View From the Bleachers

John Moffitt and columnist Michael Bleach are in agreement. The Badgers needed a wake-up call from the loss to Michigan State to put themselves in position for a Rose Bowl.

MADISON — Since Wisconsin lost to Michigan State, the Badgers have rattled off six straight Big Ten wins, scored over 30 points in each game and never given up more than 30 points to an opponent.

The offense has rounded itself into a dominant force, complete with an unstoppable three-headed run game and the country's most accurate quarterback in Scott Tolzien. The defense has produced a Big Ten defensive player of the year candidate in J.J. Watt and shown off better tackling than any team in the conference. The special teams have moved from the liability column to an asset.

The wins against Ohio State and Iowa are of the John Hancock-sized signature variety, and exorcising the demons of 2008 in Michigan literally brought tears of joy to head coach Bret Bielema's eye.

Yes, Wisconsin has been feeling quite rosy since its stumble at East Lansing.

But was it because of the slip-up to Sparty that the Badgers have been able to put together their best stretch of play since 1999?

Surprisingly, Bielema — the man who cattle brands each incoming recruit with "1-0" — thinks the loss helped the team to attain the high level they currently reside at.

"I think going into that game there wasn't 100 percent, I don't know if every kid in that room believed how special this team could be. There was enough of us, but I know leaving that locker room they could be. There was no doubt leaving they could be a good football team," Bielema said after the Michigan victory.

"When you are dealing with 18 to 22 year-old kids, you can say certain things and try and ingrain it in them. But until they first-hand see how special they can be, they don't realize it."

"They took the bad of that day and turned it into good."

Whilst I am still recovering from the shock that a football coach would ever admit to losing being a good thing, Bielema has an excellent point. The Badgers needed to be kicked in the pants, and the loss to Michigan State did exactly that.

Think about it: The win against Ohio State came out of the situation of being absolutely, 100 percent essential if UW was going to make anything of this season. Losing two out of the three first Big Ten games was not an option for an elite team. This was the part of the season with a players-only meeting in Remember The Titans with a passionate speech from Blue. It was do or die time, and the team responded to the adversity like it has all year, turning a negative into a positive.

But if Wisconsin was undefeated going into the OSU contest, would that same energy, focus and tenacity be there?

Possibly. But probably not. And seeing that Bielema himself admitted the Badgers were in need of a strong message, I am going to go ahead and side with the coach and call the Michigan State loss a blessing in disguise.

This Wisconsin team doesn't have the raw talent of an Auburn or Oregon or the establishment of a Boise State or TCU. What they do have is an extreme aura of resolve. A toughness that has risen to the different challenges of each game since Michigan State.

Is it really so crazy to think this edge was born in the loss to Sparty?

UW captain John Moffitt, a football zen master for all intents and purposes, agrees with the theory.

"I think something about that loss, maybe we wouldn't have been jumpstarted and we wouldn't have respected the game as much as we do now," said Moffitt. "We respect the preparation, so I think you can say that. Even more so, we brought ourselves to turn it around and keep moving forward."

As the hero of any good fairy tale knows, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

The way the Badgers have grown this season, they are due for a story-book ending.

Michael is the co-author of "Paulbunyansaxe.com" and can be reached at bleach.michael@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @michaelbleach.


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