Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year in Review: 2011

I wanted to do one final blog post in the year 2011, but was struggling to find a topic with the Packers forced to wait a few weeks for a meaningful game, NCAA basketball just starting up conference play...and nowhere near tourney time, and the Bucks, albeit garnering more of my attention than I anticipated, not worth talking about until we know for certain they are legit. Oh, and the final verdict on Ryan Braun should be coming up in a few weeks. Can't wait for that! So with that, I decided it would be a good time to, well, relive the good times - the most memorable moments in Wisconsin sports from the year 2011. I regret not doing this for the year 2010, but to be honest, it doesn't even compare to what we witnessed in the past 364 days. After about 15 minutes of research and personal bias, I was able to compile a top 10 Wisconsin Sports Moments list for all of us to enjoy. So before you go out and celebrate the arrival of 2012, the final year for us humans here on Earth, let's marvel in the glory that was the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Wisconsin Badgers, the Marquette [Warriors], and at times, the Milwaukee Bucks (well, not this year).

10. June 27 - Wilson becomes a Badger

Rumors swirled around Madison early summer that former NC State quarterback and minor league baseball player Russell Wilson, who had a year left of eligibility, would make his way to Wisconsin to leave baseball (for the time being) and play under center for the Badgers in 2011. Wilson earned the starting role over Joe Brennan to the surprise of only Brennan's parents and had a spectacular season, finishing second in the nation in pass efficiency while throwing for 2,879 yards, 31 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Those eye-popping numbers, along with the performance of Heisman Trophy candidate Montee Ball, helped lead the Badgers to their second consecutive Rose Bowl where they'll play Oregon on Jan. 2. Without Wilson, the offense likely would have had trouble overcoming their deficiencies on defense and been unable to win the Big Ten. Wilson's signing is one of several off-the-field moments that will make their appearance on this countdown.

9. March - Wisconsin, Marquette reach Sweet 16 (1st for MU since '03)

For the first time since 2005, two Division I schools from Wisconsin had made the Regional Semifinal game, or Sweet 16, in the same year (UWM, Wisconsin). For the first time EVER, Marquette and Wisconsin reached the Sweet 16 in the same year. Neither team had an exceptional regular season, with the Badgers earning a four-seed and the Warriors barely sneaking in with an 11-seed. Unfortunately, each team would lose to their respective opponents, Wisconsin to eventual runner-up Butler and Marquette to North Carolina in rather ugly fashion. Still, because March Madness is one of the most exciting times in sports and this accomplishment never occurred before, it ranks ninth in 2011 Wisconsin sports moments.

8. November 22 - Braun wins MVP

The Milwaukee Brewers had two legitimate MVP candidates after their National League Championship Series run and Central Division Championship in 2011 in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Although I truly believed Prince deserved the honor for protecting Braun in the lineup and having an almost equally impressive season, I knew deep down Brauny had a better shot at beating out Matt Kemp for MVP, and that he did. Braun was among league leaders in several categories and ended up hitting .332 with 33 home runs and 111 RBIs. His late-game heroics created hysteria among fans time and time again and I think his clutch ability was what pushed him above Kemp in the voting race for the award. Although Braun is now under scrutiny from Dodger fans who think he should give up the award, now is not the time to be negative...but those idiots can shut their pie-hole. The MVP belongs to Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin.

7. Fall - Rodgers' rewrites the record books

Holy cow. What a year for Aaron Rodgers. Not only was he the Super Bowl MVP back in February, but he's likely to win another MVP award for his ridiculous 2011 NFL season. Assuming A-Rod gets shut down against the Lions on New Years Day, here are his final numbers for the season: 4,643 yards, 68.3 completion percentage, 45 touchdowns, six interceptions, 122.5 quarterback rating. No, this isn't Madden 2012. This is real life. Not only does Rodgers currently have the highest passer rating of all-time throughout a career, he'll break the single season passer rating record. Also, there's not a doubt in my mind Rodgers would have taken the single season completion percentage record away from Drew Brees had our receivers not developed a chronic case of "the dropsies." He also set the Packers' single season record for touchdown passes. I'm certain I'm missing other various records Rodgers took from He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but let's hope he can do something else that douche never back-to-back Super Bowls.

6. September 23 - Brewers clinch second division title ever

Remember in 2008 when the Milwaukee Brewers clinched their first playoff birth in 26 years? Ryan Braun smacked the go-ahead two-run home run over the left field wall in the eighth inning to beat the Cubs and earn the Wild Card. Once again, a spot in the postseason was on the line when Braun stepped to the plate - in the eighth inning - against the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. Now granted it wasn't the most pressure packed situation with the Brewers having several games left to clinch the division, but the moment was still tense with over 44,000 packed inside Miller Park. With two men on, Braun launched a bomb out of the park to take a 4-1 lead and take the Central Division crown. It's one of those moments in sports where you wish you were there, but luckily there's another moment left on this countdown that I was fortunate to be a part of.

5. The Packers don't lose for 362 days

Dec. 19 was the last time the Green Bay Packers knew the feeling of defeat up until they fell at Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 17, nearly a whole year later. I know some of you probably took that loss a little harder than you should have simply because we all forgot what it was like to suffer through a Packer game like we did a few weeks ago. Failing to make history and go 19-0 is a little disappointing, but like the Packers, my main focus is winning the coveted Lombardi Trophy. Rodgers had a career high five touchdown passes last Sunday night and sealed the top seed in the NFC, which was the final remaining regular season goal for the Green and Gold. Perhaps another 362 day stretch of not losing has just begun.

4. December 3 - Badgers win thriller against Michigan State

The Badgers suffered one of the most heartbreaking defeats I can remember when their undefeated season was interrupted by a Hail Mary against the Spartans in East Lansing. Next week's loss against Ohio State wasn't much easier to swallow, and the Badgers all of a sudden faced an uphill climb to even reach the Big Ten Championship Game after having hopes of reaching the National Championship game. Wisconsin still found it's way to Indianapolis, and a familiar opponent stood in their way of grabbing a Rose Bowl birth - the Spartans. Down 39-34, Russell Wilson found sophomore wide receiver Brandon Duckworth on a prayer fourth down throw, much like the one Michigan State threw up several weeks ago, and the Badgers would take the lead on a Montee Ball touchdown run. Punter Brad Nortman's flop would allow the Badgers to keep the ball up to the final whistle, and in two days it will be Wisconsin squaring off against Oregon in Pasadena. Have fun in the Capital One Bowl, Sparty. You earned it.

