Before I receive a lecture from the old-school crowd, let me add a caveat to what I’m about to say.
Regardless of what happened in Indianapolis Saturday night, this is the golden age of Wisconsin football.
The Badgers are heading to a bowl game for the 16th straight season. Prior to that run, UW had only made 12 bowl games in program history.
And, as of late, they have regularly played in quality bowl games. Even in light of tonight’s 27-21 defeat at the hands of Ohio State, there is no question that things could be (and have been) worse in Madison.
But there is a problem with golden ages: they don’t last forever. Particularly in the highly volatile world of college football where players seldom make an impact for more than a year or two and coaches can be dismissed as easily as the wind changes direction.
Consistent success is great. But, after a while, the definition of success changes. After all, lack of growth is simply a slow form of death. It’s the old mantra of “get busy living or get busy dying.”
There is an uncomfortable fact Wisconsin players, coaches and fans must contemplate in the coming days. This is a program stuck in college football purgatory. The Badgers certainly aren’t bad. But time and time again they have proven unworthy of place among the elite, even within their own conference.
Sooner or later, UW must build on this consistent success and take the next step. The leap from good to great.
Times have changed. This is the era of the College Football Playoff. While there’s nothing wrong with New Year’s Six Bowl Games, playing in one isn’t the same mark of legitimacy (or arguably even greatness) that it used to be.
UW has earned five trips to the Big Ten Championship Game since its inception in 2011. But it has emerged victorious just two times.
In recent days, former Badgers head coach Bret Bielema has taken his fair share of heat in courtesy of the local media. Since his dismissal from Arkansas, the popular story line in these parts has been how lucky the Badgers are that Bielema decided to jump ship following after winning the 2012 conference crown.
Is Wisconsin better off with Paul Chryst at the helm? Definitely. But on paper, the Badgers are yet to prove the answer to that question as fact.
UW has won 10 games or more in four consecutive years and seven of the last nine seasons. Yet is has zero BCS Bowl wins or College Football Playoff appearances to show for it.
Sorry, but the truth is Bielema, the man most in this state love to hate, is the last person to coach a UW team to a victory in a Big Ten title game. And the only way to change that narrative is for the Badgers to put their money where their mouth is the next time they waltz through the lowly Big Ten West Division.
Let’s be honest, this Wisconsin squad is in a tough spot. While a win in whatever quality bowl they’re invited to helps salvage this incredible season, it still pales in comparison to the a potential CFP berth.
As unfortunate as it is, a loss in the bowl game would dismiss this team’s historic 12-0 run as a distant memory. After all, the name of this game is: “what have you done for me lately?”