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Today is Sept. 7, and this your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
A big jump
For the first time since the end of the 2011 season, the Wisconsin football team is ranked among the top 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Coach Paul Chryst’s team jumped 22 spots, going from unranked to No. 10 following its upset of LSU, which was No. 5 coming into the game.
Wisconsin at No. 10 matches the best season debut for an unranked team in poll history. Arizona did the same in 2014.
Texas debuts at No. 11
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) September 6, 2016
Polls this early in the season are virtually worthless. Teams are ranked in the preseason based on the number of returning starters and the hype around the program. LSU probably wasn’t a top 5 team, and Wisconsin isn’t a top-10 group now just because they beat the Tigers.
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) September 6, 2016
It’s hard to fault the pollsters for placing Wisconsin so high. It almost had to happen after they ranked LSU where they did to start the year. But, as of right now, the Badgers still have so many unanswered questions that need to be resolved before anyone can honestly admit that they are among the 10 best teams in the country.
Top 20? Sure. Top 10? Not yet.
Not good enough in the red zone
Statistically, Wisconsin dominated its game with LSU, especially in the first half when the Badgers racked up 180 yards of offense to just 64 for the Tigers. But as Jeff Potrykus with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel laid out, the job they did when they got deep into LSU territory won’t cut it.
Wisconsin saw drives end at the 23-yard line when it couldn’t convert on fourth down, at the 9-yard line when Bart Houston threw an inexplicable interception in the end zone, and then at the 6-yard-line where they had to settle for a field goal.
Wisconsin squandered the chance to put a dangerous opponent away, leading to what turned into a dramatic finish.
The biggest concern is Houston’s carelessness with the ball around the opposing team’s goal line. Of the four interceptions he’s thrown during his career, three have come in the end zone, while the fourth was returned for a touchdown.
If Wisconsin has any hope of living up to its new-found status as a top 10 team in the country, the fifth-year senior can’t continue to make those types of mistakes and take potential points off the board for the Badgers.
On the move
The odyssey that has been Leon Jacobs’ career continued down its convoluted path Tuesday when Chryst told reporters on the Big Ten conference call that the senior will now play fullback and linebacker, the latter coming as a result of the season-ending knee injury sustained by Chris Orr.
Jacobs came to Wisconsin as an outside linebacker, which is where he played as a true freshman before being switched inside as a sophomore. A year ago, he started the first three games at inside linebacker but was then shelved for the rest of the season because of a toe injury.
His absence led to the revelation of Orr and junior Jack Cichy. With so much young talent as the position, Jacobs was moved to fullback in the spring, but didn’t manage to beat out either junior Austin Ramesh or sophomore Alec Ingold.
The continued changing of positions has been a bit of a disservice to Jacobs, who has never complained about not being able to concentrate at a single position, merely taking the stance of doing whatever he can to help the team.
And while that has allowed him to become competent at different spots, he’s never been allowed to master one. For a guy who had just two years of experience playing football when he graduated from Golden Valley (Calif.) High School, the ability to stay at one position would seem to benefit both him and Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Another game at Lambeau Field?
With the stunning success of everything that surrounded Wisconsin and LSU’s matchup at Lambeau Field last weekend in Green Bay, there is already talk of bringing another game to Lambeau and other football meccas.
As detailed by Rich Ryman of the Green Bay Press Gazette, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and Green Bay Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy have both talked in the past about the possibility of another game featuring the Badgers, including rumblings that Notre Dame would be their next opponent. Any game in Green Bay would likely be paired with the teams also facing off at Soldier Field in Chicago, which is closer to Notre Dame’s campus.
While the Irish certainly make sense, they shouldn’t be the only one looked at for future games. The reason the game this year worked so well was the willingness of LSU fans to travel for a once-in-a-lifetime event. Finding a similar fan base that is obsessed with their team would be the key.
With that in mind, a number of schools stand out. A series with Texas could see Wisconsin travel to play at AT&T Stadium in Dallas one year, followed by a return trip to Green Bay for the Longhorns.
Or perhaps a matchup with Oklahoma at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, with the Sooners then coming to Lambeau Field a season later. Arguments could be made for several other schools as well, including Florida, Georgia, Clemson and Alabama.
No matter what team is chosen, fans will show up. And that means the Packers can make money. Both of those factors make it almost a guarantee that you’ll see another game at the historic venue.
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