3. February 12 - #1 Ohio State goes down in the Kohl Center

The unbeaten first ranked Ohio State Buckeyes came into Madison on a crisp, cool February evening to face a talented Wisconsin team led by Jordan Taylor and current Milwaukee Buck Jon Leuer. A legitimate National Title contender led by freshman big man Jared Sullinger and several other veteran players, the 18th ranked Badgers had other plans and knocked off the top team in the country. Fans rejoiced and (rightfully) stormed the court to lift Leuer up on their shoulders and celebrate one of the biggest victories in Wisconsin men's basketball history. Although the Badgers would have a rather disappointing end to their season, this win was one of the most exciting moments in the past 12 months not only in Wisconsin sports, but in college basketball.

2. October 7 - Tony Clutch walks the Crew into the NLCS

In the most exciting moment during my lifetime watching the Milwaukee Brewers (Braun's HR in '08 is a close second), the Brewers' electrifying outfielder Nyjer Morgan stepped to the plate with a man on second and one out in a tie game in the tenth inning. It was Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series and the crowd was on pins and needles, reminding me of the regular season finale I attended between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers when a playoff birth was on the line. Similarly to that game, I was present when Tony Plush punched a base hit into center field, allowing speedster Carlos Gomez to round third and beat the throw home and give the Brewers and exhilarating 3-2 win and a spot in the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Fans stayed for nearly a half hour after the game to celebrate and revel in the moment with confetti floating down all around them. It was the farthest the Brewers had made it in the playoffs since 1982, when they also squared off against the Cards. And just like '82, Milwaukee would fall to St. Louis, but the season was a success and the big off-season moves to bring in Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Nyjer Morgan and the in-season moves to bring in K-Rod and Jerry Hairston Jr. paid off. Morgan's walk-off Game 5 base hit would be number one almost any other year, except...

1. February 6 - The Packers win Super Bowl XLV

The NFL is the most popular sport in America, and the Super Bowl is the most-watched event in the country year after year. The Green Bay Packers, who sneaked into the playoffs as a six seed with a 10-6 record, were forced to win three road games in order to reach the Super Bowl last season and they did just that, first winning in Philadelphia, then Atlanta, then Chicago, all places of which they had played during the regular season. Now, a team that needed help to reach the playoffs, a team that was 3-3 and 8-6 at different points of the season, a team that had 16 players on injured reserve, had SOMEHOW found its way to Dallas to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 45. Memorable moments included an interception returned for a touchdown by Nick Collins, a couple of thread-the-needle touchdown passes by Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, and of course, the forced fumble by Clay Matthews when the Steelers were driving down the field to take the lead with all momentum on their side. After the fourth down stop by the Packers defense, it was all over and the Lombardi Trophy was back in Green Bay for the first time in 16 years.

Has there ever been a year like this in Wisconsin sports? I don't think so. We witnessed the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, two Sweet 16 teams, the Brewers two wins away from getting in the World Series and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers...all in the same year! Incredible. To expect anything of the sort in 2012 seems unrealistic, but fans will naturally have higher expectations of all their professional and collegiate teams. One question remains: can the Milwaukee Bucks get the state of Wisconsin on their side and rise to the occasion? We'll see, as they were the only major sports team unable to find success in 2011. Looking forward into 2012, Wisconsin has two top 25 teams, the Rose Bowl game and a one seed in the NFC, but before we bring in the new year, remember the fun ride we had as fans and continue to relive these moments.

On WIN-sconsin.

Friday, December 23, 2011


That's right. Not just the Milwaukee Bucks are getting previewed in this installment of the Balls, Brats and Beer blog; so are the two major college basketball teams in the state of Wisconsin from Madison and Milwaukee. Why? Because let's face it. I don't care what NBA franchise you are: you don't deserve your own blog post for a season preview, especially when your league couldn't figure out how to play a full season. In all reality, this works out nicely for my seasonal basketball preview. With the strike-shortened season beginning on Dec. 26 for the Buckaroos and conference play starting up for the Badgers the very next day (Marquette starts up Big East play on New Year's Day), now is the perfect time to dissect the big three if you will. To any of you clamoring about me ignoring the great institutions of UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay, consider this: I didn't even preview my own UW Oshkosh Titans' basketball season...or their football team, for that matter. So there. I think I've justified that decision.

2010-2011 Milwaukee Bucks: 35-47, 3rd in Central Division, 9th in Eastern Conference (missed playoffs)

That's right. The Bucks weren't even eliminated from playoff contention until the last week of the regular season, and only missed out of the playoffs by one spot! Gotta love the NBA. Two years ago, the Deer managed to go 46-36 to earn a six seed in, as always, a very weak Eastern Conference. However, times have changed because teams like the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks have loaded up, not to mention the on-the-rise Indiana Pacers and the New Jersey Nets, who will soon not only be moving to Brooklyn, but also likely acquiring Dwight Howard. That's just speculation, but I think it's inevitable. Anyway, back to the Bucks. Last season's result was certainly not a surprise for a few reasons. We obtained a career-loser in Corey Maggette, a move I hated from day one. We resigned John Salmons, who everyone knows only plays well immediately after getting traded to a new team. Andrew Bogut was playing with one arm. Too much was expected of Brandon Jennings, who went through his sophomore slump. Too many teams got better while the Bucks took a step backward. And finally, whenever something big is expected from the Bucks, they don't do something big. So what's changed for the 66-game 2011-2012 season in Milwaukee?

Key losses: G/F Corey Maggettee (traded to CHA), SG John Salmons (traded to SAC), G/F Chris Douglas-Roberts (tear), SG Michael Redd, PG Keyon Dooling, PG Earl Boykins

Key additions: SG Stephen Jackson, G Shaun Livingston, PG Beno Udrih, F Tobias Harris (rookie), F Jon Leuer (rookie), F Mike Dunleavy

Returnees: C Andrew Bogut, PF/C Drew Gooden, PF Larry Sanders, F Jon Brockman, F Ersan Ilyasova, F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, G/F Carlos Delfino, SG Darington Hobson, PG Brandon Jennings

So the Bucks lost six and gained six and got rid of A LOT of extra baggage with Redd's contract and Salmon's corpse. In fact, according to, they are under the salary cap, leaving them in good shape in the coming years. I believe that General Manager John Hammond pulled all the right strings during the offseason, getting rid of cancers and potential cancers and replacing them with guys that will contribute and avoid clashing with each other. Last season was a complete disaster chemistry wise due to having a ball-hog like Maggette and the team struggling with injuries, including...well...just about everybody. Now, with an extremely compressed 66-game schedule and even a few back-to-back-to-back stretches, depth is more important to have than ever. Here's a look at how I think the Bucks 12-man roster will shape up on Dec. 26:

