Thursday, September 8, 2011

Badger Preview: Season Preview

236 days since the Rose Bowl.
105 days since the last Badger Preview.

Yet here we are, one week away from the beginning of what's shaping up to be another magical year of Badger Football.  One week.

Exciting, isn't it?  YES IT IS.  And a lot has happened since we last spoke:

  • The Middle East is still all kinds of fucked up.
  • There are now TWO more Sudans than the world really needs.
  • NASA decided to stop being badass and ended the space shuttle program, thus crushing my dream of being the first person to eat a Cheesy Gordita Crunch on the Moon.  For the record, I think the Moon is cool enough to capitalize it.
  • Macho Man Randy Savage, Ryan Dunn, Jack Kevorkian and Amy Winehouse died.  Not to be insensitive to the recently deceased, but is there a single shocker on that list?  Habitual steroid user, kinda-sorta professional 'stuntman' who was always drunk, a guy who specialized in death, and another habitual drug user.  That's like the recipe for a celebrity death list.
So I don't know about you, but I feel like the world is a whole different place.  I mean, seriously, NO MACHO MAN?  That's such a bummer. (Have you ever heard his chart topping single?  Do yourself a favor and blast your speakers.  Seriously: "Hollywood Hulk you're at the end of your rope, and I'm gonna kick you in the butt and wash your mouth out with soap!"  Filthy lines.)  Fortunately, as I've already mentioned, football season is upon us.  LET'S go!

: I hope you took my sage advice and took off work next Friday, because there's gonna be a Thursday night season opener RAGER at Redmond's.  I'm literally sprinting from my apartment to Redmond's the second I get home from work.  Just like a little child.  A little child running to a bar to drink copious amounts of Miller Lite.  There may or may not be a halftime dash to Ian's. 

There DEFINITELY will be an A-Bar at our apartment (865 W. Buckingham Place, right around the corner from Redmond's).  So feel free to come over after to celebrate the season opening win into the wee hours of the night.  Our apartment is kinda awesome.

: The 4th Annual Chicago Badger Trolley Crawl is set for 9/24 (it's the South Dakota game, don't worry).  As of 3:30 pm on Thursday, there are 49 spots left.  Here's your link.  Better grab your ticket now, this will assuredly sell out.

: I'm still writing for The Hot Glove.  Here's a link to everything I've ever written.  I've also decided to start spitting fire on yelp.  AKA I was really bored at work and wanted to talk about food.

: Actually that makes no sense.  What I meant to say is that I'd love to get some fresh blood in here.  Do you have any friends/roommates/relatives/sorority sisters/frat brothers that might enjoy some interesting reading material every week?  Well, please feel free (scratch that, just do it) to forward this on to them and pass me their email addresses so I can add them going forward.  Everyone should have at least THREE people they know that aren't already on here.  Come on now, step it up.

Now that that's out of the way, I've been waiting patiently to say this:



Hmm.  I guess Wisconsin/Everywhere/From now until January?

Last year was all about the bars - specifically, proving that virtually every bar in Madison is better than the KK.  Fuck that dungeon.  This year, we're looking at the best individual meals that Madtown has to offer.  After reviewing my list, it's clear that I'm missing breakfast spots.  Admittedly, I still haven't been to the Old Fashioned or Gotham.  I know, that's fucked.  The only breakfast places I HAVE been to are Sunroom (most overrated garbage in the state) and Mickey's (which I waver on).  So we'll just keep all breakfast food out of it and focus on lunch and dinner.  As an appetizer (GET IT?), here are the ones that didn't quite make the cut.


Casa B's - Slice of Cheese and Breadsticks
Ohhh, it was a sad day when Casa B's closed up.  You know what's weird?  You would think that an Italian pizza place run by a Russian family would suck.  But that simply was not the case.  This was sneakily the best deal around, as you could get a solid, big slice of pizza and 3 huge breadsticks for like $4.  And I think the Russians were allowed child labor, because I'm 90% sure an 8 year old would work the oven.  RIP Casa B's.

Falbo Brothers Chicken Parm Sub
I'm a sucker for a hot sandwich fresh out of the oven.  Whenever I fired up (man I loved that site), I was eternally temped to hit up Falbo for some chicken parm.  The only other place in Madison that had a comparable chicken parm sandwich was Di Roma, but their marinara sauce is ass.  If Falbo were closer to the heart of the campus, they would have cleaned up.

