Regular readers of this sports column—there have to be at least two or three of you, besides my mother, though I’m not so sure about her these days, frankly—must have been wondering when I was going to finally weigh in on America’s most important sports story:
The undefeated Wisconsin Badgers football team.
I believe the moment has arrived. The Badgers are 10-0 for the first time in school history, ranked No. 5 in the polls, and this Saturday in Madison, Wis.—a city that’s basically heaven, with better bratwurst and beer—they host those unctuous weasels from the east:
The Michigan Wolverines.
You know how I feel about folks from the University of Michigan. Well, you would know how I feel, if folks from the University of Michigan would ever stop talking about the University of Michigan. (Every third person at the Journal went to Michigan.)
I’ll get back to those Michigan weasels in a second. First, I want to address the issue of Badger disrespect.
A few weeks ago, I was freaking out, scratching my claws, screaming from the windows that the high priests and priestesses of college football were conspiring to deny Wisconsin from one of the four playoff spots. My Badgers aren’t in the cozy smoke-filled room of college football elitists—or historic darlings of the college football media, which is totally in the tank for the SEC; those clowns would vote a hamster cage into the top 10 if it was from the SEC.
It was like the Badgers were the Rodney Dangerfield of college football. We stayed undefeated, and somehow went backward. (Fun fact: Dangerfield starred in “Back to School,” which was filmed on campus at Wisconsin.)
(I know there may be some journalism ethicists out there who will object to the use of “we” and “us” to describe the Badgers here, seeing as I’m not actually a member of the football team. You’re right: it’s gross. Please mail a formal complaint to the Columbia School of Journalism. I hear it’s almost as prestigious a school as Michigan.)
I was mad a few weeks ago about the Badgers, but I feel much better now. Last weekend, Georgia and Notre Dame got thumped and did everyone a favor. Wisconsin leapt to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and considering No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Miami have to play each other, they’re in a very good position to make the playoffs—if they stay unbeaten and win the dopey Big Ten conference title game.
Besides, I talked to Wisconsin’s football Godfather, Barry Alvarez, now the Badger athletic director, who told me to calm down.
“I wouldn’t worry or get too upset right now,” Alvarez told me. “There are still games left. A lot’s going to happen.”
The fact is, Alvarez reminded, it would be very hard for the committee to deny an undefeated team—with a conference championship—from a Power Five conference.
Basically, it would be Bucky anarchy. There’s no need to go crazy right now.
“People get overreactive,” Alvarez said.
Candidly, some of the grumbling about Wisconsin is fair. The Badgers are awesome, but do have a bit of a padded resume. We have played some good competition, and also steamrolled a few company softball teams. I think one school we played started a bunch of patio chairs in the defensive backfield. One may have had a llama at quarterback.
But you play who you play. Last Saturday, the Badgers handled an Iowa team that had rampaged all over Ohio State the week before.
And now Mr. Khakipants comes to town.
I cannot overstate how much I am looking forward to this. Last year, Wisconsin and Michigan were undefeated when they met, and the Badgers lost a tough one. It was painful. I couldn’t show up to work for six weeks.
It’s a little bit of a letdown that Michigan isn’t a juggernaut like we are. The Wolverines have lost two games. Two! That’s basically 20 games. They’re not even the best college football team in Michigan.
People expect more out of Mr. Khakipants, who gets paid $800 million a season, gets six private jets and may have bought that DaVinci painting the other night.
Fine. The Badgers—who are coached by Paul Chryst, a Madison native who played Badger football and I’ve heard is paid in State Street Brats gift certificates—will just have to beat an underperforming Wolverine team which is likely looking forward to Ohio State next weekend.
The ESPN people are going to be on campus to do their “College Game Day” party for a bunch of cord-cutters, which is fine. If someone can hold up a sign that says WALL STREET JOURNAL REPORTS: HARBAUGH’S KHAKIS ARE LULULEMON, I’d be grateful.
Meanwhile, the game is scheduled to begin on Fox at noon Eastern, or 11 a.m. Madison time, which is cruel, since 11 a.m. on a Saturday in Madison is basically still Friday night.
Who plays football at 11 a.m.? This isn’t T-ball!
It doesn’t matter. We can play at 4 p.m. or 4 a.m. Camp Randall will still rattle. Likewise, you can rank us fifth, or 15th, or fifty-first. You can predict we’ll be in the playoff, the Boca Raton Bowl, or the AL East.
It’s cool. The haters are an honor.
“We just have to take care of business,” Alvarez said. “Control what we can control.”
We’re 10-0. Jump on the Bucky bandwagon. We may not be America’s best college football team, but we’re definitely the most fun.