PG: Jennings - Udrih (Livingston: Inactive)
SG: Jackson - Delfino (Hobson: Inactive)
SF: Dunleavy - Harris - Leuer
PF: Mbah a Moute - Ilyasova - Sanders (Brockman: Inactive)
C: Bogut - Gooden

I could very well be wrong on this estimate for a few reasons. First of all, head coach Scott Skiles hasn't been at all thrilled with the play of Ilysova and Sanders, who simply make too many mistakes and aren't decisive enough, but their defensive ability will be enough in my opinion to make the 12-man roster. There could also be a debate whether or not both Dunleavy and Mbah a Moute start over Delfino and Gooden, but Mbah a Moute is the team's best defender (Skiles' specialty) and Dunleavy brings a scoring presence along with Captain Jack. There are also some of you who are going to question me putting Leuer on the active roster, but how can you argue with his preseason numbers? Livingston has always been a guy I feel the Bucks eventually part ways with, Hobson needs to do more to earn a roster spot after being a D-leaguer last season and Brockman brings energy, but just doesn't do a whole lot out there. These are not only the 12 guys I want to see on a nightly basis, but they are also the 12 guys I truly think will be on the roster opening night at Charlotte, where we get to see our old friend Corey Maggettee. Again, look at the DEPTH on this team...not bad, right?

Alright. Prediction time. Last season, I thought the Bucks would earn a five seed in the Eastern Conference and make a run at 50 wins...(face palm). Okay, that was stupid. In hindsight, I should have factored in the problems I mentioned before involving injuries, Jennings' slump and Maggette-spaghetti. This season, there are three teams I KNOW will finish better than the Bucks: Miami, Chicago and New York. Who will probably finish better than the Bucks? Indiana, Atlanta, Boston and Orlando. That leaves one more playoff slot in the East, and yes, I believe the Bucks can snag it. They could actually earn as high as a five seed because of the following reasons: Boston is old, making it harder to play a compressed schedule, Atlanta lost Jamal Crawford, a key contributor, and who knows how the Dwight Howard saga will end. With Jennings expected to bounce back (and be healthy), Bogey's right arm back to somewhat-full strength, and new additions I really, really like...

Regular Season Record: 36-30
Playoffs: Six seed, lose in 1st round

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Now for real basketball, the kind that takes place at the college level. The state of Wisconsin has four Division I teams, but there are only two that I consistently follow/give a crap about. The Green Bay Phoenix haven't had much of a program for as long as I can remember while UW-Milwaukee has had it's moments, most recently winning the Horizon League and then losing in the Conference Tournament final to eventual runner-up Butler. That leaves the Marquette Warriors and Wisconsin Badgers. One team plays up-tempo, the other plays slow. One team plays in Madison, the other plays in Milwaukee. One team is mostly white, the other mostly black. BUT, there is one similarity between these two - they both reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, riding the winning wave the Green Bay Packers began in February. Currently, the Warriors stand at 11-1, ranked 10th in the country while the Badgers are 10-2, standing at 14th in the polls.

2010-2011 Marquette Warriors (Golden Eagles): 20-14 (9-9), T-9th in Big East, Sweet 16 in NCAA

After barely sneaking in the tournament last season as an 11 seed, Marquette went on to upset Xavier and fellow Big East member Syracuse to reach the Regional Semifinal against North Carolina, who slaughtered the Warriors by 18. Now led by seniors Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, the Warriors only defeat so far this season came at the hands of LSU down in Baton Rouge earlier this week. I really didn't think it was fair for the Tigers to march their football team out there, but hey, whatever it takes to win. In college basketball, letdown games come about just as often as someone imitating Aaron Rodgers' belt celebration, so I didn't really get too hellbent over this loss. I think the biggest storyline for Marquette heading into their conference opener against Syracuse on Jan. 1 is the health of Chris Otule, the opening day starter at center. Coming into this season, MU finally had some size with Otule and backup Davante Gardner, but Otule suffered an ACL injury a few weeks back against Washington and the decision to bring him back this season or not is still being mulled over by head coach Buzz Williams. To not have Otule there toward the end of the season puts a lot of pressure on Gardner to pick up the slack and stay out of foul trouble and also brings us back to the typical small lineup Marquette always finds themselves using. Fortunately, their is a ton of talent in that small lineup. Freshman newcomer Todd Mayo (yes, O.J. Mayo's little bro) can flat out score the basketball and sophomore Vander Blue will combine with Mayo to help take the pressure of DJO and Crowder in terms of scoring while transfer and hometown guy Jamil Wilson brings some athleticism and length.

This team has the ability to light up the scoreboard, but can also play the half-court game, which I believe is a valuable asset. Many experts are picking the Warriors to finish toward the top of the Big East among teams like Syracuse, Louisville and Connecticut, and I feel compelled to agree. Of course, a lot of this depends on the senior leadership of DJO and Crowder helping some of the younger guys along as well as the potential return of the 6'11" Otule, but I think this team has what it takes to win 24 or 25 games and earn a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. With a fairly favorable conference schedule, my official prediction falls at:

Regular Season Record: 24-8 (13-5), T-3rd in Big East
NCAA Tournament Seed: Four
NCAA Tournament Result: Sweet 16

2010-2011 Wisconsin Badgers: 25-9 (13-5), 3rd in Big Ten, Sweet 16 in NCAA

Every year, the Badgers aren't expected to make much noise in the Big Ten, and every year, they do, because that's just how Bo Ryan rolls. Unfortunately, Ryan's teams never seem to be built for the style of play that wins games in the tournament. You know, teams that shoot the ball before the shot clock reaches .000001 seconds left. Watching the Badgers play basketball is an acquired taste to say the least. Last season, Jon Leuer helped lead Sconnie past Belmont and Kansas State before Leuer completely fell apart against Butler in the Regional Semifinal. With Leuer now in the NBA, Jordan Taylor assumes the leadership role for the Badgers, which we are still waiting to see translate over to the court. He's only averaging 11.8 points per game, but he still has that assist/turnover ratio at an impressive 3.2. I get the feeling that Wisconsin and Taylor are just starting to figure things out, which is good because they kick off Big Ten play at Nebraska two days after Christmas. This team lost two close games to North Carolina and Marquette so far and has also struggled through victories at UWM and vs UNLV as they gear up for what is a daunting Big Ten schedule. There's no question that it's now officially the second toughest conference in the nation. So other than Taylor, who will need to step up this season? The current leading scorer is Jared Berggren at 12.3 PPG, but I suspect JT will soon overtake that category. Ryan Evans is becoming more of a force on the boards and now has a starting role along with forward Mike Brusewitz and guard Josh Gasser, who has improved his jump shot since last season. Speaking of jump shots, sophomore Ben Brust has come out of nowhere to light it up from three on a couple different occasions, so we'll see how often Bo turns to him when the Badger offense needs a spark. Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to talk about regarding what may have been...believe it or not...a slightly overrated team coming into the season.