Za's Cajun Alfredo Pasta w/ Pepperoni and Garlic
Za's is the exact restaurant that is missing in my life.  I'm pretty sure you can't get a delicious customized pasta dish anywhere in Chicago for under $12.  Za's filled that void and then some.  Not only was the pasta good (and pepperoni is so underrated in this department -I know Jenny Cooper is nodding along with me), but the garlic bread that accompanied every meal was delightful.  I need to start calling more things delightful.

Jamie's Cookie Cakes (on State Street)
I think this is the only dessert on the list, and to be honest with you, I don't even consider cookie cake a dessert.  That shit was a MEAL.  Probably still the best cookie cake I've ever had.  Put one of these things down on the counter in a college apartment and it's gone within 20 minutes.  That's just science.

Next week I'll begin unveiling my full top 12. I fully expect this to be every bit as controversial as my list of bars better than the KK.  In other words, maybe 3 people will care enough to tell me I'm an idiot.

A new year means new faces at Camp Randall, and this year there are a few guys that demand your attention.  Pay attention here so you can talk about the Badgers and sound like a total genius.

Melvin Gordon, Freshman, Running Back.  I know what you're thinking (or saying, if you're like me and you like to talk aloud to yourself):

Don't we have Montee Ball AKA MBS (that's the Montee Ball Show for you newcomers or people who just didn't read last year) and James White back?  Why does our potential third string running back warrant mentioning?
You're finished?  Oh well allow me to retort! Melvin Gordon warrants mentioning for the same reason that Montee Ball warranted mentioning last year: Your third string running back is one injury away from getting serious snaps.  But there's much more to Gordon than that.  This kid is so good that he's already jumped one redshirt frosh (Jeff Lewis) on the depth chart.  This kid is SO GOOD that he'll be pushing MBS and White for carries all season long.  I expect he'll be returning kickoffs shortly (just a matter of getting the true frosh some game reps to get him comfortable), and he should see plenty of touches in the non-conference portion of the schedule.  Enjoy the preview - this kid will be dominating the Big 10 for YEARS.

Kenzel Doe & Jordan Fredrick, Freshmen, Wide Receivers
.  If' there's one position on the entire roster just BEGGING for someone to step up, it's wide receiver.  Your top two spots are solid: Nick Toon, when healthy, should be a beast, and Jared Abbrederis has the worst last name ever.  But after that it's just one big pile of mystery.  Ideally, Bielema was hoping that sophomore Manasseh Garner could fill that third WR spot.  But he's currently sidelined with a hernia, and won't be back until the second week of the season.  In the meantime, it's up to another young gun to take those snaps.  Right now, it's probably between Doe and freshman Jordan Fredrick.  Whichever kid makes plays in practice will get the reps on Saturdays.  Or Thursday.  God I wish we had a Thursday night game when we were students.

Russell Wilson, Super Senior, Black Quarterback
.  Our Lord And Savior.  Is that some religious thing I just stole?  Wait, more important question: How fucked would we be if Russell took his talents to Auburn?  Not only was redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr looking kinda awful in the Spring, but now he's sidelined with an elbow injury.  If Wilson didn't transfer to UW, we would possibly open the season with freshman Joel Stave under center, backed up by redshirt freshman Joe Brennan.  YIKES.  Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that.  In fact, it's quite the opposite: QB went from weakness to a potentially huge strength of this team.  Wilson was awesome in the ACC for 3 years, but asked to leave the program when he missed more Spring ball to play baseball.  Bielema, obviously recognizing a glaring lack of talent at the QB position, recruited RW hard.  And he landed him.  And now he'll lead us to the promised land.  PREDICTION: The first play-action pass of the year will go for a touchdown.  Book it.


The Section Formerly Known As 'RANDOM AWESOME SONG THAT CAME ON MY PANDORA MIX THIS WEEK' needs to be renamed due to the fact that I'm on Spotify about as much as I'm on Pandora these days.  Real talk.

Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks

I guess they're just blowing up on the spot.  I can kinda understand why - this song is amazing.  But I haven't really been all that impressed with the rest of their stuff that I've heard.  Win some, lose some.

Third Eye Blind - Jumper

Blast from the past.  Pretty rocking song that I haven't stopped playing on guitar for the previous 6 days.  Man, that entire album just kills it.

