Doug's Diggings: The outcome was shocking!
Football can be strange game and nothing proved that more than the Wisconsin Badgers 70-31 victory over Nebraska Saturday night in the Big Ten Conference championship game.
Oddly enough, I gave up on the Badgers. I figured they had no chance to defeat Nebraska. I was so convinced, I made the choice to go to a movie Saturday night and saw the James Bond flick "Skywalker." It was after the movie that I was in for a mighty big shock.
Tuning to the Badger game on the car radio I heard the Badger announcers talking in a very calm manner and figured Wisconsin must have been far enough behind that the game was essentially decided. Then I heard one of the announcers talk about 70 points being some sort of record. My first thought was, disbelief -- how could Wisconsin give up 70 points! A few seconds later I heard the unbelievable truth -- Wisconsin led 70-24 with five or six minutes left in the game.
Fortunately I was able to keep the car on the road, but you could have knocked me over with a feather. Aside from believing they were going to lose, I figured that if they were to somehow win the contest, it would be a nail-biter.
I watched the post-game press conferences and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini appeared to be shell-shocked -- I don't blame him.
Unranked Wisconsin entered the game with a 4-4 Big Ten record and 7-5 overall; Nebraska entered the contest with a 10-2 record and was a heavy favorite to defeat Wisconsin, a team Nebraska had already defeated in the regular season.
During the season, Wisconsin had managed to defeat only one squad with a winning record -- non-conference opponent Utah State.
I read some of the pre-game and post-game reports from the Lincoln Star Journal and I must say, Nebraska did not take Wisconsin lightly. Despite the very ordinary numbers, Wisconsin was only a few plays away from having 10-plus wins during the season and being 8-0 in Big Ten play. Consider this, the Badger loss to Nebraska -- in Lincoln -- was by only 3 points. The Badgers had a 17-point lead in the third quarter. Wisconsin's other three Big Team losses all came in overtime (Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State). The difference between 4-4 and 8-0 in the Big Ten was essentially 3 points in regulation time -- the loss to Nebraska. Wisconsin entered the conference title game with a 4-4 Big Ten record, but the four losses include three overtime games and the three-point loss to Nebraska.
Yes, the Badgers were better than their 4-4 record. But nobody, I mean nobody, would have predicted a 70-31 blowout!
Now the Badgers have taken the unlikely path to play in the Rose Bowl. No other team with as many losses as Wisconsin (5) has played in the Rose Bowl. They will again be underdogs to Stanford. Stanford (11-2) is ranked sixth in the BCS and is an early 6.5-point favorite.
The Badgers have some unfinished business in Pasadena. Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema is 0-2 in Rose Bowls, having lost 21-19 to TCU and 45-38 to Oregon.
Stanford has played much better this year than expected. The Cardinals finished fourth and seventh in the final Associated Press polls the past two seasons, but lost quarterback Andrew Luck, one of the top quarterbacks in college football in recent years. Luck was the first overall pick in the NFL draft and now plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
After decades of not getting to the Rose Bowl, Wisconsin has now made it six times in the past 20 years. Under Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin defeated UCLA in 1993 (21-16), UCLA in 1998 (38-31) and Stanford in 1999 (17-9). This is the third consecutive season the Badgers have advanced to the Rose Bowl under Bielema. After losses to Texas Christian University and Oregon, Bielema gets another chance against Stanford.
Then came the Packer-Viking game on Sunday. That game also produced some odd numbers. I expected the Packers to win and they did 23-14. But the Vikings definitely had the Pack on the ropes. It was clear that Viking quarterback Christian Ponder made some critical mistakes at critical times.
What I find amazing, however, is the role of the running back. I'm not talking about just this game, but the NFL in general. It wasn't too many years ago that if a running back gained over 100 yards in a football game, his team was almost assured of winning.
Viking running back Adrian Peterson gained 210 yards against the Packers in 21 carries, an average of 10 yards per carry. Still the Vikings lost the game.
I read an interesting piece about running backs and how they just are not as important in the NFL today as they were in years past. The article claimed that most teams just need an adequate back to help keep defenses honest. In short, it's a quarterback league.
The conclusion of the article was that NFL teams do not have to pay big bucks to running backs anymore. Unfortunately for the Vikings, and Adrian Peterson, they are on the wrong side of the argument if the article is accurate. I suspect it might be.