Sure, Wisconsin may still be able to run the table when it comes to home conference games and still have a successful regular season overall with their slow it down, shot clock draining style of basketball, but it just never seems to bring success in March, which is when a lot of people flip on the NCAA Tournament and actually care about college basketball. Teams like Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana are all going to give Wisconsin trouble in what is one of the strongest Big Ten fields in quite awhile. With that being said, here is my prediction:

Regular Season Record: 22-8 (11-6), 4th in Big Ten
NCAA Tournament Seed: Five
NCAA Tournament Result: Round of 32

There you have it. No surprise, but I'm predicting each of the three major basketball teams in Wisconsin reach the postseason. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see UWM sneak in there with Butler having a down year. Feel free to chime in with your feelings regarding my predictions and how you feel these teams will fare as we move into 2012, the year humanity will cease to exist.

May everybody have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Stay safe!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dealing With Imperfection

WIN-sconsin. I think most of you are now familiar with the term coined by us Wisconsinites late last summer. It was very fitting and also probably the first time in my life this combination of the words "Win" and "Wisconsin" was deserved when referring to the high level the state's sports teams were playing at. The Brewers were heading into the playoffs, the Badger football team seemingly couldn't be defeated and the Packers were the reigning Super Bowl Champions and hadn't lost since December of 2010. For the first time in my life, I felt spoiled as a sports fan. Never had these three teams been this successful at the same time. Never. But all good things must come to an end. The Brewers were eliminated by the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. A few months later, the Ryan Braun news surfaced. The Badgers lost in heart-breaking fashion two weeks in a row, although they were able to pull it together and reach the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year. And then there's what happened early this week...Marquette's undefeated season came to an end in a loss against LSU on Monday. Well, that DID actually happen, but nobody cares about non-conference basketball. Let's get to what I'm actually referring to:

December 19, 2010. I was back home for Winter Break just like I am right now, watching the Matt Flynn-led Green Bay Packers play the juggernaut New England Patriots at Foxboro Stadium. The Packers were 8-5, barely clinging on to their playoff hopes. Green Bay would eventually lose, albeit by only four with a chance to go ahead at the end, but this was also the last time the Packers would lose until last Sunday, December 18, almost a year later. Ironically enough, the last two Packer losses have occurred while I've been back home, so I think I know how to fix this problem...move far, far away and never come back. No? I thought it sounded reasonable.

The fact of the matter is, this day was going to come eventually. Yeah, it was against the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs, but who cares? Anyone can beat anyone in professional sports on any given day...especially when you're down to only two starting offensive linemen, you're number one wide receiver is out and your defense is somehow incapable of stopping Kyle Orton. I could go a little more in depth as to why the Packers lost, but I don't think anyone wants to relive the feeling of pain and anguish that we hadn't felt in almost exactly a year. In one sentence, it was a combination of injuries, dropped passes, failing to challenge what should have been a touchback, the inaccuracy of Rodgers, a team playing for its coach and having a piss poor excuse of a defensive strategy for a guy who was cut in favor of Tim Tebow. Final result: Chiefs 19, Packers 14. Should have been a whoooooole lot worse.

13-1. You know...that's a record I can live with at this point of the year. Better than losing in late January, that's for sure. What's even better is that no team is closer than two games behind Green Bay, which means it's extremely likely the Packers hang on to the number one seed and get home field advantage in the NFC. All that needs to happen is either one more 49ers loss or one more Packers win and by God, if the Pack loses to Josh McCown and the team that calls itself a professional football franchise, then it doesn't deserve to get the one seed. That's not something I'm even going to think about right now. What's important to think about is how the Packers now gear up for the postseason, both physically and mentally.

Here is the current Green Bay offensive line:
LT - Marshall Newhouse (Chad Clifton)
LG - Evan Dietrich-Smith
C - Scott Wells
RG - Josh Sitton (Derek Sherrod)
RT - T.J. Lang (Bryan Bulaga)

The players in parenthesis are currently injured, Sherrod done for the season after a gruesome leg injury. Other regulars who have been hampered by injury might remind you of the list the Packers compiled last season. Greg Jennings, James Starks, Alex Green, Andrew Quarless, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Vic So'oto, Frank Zombo, Nick Collins. I'm probably missing a few here and there, but that number is getting awfully close to the number of players injured by the end of the '10 season, granted not all of the players I listed are on injured reserve. What was 'good,' if you will, about the Packer injuries last season were that many of the notable ones occurred early on in the season, giving the Packers time to recover and plug in new players to get adjusted to more playing time. What concerns me is that this season, many injuries, especially up front, are coming toward the end of the year and guys are playing in spots they aren't used to (i.e. Lang at right tackle), making it harder for the team to mesh together with so many players in new roles. But really, that's a fairly minor concern for a few reasons...Jennings will be back, which I think is the biggest reason Green Bay had trouble moving the ball on Sunday. Also, Clifton and Bulaga, the two starting tackles (and the two most important spots on the offensive line), should be healthy for the playoffs. Bishop should be back. Pickett should be back. Really, it comes down to the Packers willing to let everyone get healthy in time for what's really important: the playoffs. Of course, obtaining the one seed is the main goal right now, and that is unlikely to avoid Green Bay's grasp.

The second concern I have is in regards to the defensive unit. By this time of year last season, the defense was beginning to click and the bend but don't break mentality was in full force. If you watched that Kansas City game, the defense was bending to the point of nearly snapping in half, but let's be looked horrendous. Maybe that had to do with gameplanning for Tyler Palko instead of Kyle Orton (we saw what happened when the Bears trotted out Caleb Hanie in the NFC Championship game last season), but the defense was unable to force any turnovers and as a result, the Chiefs moved the ball at will. Here's the interesting stat of the day: when was the last time the Packers failed to create a turnover? December 19, 2010 against the New England Patriots. That's right. The last time Green Bay lost a football game. 19 games later, and Dom Capers' defense didn't manage a forced fumble or an interception, resulting in a loss. I don't know what the deal is this season. Whether it's the loss of Nick Collins, an aging Chuck Woodson, Clay Matthews failing to reach the quarterback enough, or the overall inability to rush the passer, something isn't there yet. There are still two weeks to get on a little run, so it's nothing to get our panties in a bundle over. I thought the Oakland game was a start, but the Kansas City game was a step backward. We'll see how the defense (and the offense, for that matter) can close out the season without some of its key pieces. For now, let's forget about the failed attempt at an undefeated season and relish in 13-1, the best record in all of football.

