This week, we’ve got our friend and the guy in charge of Bucky’s Fifth Quarter, Adam Hoge, joining us for a little give and take. This is his third visit to tBBC , and it worked well for Buckeye hoops, but not so much for pigskin… Be sure to check out our side of the conversation at B5Q!
1. Russell Wilson has had an obvious impact on the field for the Badgers this season. Has he also had a significant impact to this team off the field? What was the fan reaction to his arrival on the team?
It’s truly remarkable how seamless the transition was for Russell Wilson. He had been in Madison for less than two months when he took the field in the opener against UNLV and he had the entire offense mastered. But what’s even more impressive is that his teammates voted him a captain in such a short time. Wilson is a great football player and is very smart, but his leadership skills are off the charts. You saw that come to life last weekend when he led the Badgers back in the fourth quarter at Michigan State.
As for the fan reaction, it was nuts, has been nuts and will continue to be nuts. The term floating around Madison is “Russell Mania” and that sums it all up. The recruitment of Wilson was the story of the summer in Wisconsin and it was probably the second-biggest college football story of the offseason behind the Ohio State drama.
2. Has the addition of Wilson substantially changed the “Power Run” offensive style Wisconsin has preferred since….well, the beginning of time? How would you describe the offensive attack now?
The offense is almost exactly the same. The only difference is that offensive coordinator Paul Chryst can open the playbook a little more with a quarterback like Wilson. He can take more chances because of Wilson’s ability to scramble and squeeze the ball into tight holes. The philosophy is the same though. Wisconsin is still a run-first offense that will look to lull opposing defenses to sleep before hitting the play-action. But instead of hitting the tight end for 15 yard gain, defenses have to work about the 50-yard bombs down field.
3. Losing JJ Watt to graduation after last season was a significant loss for your defensive line. Has anyone truly managed to replace his production on the field? If so, who?
No one specific player has been able to fill that void, but the line has a whole has been productive. It has hurt Wisconsin at times not to have that big playmaker, but overall the line is still solid. Defensive tackle Ethan Hemer has emerged as a weapon. He nearly won the Badgers the game last week at Michigan State with a strip on Kirk Cousins that would have given Wisconsin the ball in field goal range. Unfortunately, the Spartans recovered the fumble.
4. While Wisconsin is famous (and infamous) for playing big games at night, it’s been a while since they’ve done so on the road. Any thoughts on why the University has taken this stance? Given that this is the second week in a row for the Badgers to be in “enemy” territory after dark, do you think this will have any impact on the psyche of the team, particularly following last week’s heartbreaker?
Well, honestly, I think it’s more of a coincidence that they haven’t had a lot of road night games than anything else. I don’t think anyone at Wisconsin is telling the networks not to schedule night games for them, in fact, since Bielema took over, he’s been all for the hype and challenge of night games on national television. But if you look back at their schedules over the last eight seasons, I only see two road games in which BOTH teams were getting a lot of hype, which is often required for ABC/ESPN to put the game on at night. Last year Iowa and Wisconsin were both getting a lot of hype when they played in Iowa City, but ESPN decided to put the game on ABC at 2:30. That’s not Wisconsin’s fault. The other was the Purdue game in 2004 when both teams were undefeated and Kyle Orton was a Heisman candidate. That game was played at night and the Badgers won.
As for playing two road night games in a row, I think it plays to Wisconsin’s advantage. Last week was their biggest challenge of the season and every player left East Lansing knowing that if they had just not committed one of about a dozen mistakes in that game, Wisconsin likely would have won. Now they get a do-ever (for lack of a better term) at night in Columbus. I think they’ll be ready. If they’re psyche is affected in a negative way at all, it’s because they have to get over the fact that the best they can do now is a trip to Pasadena, which they accomplished last year. But remember, Wilson wasn’t on the team last year and he’s this team’s leader so I don’t think that will happen.
5. Ohio State has asked fans to “Scarlet out” the stadium (to make the Badgers feel more at home, I’m guessing), and the Buckeyes will be wearing “special” uniforms for this week’s game. What are your thoughts on some of the marketing efforts that many programs attempt to either change things up or generate more revenue?
I don’t really have a problem with it but I do appreciate that Wisconsin rarely ever does it. That’s partly because Adidas doesn’t jump into that stuff as much as Nike (with the Michigan-Notre Dame game this year obviously being an exception) but the Badgers also don’t seem to be too interested in it. I’m a fan of traditional looks, but that’s just a personal preference. If other schools are increasing their revenue by doing it, then it’s fine by me. And if their alternate unis look horrible, well, then they’re the ones that look bad in them.
6. Wisconsin coaches can be perceived as “difficult” by opposing teams and fans- going for 2 up big against Minnesota (only two?), remarking that folks should just “deal with it“… it’s great if this is the man leading your program, but can drive outsiders nuts. Hypothetically… if you could only have either Bielema OR Ryan for the remainder of their careers, which one would you take?
I think this is a pretty easy answer: Bret Bielema. While both coaches have done a great job of building their programs, football is king and Bielema is much, much younger. Overall, Ryan has been more consistent, but he also took the job at Wisconsin with a lot more experience, while Bielema was learning on the job. I doubt we’ll see many more seasons like 2008 (7-6) because Bielema learned so much from that disaster. Both coaches recruit the right players who fit the program, instead of just recruiting the best players. There are actually a lot of similarities, but Bielema has a much longer road ahead of him. Plus, Badger hoops fans are starting to tire of good seasons that end in the Sweet 16. They want to see Final Fours. Bielema has already delivered a Rose Bowl and the program continues to build upward.
7. We ask everyone we chat with- if the B1G expands, who would you want to add? Who is someone that you wouldn’t take even if they gave you a lifetime supply of beer and brats?
I really don’t want the Big Ten to expand beyond 12 teams unless they can get Notre Dame. That’s the only program I believe really fits the Big Ten’s identity. Of course, if Notre Dame joined, the conference would have to add a 14th school. In that case, I’ve always like the idea of adding Pittsburgh. It would add another great basketball program and a solid football program. Pitt would also build a bridge to that random eastern school the Big Ten has in Penn State, giving the Nittany Lions a natural rival. Missouri also works, but they appear destined for the SEC.
As for a school that I never want to see in the Big Ten… how about Iowa State? The Cyclones are in the Big Ten area between Iowa and Nebraska, but their football and basketball programs are simply not Big Ten worthy.