Mumford & Sons - The Cave

Damn, these guys are super legit.  I was admittedly a little late to the bandwagon (OK, I was way late).  But I'm happy to be on board now.  Just a unique sound that appeals to a wide audience - not an east feat to pull off.

Chamillionaire - Turn It Up

See?  I can listen to songs without guitars and still enjoy them!

'Cuz Chamillionaire's the answer the game like Allen I.

Is Iverson still alive?  For sure he goes to jail in the next 3 years.  Or 3 months.

PS - Iverson's career was actually quite impressive.  For a little guy, he could really finish around the hoop. Had that fadeaway down as well, which is vital for a sub-6' guy in the league.  OK, I'm done talking about the NBA.  I'll leave the rest for CJ and DG.


Did someone say 'breakout'?

You just know in a program filled with this much talent and that prides itself on developing that talent, there are gonna be a few kids every year who take that next step.  In the past couple of seasons, we've seen O'Brien Schofield, JJ Watt, Scott Tolzien, Antonio Fenelus and a few others go to the next level.  It's all but guaranteed that a couple guys will do that this year as well.

Louis Nzegwu, Redshirt Senior, Defensive End
.  This is probably the most obvious prediction I'll make.  You'll notice that on that list above, two of the guys named were DE's.  Seems only natural that another DE makes a leap and lives in the opponent's backfield this year.  That guy will be #93.  It's no secret that every great defense gets good pressure from its front four.  The best Badger D in the last 10 years had Erasmus James, Anttaj Hawhthrone, Welsh, Cooper and others rotating through on the D-Line.  I don't think a single linebacker ever blitzed.  This year, we're counting on Nzegwu and David Gilbert from the other side to disrupt the QB's rhythm.  Otherwise, Taylor and Borland will be forced to make plays, and that leaves us vulnerable.

Ricky Wagner, Junior, Left Tackle.
  Wahhhh, offensive linemen are boring.  Well you know what's NOT boring?  $80 million.  And that's what former Badger and current Cleveland Browns LT Joe Thomas just got.  With Gabe Carimi suffering for the Bears (and hopefully letting players get by to fuck Cutler up), Wagner is sliding over to left tackle to keep Wilson's blindside safe (ohhh, jesuth crith).  You can expect NFL scouts to be drooling over the next Wisconsin stud left tackle.  I'd be surprised if he gives up a sack all year.

Jacob Pedersen, Sophomore, Tight End
.  Speaking of positions where we keep churning out NFL caliber players (Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham, Lance Kendricks, damn), Pedersen should be ready to accept a much more prominent role in the Badger offense.  When you factor in the uncertainty at WR, you would hope that Wilson can look to Pedersen as a comfortable option.  Plus, Pedersen is now privileged to run the Worldwide Famous Wisconsin Tight End Screen.  Probably my favorite play that we run.  Anyway, you'll remember Jake (can I call you Jake?  Cool.) as the recipient of the huge play-action against Ohio State late in the game (33 yards if I remember correctly, which I didn't, so I googled).  If memory serves (it didn't, also googled), that play set up Welch's field goal to push the lead to 2 touchdowns.  Expect more of that this year.


10/22 @Michigan State
10/29 @Ohio State

Obviously.  If all goes according to plan (meaning we beat Nebraska at Camp Randall), Wisconsin will be 6-0, top 5 in the country heading into East Lansing.  And you KNOW the fans are gonna be fired up: Not only are they still bitter about their Rose Bowl 'snub', but this game is already locked in as a night game.  I expect the building to be absolutely rocking when UW runs out of their tunnel.  And I'm already terrified, because East Lansing does NOT treat us well.  We lost a spot in the Rose Bowl there when I was a freshman, and we lost a chance at a National Championship there last year (although we probably wouldn't have jumped Auburn/Oregon).  Hopefully Bucky has revenge on the mind.

The Ohio State game is a complete wildcard.  Are we gonna be flying high after a HUGE road win against Sparty?  Are we gonna be depressed about blowing our chance at a National Championship?  Will OSU keep it together in spite of all the drama and uncertainty swirling about their program?  I really wish I had the answers to these questions.  Instead, all we can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.  And pray to the old gods and the new that we leave Columbus 8-0, no lower than 3rd in the country.  I literally think it just moved.