Figured you might want a little update in my football life. Well, I doubt it, but you'll get it anyway. In fantasy football, I once again entered an auction league to go along with the two leagues I play in with friends, one of which is for money. I'm currently in the finals in my league that's for money ($80 to the winner!) with friends and I'm also in the finals in the auction league for the second year in a row. In case you forgot, I finished third in the money league last season and won the auction league, so I'm sitting pretty once again. As far as the third league I'm in, my commissioner failed to alert me that he would be rewarding a ridiculous amount of points for defenses, AND it was a PPR (points per reception) league, meaning a wide receiver gets an additional point for each catch they make. Think this might have affected my draft strategy a bit? The answer is yes, and the result was going 7-6 and losing in the first round of the playoffs two weeks ago. Good thing no one cares about that league. Besides, I won it last year. Gotta share the wealth.

As far as guessing games with the spread...same old story. Last year, I went 132-124. Through 15 weeks this season? 112-112. Imagine that. So I'll have to go 20-12 over the last two weeks, which are always hard to guess, in order to match my 2010 effort. Wish me luck!

I'll be back soon with a Milwaukee Bucks' season preview. Whether you want to read it or not is an entirely different issue. Perhaps they'll join in on the WIN-sconsin fun? Only time will tell.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My take on Braun, the Pack and Roses

My goodness. It's been far too long, my friends. A busier-than-anticipated fall semester has finally drawn to a close and this blog has missed the Badgers thrilling Big Ten Championship Game victory and a baseball off-season I'd rather forget. But one thing this blog hasn't missed is a Packers' loss, which is why I'm almost afraid to post here for the first time in nearly two months. Since nobody was exactly clammering for me to get back on this thing, I'm guessing everyone was able to go on with their everyday lives, but I thought I'd still enlighten you on what has been going on recently in the Wisconsin sports scene.

We'll go from least important to most important, in my mind at least, and start with the Wisconsin Badgers' trip to the Rose Bowl for the second straight year. Yeah. This is the least important of the three. Two weeks ago to the day, the Badgers pulled out one of the most thrilling victories I've seen in college football for quite a while. Well, other than that one game in East Lansing a few months ago. It was a game that featured little defense, a couple of bonehead mistakes from Michigan State and the emergence of a future star at wide receiver. That receiver I speak of is sophomore Jeff Duckworth, who made a couple of crucial plays that the Badgers needed in order to win the Big Ten Championship. His most notable play was hauling in a 36-yard prayer from the game's MVP Russell Wilson on fourth down to essentially keep the Badgers alive. The real crime is that Wilson won the inaugural BTC MVP because I can think of a few players who deserved it more.

The most obvious candidate is soon-to-be most touchdowns in a single season record holder Montee Ball. Not only did Ball have four rushing TDs to bring his season total to 38, but he also completed a beautiful 32-yard pass to Wilson. Heck, if the Badgers don't end up finding an efficient replacement for RusselMania next season, they could just turn to Ball to play quarterback and running back at the same time. That is, if Ball decides to return for his senior year, which I have a feeling he will. I hope. Ball needs just two touchdowns to break the all-time record of 39 TDs in a season held by Barry Sanders. To be fair, Sanders recorded this feat in only 11 games, and the bowl game didn't count toward his total. How many scores did Barry get in the bowl game that season? Five. Oh well. Times have changed and Montee is going to take full advantage of that.

So who's the second MVP candidate? I think you know where I'm going with this one: Badgers' punter Brad Nortman. Nortman showed what the Milwaukee Greater Metro Conference is all about and went down after a Michigan State player who won't be named (I don't want him getting any death threats) plowed into Nortman after punting the ball away late in the fourth quarter with Wisconsin up 42-39. I think it's fair to say that the hit wasn't hard enough to make an 8-year-old girl crumble over, but everyone knows that if Nortman doesn't go with the flow and fall down on that play, the referee doesn't throw his flag. The rule is that if you run into the punter, it's a penalty. That's exactly what the Spartans' player did, and that's why the Badgers were able to seal a trip to the Rose Bowl to play Oregon on Jan. 2. Sucks to suck, Michigan State. Take that hail mary and shove it where the sun don't shine.

Oregon, who is ranked fifth in the country, should very well be playing in the National Championship. Instead, their kicker had other ideas and missed a chip-shot field goal to beat USC last month, leading to them pummeling UCLA in order to get into the Rose Bowl. It's a classic matchup of speed vs. power. On offense, the Badgers arguably hold the edge at both quarterback and running back, but Oregon has faster players at each position, which could pose some trouble for a Badger defense that I continue to lose faith in week after week. Basically, it's going to come down to whether or not the Badgers can outscore the Ducks because with their speed, they'll be able to rack up tons of points on the slow defensive line and the extremely porous secondary of Wisconsin. This is the game where Russell has to prove to Badger fans that he was the right choice. This may sound ridiculous, but Wilson shrunk a little bit in the team's losses to Michigan State and Ohio State earlier in the year. Granted, he put up pretty decent numbers in each game, but it took the Badger offense way too long to get going in each of those games, and in the end it bit them in the rear end because it came down to the defense trying* to get the job done. A slow start isn't going to cut it against Oregon - I can guarantee you that. I predicted the Badgers would get to the Rose Bowl again this year and only lose one game (they lost two), and I'll predict that they come up a bit short for the second year in a row. Sorry. Just going with my gut.

Okay. Spent a little bit more time on Wisconsin than I planned, but now it's time to move on to the second most important on-going story in the state. This was tough for me, especially since I'm a bigger baseball fan than anything, but the Ryan Braun scandal still takes a back seat to the undefeated run of the Green Bay Packers simply because of the timing. As everyone knows by now, Braun tested positive for having synthetic testosterone in his system and the news was leaked a week ago even though Major League Baseball has yet to complete the appeal process. Thanks, ESPN. I was alerted of this news while at the library studying diligently for my brutal finals week and my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. Suffice it to say, but I was no longer in the mood to study and my night at the library was cut short.

