No team in the country can match Wisconsin’s résumé. After downing LSU in the season opener, the Badgers took their no-nonsense brand of football into East Lansing Saturday afternoon and embarrassed Michigan State. Few unexpected Paul Chryst’s team would split these games. But the early season is for proving how expectations are made to be look foolish in hindsight.
If one wanted to, they could argue Wisconsin has done more to prove it’s the best team in the country than anyone else. Alabama, with wins over USC and Ole Miss, would certainly take exception to such a theory. Ohio State and Louisville would also have a few quibbles. Eye test proponents could faint en mass.
And Georgia State could beat its chest with pride knowing it played Wisconsin tight in Madison.
The point is that judging the Badgers right now captures the folly of making assertions based on small sample sizes. Beating Les Miles’ offensively challenged squad at Lambeau Field looked epic at the time. A few more weeks of middling play from the Tigers suggests they have significant problems. Today’s throttling of Michigan State was a statement. But let me suggest that we might not see it as a season-defining win in a few weeks.
The Spartans struggled mightily with Furman before surprising Notre Dame. Duke accomplished a similar feat in South Bend hours ago and no one will confuse them for a powerhouse. MSU may not be a playoff-caliber team but rather a squad destined for the Outback Bowl.
As a believer that teams should be judged by what they do on the field and not in the court of hopes and dreams, I’d be fully supportive of a media member or coach giving them a first-place vote in this week’s poll — even if they don’t believe they’re the best team in the country.
The Badgers’ next three games will give us a better indication. Road trips to Michigan and Iowa with a visit from Ohio State sandwiched between will prove a tall task.
There’s reason to believe. The defense has been stingy and opportunistic. Redshirt freshman Alex Horibrook passed his first test with flying colors. The coaching staff has out-schemed both major opponents despite a talent deficit.
Seasons never follow the preseason script written by experts. A month into this one, Wisconsin has been the breakout actor. They should enjoy their moment near — or at the top — of college football. It’s been earned on the field. There is no fugazzi … for now.
Neutral observers should appreciate appreciate the plot twist. Jump around to giving Wisconsin deserved credit. Just be careful making in making your expectations going forward.