Badger Nation's View from the Box

Only two months ago, junior quarterback Dustin Sherer said the 2008 Badgers had the most talent than any team he's been on in the past four years in Madison. Whoops!

"In four years, I think that this team has maybe the most talent out of all the teams I've been on. The '06 team obviously was really good, but these are our expectations."

– University of Wisconsin quarterback Dustin Sherer, on Aug. 10, 2008 during UW's media day

IOWA CITY, Iowa — You're probably as surprised to read the above quotation as I was when I heard it. Seems ludicrous to compare this roster with the 2006 group that went 12-1 and came within a BCS technicality of playing in, say, the Orange Bowl.

And yet, it kind of makes sense.

Before quarterback Allan Evridge went all 'Allan Average' on us – and then worse – was he really expected to be that much of a downgrade from John Stocco, when you factor in his credentials from Kansas State?

Was losing kicker/punter duo Taylor Mehlhaff and Ken DeBauche really that big a deal? (Especially consider that true freshman replacements Philip Welch and Brad Nortman have been pretty good.)

Tailback P.J. Hill is still here – with Zach Brown and John Clay now in the mix. Tight end Travis Beckum is still here – with a terrific cohort in Garrett Graham to make up for a young wide receiver corps.

The offensive line is still here (minus Joe Thomas, but the rest of the line is older and wiser, and Gabe Carimi has been more than serviceable). Basically the entire front seven, still around.

Yeah, you could kind of see where Sherer's coming from.

"Could." As in, past tense.

An ugly four-game losing streak has exposed a lot of weaknesses on this team. Namely, UW has an atrocious offense and a bend-but-don't-break-ah-screw-it-let's-break defense that made Iowa tailback Shonn Greene appear as if he was dipped in soapy water before every drive.

The offense doesn't move the ball, and the defense doesn't tackle anybody.

Ummmm…I'm no John Madden, but I think those are two pretty essential factors in winning a football game.

How successful is a baseball team that doesn't hit or pitch?

How about a hockey team whose forwards can't score and goaltender can't save?

A track team with no fast runners? A movie with bad actors and crappy writers? A bicycle with no handlebars or wheels? A house with no roof and no floor? Get the picture?

After two losses to Michigan and Ohio State by a combined five points, players talked about not doing the little things that add up to a tight victory rather than narrow defeat. That's fair; those are correctable errors.

Well, the Badgers just got outscored 86-23 in the last two games. Throw out all the little-things talk; if you don't do anything right, you're going to get creamed by the Penn States and Iowas, the Illinoises and the Michigan States.

The frustration is starting to set in for Bret Bielema, a man who won 17 of his first 18 games as a head coach but is 7-8 since.

"On offense, defense, special teams, we made an emphasis to our guys in the postgame locker room that we're going to take a very critical look at everything that we're doing," Bielema said. "Right now, we're not very good in all areas of the game.

"The team that's beating Wisconsin the most is Wisconsin," Bielema went on. "That's accountability that we have to enforce as coaches. ‘My bad' is not a response that's acceptable."

More and more, it's looking like Sherer's comment is a far, far cry from truth.

"I think we have a lot of talent, but talent's not the only thing that wins games," senior defensive tackle Mike Newkirk said. "You can be the most talented team in the world, but if you're going the wrong way, if you're not making tackles, if you're not getting off blocks, if you're not doing those things, then talent can only take you so far."

The last thing Bielema said to the media on Saturday laid the verbal bomb on his squad, something not often uttered by anybody within the UW organization:

"When you're not a very good football team, it definitely puts you in a very bad situation."

Well, then. So much for being more talented than a 12-1 team; despite being a team that features many of the same names and faces.

Is this year an aberration? Just a promising year gone bad, an outright fluke?

Or was the fluke two years ago?

I beg you, Badger fans, for the sake of your own well-beings: do not try to answer that question.

The future of this once-proud football program will only look much darker if you do.

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