Of course, I went on to read anything and everything I could related to this devastating news and began to build hope that the decision to suspend Braun for 50 games next season as the result of using performance enhancing drugs could be reversed, or at least reduced. Braun took a second drug test immediately after hearing of his positive test and tested negative. From what I've heard, between the time he took the two tests, there is no way that amount of testosterone could have left his body, which could mean the first test was a farce and was somehow messed up. That's the most hopeful solution Brewer fans can hope for. I've also heard that Braun's suspension could be reduced from 50 games to 25 games because the substance he tested positive for wasn't a performance enhancing drug. Of course, missing Braun for any sort of extended period would be a killer for this Brewer team, who has gotten better at third base (Aramis Ramirez) and shortshop (Alex Gonzalez) and remained strong at the tail end of the bullpen (K-Rod), but has a huge question mark at first base (Prince Fielder leaving, Mat Gamel arriving).

Here's the final and most preposterous (although not out of the question) rumor I heard regarding Braun. He has herpies. Some dude commented on that he has a friend who is a trainer on the Brewers' staff. This trainer relayed him the information that Braun has herpies and the medication that he was given by his doctor to treat the condition is what triggered the spike in testosterone. Let me tell you something. If this were somehow true and I was Braun, not only have I been getting a lot of tail, but I'm almost willing to take that suspension rather than face such humiliation. Since the medication was prescribed from a doctor though, this would mean the suspension would go bye-bye and Braun would be able to play without sitting out any time.

So many different scenarios! Of course, what people keep complaining about is the following:

- No one has ever successfully overturned a positive drug test in the MLB (Wrong: yes they have. Normally, the appeals process goes through BEFORE THE POSITIVE TEST BECOMES PUBLIC, so we never know if someone has won an appeal that tested positive before.)

- Players are guilty before proven innocent (Sure, that's fair. But who cares? If Braun gets through this without being suspended, then I don't get what the big deal is. If you have the viewpoint that his reputation is tarnished no matter what, then that's your problem. Let the process play out.)

- Braun should have to hand over his MVP to Matt Kemp (Shut up. SHUT up. SHUT UP. All of a sudden, Dodger fans are coming out of the muck that is their organization and bantering for Braun to give up his MVP because he's a "cheater." Dear lord. The MVP award almost NEVER goes to a player on a team that didn't make the postseason unless it's a transcending player like Albert Pujols. Also, the positive test was in October, AFTER the regular season and AFTER all the baseball writers had voted for the award. Therefore, Braun didn't cheat during the regular season, or in any previous season for that matter, because he has been tested multiple times and it's random. Besides, his numbers this season were just like any other season, maybe slightly better, but since he was on a 96-win ball club, he was rewarded with an MVP. So once again, SHUT UP.)

Unfortunately, the appeals process won't be over until January, so I'm stuck here waiting anxiously for redemption. I've almost never felt more depressed than when I read the text message announcing Braun's positive test and potential suspension. He's one of my few heroes and someone I look up to as a role model, and for this positive test to be upheld would certainly be devastating. That's the only word I can use to describe it. Even if it comes down to Braun accidentally taking something he didn't know had an illegal stimulant in it, there's no excuse. You have to know what you put in your body. Here's hoping this all just goes away.

Let's sandwich this bad news with another bit of good news. Great news, as a matter of fact. Do you remember the last time the Green Bay Packers lost a game? Well, it was literally one year ago. 19 games in a row the Packers have won. How ridiculous is that? What's funny is that coming into the season, people were forgetting about the defending Super Bowl champs. It was all about the Eagles and the Cowboys and the Saints and the Falcons...who would end up going to Super Bowl 46 from the NFC? Well, here's a thought: maybe the team that would be returning 16 players from injured reserve? Okay, so not all 16 players were returning, but the Pack would be getting guys like Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant and Morgan Burnett back on the field in 2011. Low and behold, here we stand: 13-0 with three very winnable games remaining to become the second team ever to complete a 16-0 regular season. I hope the '72 Dolphins are shaking in their old, torn up boots.

Of course, along the way Green Bay has lost Nick Collins for the season and had guys like James Starks, Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Frank Zombo, Chad Clifton, Josh Sitton, Andrew Quarless and now Greg Jennings miss extended time due to injury. The defense has had its issues, especially in games against the Saints, Chargers and Giants, but this season has been all about Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense. Rodgers is having perhaps the best single season a quarterback has ever put together, or at least one of the better ones we've ever seen. There hasn't been much of a run game, and Finley hasn't contributed nearly as much as people expected coming in, but the beautiful thing about it is that Rodgers always makes sure everyone is involved, forcing the defense to be even more on its toes. Jennings and my boy Jordy Nelson have had career years (Jennings was just cut short), James Jones' hands have been sure, and Donald Driver continues to get it done at 107 years of age. Helping out with field position is rookie Randall Cobb, who already has two returns for touchdowns...look out, Devin Hester. More will be expected of Cobb, fifth in catches among receivers, with Jennings out, but with Jennings expected back for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, his injury shouldn't be a long-term problem.

On defense, the numbers tell that it's been a struggle, but things are going to come around with this bunch. One number that shouldn't be overlooked is the number of takeaways this unit has, something that Dom Capers takes a lot of pride in. This defense has players like Chuck Woodson, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji and Tramon Williams, who are going to step their game up now that it's getting colder out and the Green Bay offense simply won't be quite as effective as a result, especially going up against a higher level quality of opponents. The most important part about being 13-0 isn't the chance to become the second team in NFL history to not lose a single game throughout the regular season and the playoffs; it's about having that home field advantage, something the Packers apparently didn't need last season. Unlike last season, having basically nothing to play for at this point of the season could be a little concerning, but I haven't seen a team as mentally strong as this group of guys, and having a week off to start the playoffs while being a one seed is something I think this team would prefer over last year's scenario.

Getting back to people forgetting about the Packers...heard of that Tebow guy lately? Thank God for him. I'll go on the record and say that I love every second of it. Seriously. I love Tim Tebow. Talk about him all you want, ESPN. Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith going at it each morning on First Take is surprisingly one of the most entertaining things on television, although I can't stand it when Skip talks about Rodgers. Sorry he hasn't had any come from behind fourth quarter victories this year like your beloved Tom Brady. He hasn't been in the position to. And the one time he did have to have a late drive to win the game when the Packers were tied with the Giants with 56 second left, he waltzed down the field to set up a walk-off field goal. Anyway, back to Tebow. He's 7-1 as a starter, isn't necessarily good at what he does, and has the whole nation mesmerized, helping to take a huge chunk of attention off the Pack...just as they'd prefer it.

