisconsin actually lost the last Slab of Bacon game, but well played all the same, Alvarez.

So, Badgers. So, Gophers. The Big Ten has seen fit to honor your deep and lasting tradition. Honor that tradition as well, and bring back the Slab of Bacon.

Posted on: September 1, 2010 10:11 pm

Big Ten division winners and losers

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The new Big Ten alignment doesn't come into effect until 2011, but who comes out the best and worst among conference members?

Winners: Most of the conference, actually. Michigan and Ohio State keep their end-of-season rivalry, and they're each the marquee members of their own divisions. If they're not to meet for the title, then effectively nothing has changed about their tradition; if they do, then so much the better, as far as the Big Ten's coffers go. Penn State and Nebraska are the second in command in their respective divisions, and they get to start a protected rivalry with each other that's sure to move needles for television rating. Northwestern and Illinois have an annual game guaranteed, plus their own divisions in which to play spoiler--and Wildcats fans must be especially pleased that they've now got an annual divisional game against the Hawkeyes in what's rapidly becoming a contentious showdown. Minnesota gets to be in a very geographically friendly division, and they get to play for every one of their trophies every year.

We'll call it a draw: Iowa and Purdue have no reason to be protected rivals, and Delany's explanation that "both teams have won conference titles recently" is at best a non sequitur. But Iowa was rewarded with a season-ending game against Nebraska, to the delight of both fanbases, and Purdue has all the protected games they could have asked for. Likewise, Michigan State-Indiana is a total head-scratcher, but at the very least, each team stays in the same division as their in-state rivals.  

Losers: Holy hell, must Wisconsin be upset about this new alignment. Consider A) that the Badgers were the only team in the Big Ten without a season-ending rivalry game up until Nebraska showed up, and B) the amount of work Barry Alvarez has done as the de facto mouthpiece of the conference during realignment talk. Surely the Big Ten would reward the Badgers, yes? Au contraire, bonjour: Wisconsin's request to get a rivalry game with Nebraska was flat-out denied, and the Badgers don't even share a division or protected rivalry with historical rivals Iowa anymore. Oh, also, they're in a league with Ohio State and Penn State, a top twosome that seems much tougher than Michigan or Nebraska do for the near future. Nobody's got more beef than the Badgers about this lineup.

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