PS - Totally going to Columbus this year.  I'd say it's a 100% road trip if we're undefeated, and 75% if we lose to Nebraska/MSU.  If we lose to both I'll most likely be dead in a gutter somewhere, so we'll put that probability at 0%.


The Rose Bowl last year,

How about a National

Championship now?

It's not cheating to break up the sentence like that, is it?  I'm gonna let it play, because I'm making the rules in here.


Older clip from THG, but this Russian aquarium brawl is pretty much as good as aquarium brawls get.  I still have no idea how the big guy doesn't get wet.  Dude has the balance of a Russian ballerina.  Also, someone pointed out in the comments on THG that these online brawls are a million times easier to keep track of when one team is wearing white and one team wearing black.  That's the most spot-on comment of all time.  I always have to watch those Denny's brawls like 9 times to figure out where everyone comes from and who's on who's side.  Fucking Russia, killing it.

And yes, I'm kinda in love with the woman next to the cameraman.

I would say this little kid nails 'Thriller' at a baseball game, but that wouldn't even come close to doing it justice.  A few things to pay attention to:

  • The guys taking the video totally remind me of this guy, whom I love.
  • Swagggg, bro, swagggg!
  • This kid is the dancing version of this kid.


PREFACE: My roommate got a puppy.  She's a 9 week old basset hound.  Being the good Badger fan he is, he named her 'Madison'.  Combine that with the fact that she's absolutely adorable, and I see no reason not to talk about her every week, right here.  So let's start with a gratuitous picture of her sleeping on the couch!



Unfortunately, there's a darker side... Evil Puppy Mode.  As a result, she's pooped on the floor a few times, peed everywhere, eaten my shoelaces, and nearly bit my other roommate's face off.

Anyway, the goal is to get as much Badger gear as possible for her and train her to attack all Michigan fans on the street.  I haven't really explained this plan yet to my roommate, but I'm sure he'll be down.


Are you on Twitter?  Good.  Now, go follow @ShitGrothSays (and feel free to follow me as well).  All I can tell you about @ShitGrothSays is that every single word is accurate - nothing is embellished or made up.  For example, this was my favorite quote from the past week:


So many questions:

  • What does 'nothing above the head' even mean?  What else is up there?
  • Is hose widely-known to be a good weapon?
  • Could you kill a person with a hose filled with sand?
  • Is a 3 foot length of sand-filled hose ideal for beating a person?
  • Just who is Groth referring to?
I suppose if we had the answers to those questions, this section, this Twitter account, wouldn't exist.


Or how about both at the same time?


I'm sorry, but I can't stand these things.  I hope this fad dies faster than Furbies.  Especially because I had a Furby and he was undoubtedly the best Furby of all time.  These individual toed shoe/sandal/sock hybrid things are fucking terrible and ugly and I hope this person steps on a nail.  Harsh?  Maybe.  Accurate?  Fa sho.  DON'T DO IT.

Speaking of fashion, you know what time is almost here?

THERMAL WEATHER.  I am so excited.  Might go run to the Gap right now and buy 15 new thermals.  F yeah.


Because I take too many pics of food for Twitter/Facebook.  I'm about to eat my computer just looking at this one:


For the uninformed, that's a shot of a large pepperoni pizza from Alexander's.  For the even less-informed (more uninformed?), Zander's is a pizza restaurant up in Eagle River, WI.  I could eat this pizza for the rest of my life and never complain.  When I went up to visit Ojibwa last month, we ate it for dinner Friday night and then bought this bad boy on Sunday for the road.  Mmmmmmmmm I WANT MORE.


Decision time.  I think, without question, we win 10 games.  It really comes down to those damn roadies in East Lansing and Columbus.  And you know what?  I think this year is the year.  All the pieces have fallen in place: Wilson transfers, Borland is back, offensive line has reloaded, secondary is stable (and will be more aggressive), running backs are stacked... there's just so much to like.  Plus, I really don't think complacency will set in: Last I checked, everyone has a sour taste in their mouths from the Rose Bowl.  There's no riding high from last season.  Some might call it unfinished business - and that's fine.  But if Wisconsin is really ready to join the college football elite, then it's going to take a season that even non-Badger fans will remember.  And that, my friends, requires a National Championship.

12-0 regular season.

UW defeats Nebraska in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.
The University of Wisconsin conquers Oklahoma to win its first ever National Championship.


Hey, a guy can dream, right?


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