So let's just say January is another huge month for our beloved sports teams. It'll start off with the Rose Bowl game, then the NFL playoffs will get going and eventually the final verdict will come forth on Ryan Braun. Enjoy your break if you just got done with finals like me, good luck if you are yet to take them and have a merry Christmas if I'm not back on here before then. Once the new year arrives, it'll be time to avert your attention back to the greatness that is Wisconsin sports.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Never Forget

I get it. The Wisconsin Badgers and the Green Bay Packers are a combined 12-0. It's awesome and surreal, don't get me wrong, but I'll have plenty of time to talk about the success of Wisconsin football. For now, the Brewers should get your undivided attention for one last time this year.

Last night, when the clock struck midnight on the Brewers' magical run, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I've sat through countless playoff defeats from the Packers, the Badgers, the Bucks and the Golden Eagles as a die-hard fan of Wisconsin sports, but NOTHING has ever hurt as bad as losing game 6 of the National League Championship Series to the hated St. Louis Cardinals. I sat with my head in my hands for several minutes, trying to allow all the unforgettable memories from the past season override the agony and despair of the season being over at the hands of a team who I hope a rivalry will continue to grow with. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who questioned the decision to start the lifeless corpse of Shaun Marcum or the idea to go with a lineup that didn't give the Brewers the best chance to win, but the fact of the matter is that the Brew-City Bombers ran into a buzz-saw Sunday night. The Cards were the hotter team, but not necessarily the better team...I refuse to acknowledge that. From the day that Nyjer Morgan went to Twitter to begin a mini war of words and tell St. Louis to "have fun watching the Brewers in October from their couches," the Cardinals went on a tear. Whether you want to blame it on what Plush would consider some friendly trash talk, managers like Tony LaRussa and players like Albert Pujols don't need to be given any extra motivation to succeed, and that's exactly what they've done. Succeed. Succeed beyond expectations.

As difficult as this may sound right now, none of those things should be what defines the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. The expectations were higher than ever heading into April because of acquisitions like manager Ron Roenicke, Morgan, Takashi Saito, Shaun Marcum (ugh) and Zack Greinke, and they got even higher towards the end of July and the beginning of August by adding all-time single season saves leader Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez and utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. All of these additions were somehow pulled off without losing any core players like Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Yovani Gallardo, although the farm system was left almost completely decimated. But just like when the Brewers traded everything and the kitchen sink for C.C. Sabathia three years ago, fans supported the moves. They were all-in, just like General Manager Doug Melvin. Naturally, I made some predictions:

1. Shaun Marcum will win 15 games. (WRONG, although a lack of run support didn't help)
2. Prince Fielder will either collapse under the pressure of a contract year or have a career year because of the motivation of a contract year...then walk after '11. (RIGHT (so far), it was a career year without question...Prince has yet to walk though)
3. Nyjer Morgan will eventually become the main guy in center field after starting the year in a platoon with Carlos Gomez and the Crew once again realizing Go-Go sucks. (RIGHT, although by the end of the year I was calling Gomez's name)
4. John Axford won't top his 2010 season in the closer role but do enough to stay in it. In addition, set-up man Zach Braddock will be an absolute beast. (PAINFULLY WRONG for obvious reasons)
5. The Brewers will rank in the bottom five in the MLB in defense. (BARELY WRONG, they were 24th, but are currently dead last in postseason defense)
6. Zack Greinke will not perform as well as expected, but Yovani Gallardo will succeed thanks to a lack of pressure. (KIND OF RIGHT)
7. The Brewers will acquire a key bench player mid-season. (RIGHT, Hairston)
8. Manager Ron Roenicke will win NL Manager of the Year. (STAY TUNED)
9. Mark Rogers will be called up at some point during the season and make some key spot starts...maybe even earn the fifth spot at some point. (WRONG, Rogers was injured/we didn't end up needing any rotation replacements)
10. Sergio Mitre will make one start and then find his way to the bullpen, where he had some success last year with the Yanks. (WRONG, but who cares)
11. Mat Gamel will not be touched in the minor leagues (barring injuries at the major league level), but will replace Prince Fielder in 2012 at first base. (WRONG, unfortunately, but he may be the opening day guy in 2012 at first)
12. Milwaukee Brewers 2011 record: 91-71, 1st place in NL Central (PRETTY RIGHT, 96-66, a franchise record in wins, was enough for 1st in the Central)

Some of these predictions are still pending, but let's move on.

Roenicke brought a lot of excitement to the table and it took him some time to feel out the cast of all-star players and the situation he walked into, but any realistic fan knew there would be some growing pains. He had an aggressive style of managing, which naturally excited Brewer fans, and eventually he figured out the right assortment of players to put on the field and implemented strategies in certain situations once he got a feel for the club. It was a slow start to the season, partly due to a lack of chemistry, but mostly due to injuries to several key players. Players came back, and things started to click, especially once Greinke returned from his freak basketball injury. They hung around the top of the division for the next few months, and the post-All Star game additions Melvin made were enough to jump-start the Crew once again, despite the gruesome ankle injury Rickie Weeks sustained, and give them a comfortable edge in the NL Central. Throw in the inspired performances of potential MVPs Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the leadership in the rotation of Yovani Gallardo, the shut-down closing ability of John Axford, and the Brewers simply showing more will to win than their opponents - many times in heart-stopping fashion - and that in a nutshell is why the Brewers landed in the postseason.

So Milwaukee, the smallest pro baseball market in the league, drew the Arizona Diamondbacks in round one, a team they battled with until game 162 to earn home-field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. I was fortunate enough to earn the right to buy tickets to game 2, but decided to pass. Ha. Yeah, right. They won that game for me along with game 1 thanks to a dominating performance by our ACE, Yovani Gallardo. Of course, the road woes crept back into the minds of the Brewers and as much as I felt it wouldn't happen, there would be a game 5 at Miller Park. Speaking of Miller Park, if that stadium could seat 100,000 people, it would have been filled each and every game this postseason. The SMALLEST MARKET in baseball. What about Chase Field in Phoenix, you ask? Game 4, there were roughly 10,000 empty seats in the D-Back's home ballpark. That's embarrassing. Also, it gave me the feeling that the Brewers deserved to win this series, even after the lackluster performances by Marcum and veteran lefty Randy Wolf. The night of Saturday, Oct. 8 rolled around and I was planning on watching the final game of the series either on my own coach or from one of the many bars located in Oshkosh, but then I remembered something. Kyle's mother, who had purchased four standing room only tickets to game 5, was giving her tickets to Kyle, which meant I had to consider if I wanted to or would be able to go. Of course I wanted to go, and thanks to the gracious gesture of my roommate Will, I drove his van down to Milwaukee Sunday morning for the biggest baseball game in Milwaukee in decades. Flash forward to about 7:30 PM...

Can I even explain this moment? Probably not. Gomez, a defensive replacement, singles to left. He takes second on a wild pitch. Plush knocks one up the middle, Go-Go scores the NLDS-clinching run. Hysteria ensues. The Keg was flowing. If there is one moment of my young life that I'd never forget, it was being at Miller Park when Gomez crossed home and the ten minutes that followed, fans going absolutely nuts, the building maybe the loudest it had been at any point during the actual game. Unforgettable to the maximum meaning of the word. I embraced tens of hundreds of random people and made sure to snap some pictures, capture the moment on video and grab a few pieces of confetti for keepsake. I know the Brewers would eventually lose in six games the next series, but being there for that moment might just make up for it alone. The only thing I missed as a result of attending game 5 was T-Clutch shouting obscenities into the TBS microphone held by Sam Ryan. Shouldn't have been standing there, Sam.

Most of you who talk to me regularly about baseball, are friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter probably already know what I'm about to tell you about the Cardinals/Brewers suds series II, but I'll go through it nevertheless. After the first few games, it was apparent who wasn't going to help contribute to the Brewers' run at a World Series, and those names included Corey Hart (slumping at the plate, useless in the field), Nyjer Morgan (one of the most clutch hits in Brewer history, I know, but facing the same struggles as Hart), Rickie Weeks (simply not healthy enough to contribute in any way) and Shaun Marcum (completely out of gas). Marcum's performance in game 2 was hard to watch, but not as hard to watch as in game 6. Usually, when you give up more runs than record outs, you're in trouble. The fact of the matter is that Marcum had never gone past 200 innings in his career and Roenicke was leaving him for dead by putting him out there in an elimination game. Sure, he had a very short leash...if even a leash at all...but he never should have been out there in the first place, and it was enough to set the tone for how the Crew's final game in 2011 would end up. And of course, Hart, Plush and Weeks were all out there for game 6 as well. What should have the stubborn Roenicke done for game 6? I know it sounds extreme and idiotic, but...

RF Morgan, CF Gomez, LF Braun, 1B Fielder, 3B Hairston, SS Betancourt, C Lucroy, 2B Counsell, P Gallardo/Estrada

Gallardo on three days rest? But it's only three days rest! And then he can't pitch in game 7! Shut up. Even if Gallardo can't go here, pitch Estrada. He was a gem spot starter.
Counsell over Weeks? He hit .170 on the season! Yeah, but the Brewers needed defense, and Counsell >>> Weeks in that regard. Oh, and Weeks hit .146 in the playoffs.
If you were against playing Plush, why is he in there? Because he's the best DEFENSIVE option in right, plus there needs to be someone in the lineup with lead-off experience.
Hairston in the 5 hole? And Yuni in the 6? Why mess with that chemistry towards the bottom of the lineup? Sorry, you're right. Protecting Prince isn't that important.

And if you even question having Gomez in there because it was against a righty, don't even look at me.

I hated the idea of starting Mark Kotsay in game 3 and then I hated not having him in there in game 5. I hated how our defense sucked, making Greinke's game 5 start look bad when it really wasn't. I hated how Roenicke wouldn't give Taylor Green a chance to at least pinch-hit instead of continuously marching out McGehee (why even put him on the roster then?). I hated a lot of the decisions that were made in the NLCS, only proving why 29 years of experience managing trumps one year. I appreciate what guys like Marcum, Hart, Weeks and Plush did for us all season long and they were a HUGE reason why the Brewers got to the point they did, but just because someone helps you get to where you are doesn't mean they have to go the distance with you. Man, I sound like a dick. No wonder I don't have a girlfriend.

So what's next? First things first, I don't think I can bring myself to watch a single inning of the World Series. I said the same thing in 2007 after the Packers' depressing loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship game about the Super Bowl, but I watched it. Not this time. I hate the Cardinals way too much and not seeing the Brewers in the first World Series of my lifetime just hurts too much. Plus, I really have some school work to catch up on after watching all this playoff baseball. Once the World Series comes to a close, we as Brewer fans have a few things to root for:

Ryan Braun or Prince Fielder (or both) winning the MVP award.
Ron Roenicke, despite his joke of a managing effort in the NLCS, winning the NL Manager of the Year.
The Brewers front office continuing to push forward and making this team as competitive as possible.
Fielder returning in a Brewer uniform in 2012 without crippling our payroll for the next decade.

For as greedy as I am, I would be happy to see two of these things happen and for as awesome as personal accolades are, I hope those two things are the last two listed. What else will be going down as soon as free agency hits in a few weeks?

Yuni B will probably be gone.
Craig Counsell will be gone.
K-Rod will probably be gone.
Haiston will probably be gone.
Hawkins will probably be gone.
Saito will probably be gone.
Kameron Loe might be gone.

Greinke will be back.
Marcum will be back.

Prince Fielder. Sigh...this is probably it, Brewer fans. Over six years of the big fella crushing baseballs, cracking that boyish smile in the dugout and celebrating with Ryan Braun after each home run. Not sure if you caught this, but Prince still hasn't left out returning to Milwaukee according to the post-game interview he gave last night. His exact words were "the amount of's just been the best, easiest year I've ever had for me mentally, just going out everyday and playing hard. This year's been awesome...HOPEFULLY I'LL BE HERE FOR MORE YEARS TO COME, but if not, it's been cool."

Yeah...that's just me clinging on to the last string of hope. The way everyone got choked up when the team left the clubhouse for the final time this season, especially Casey McGehee, who's son has cerebral palsy. Fielder was especially supportive, and just thinking about the embrace they had before Prince left for good is bringing tears to my eyes as I type this. The tone of players, coaches and Prince himself give off the impression that one of the greatest players in Brewers franchise history is walking into greener pastures, if you catch my drift. If this is indeed the case and the Brewers, who will certainly make a strong push to bring back Fielder's services, are unable to re-sign Prince, then that money should be used to fill other voids that will undoubtedly be left. Despite losing so many studs from the farm, there are still promising youngsters that will have their shot to make the big league club next season and free agents brought in to do the same. As much as I want to get into that discussion right now, I'll save it for another time.

Right now, let's just remember what the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers and Prince Fielder gave us: the highest of highs and at times, the lowest of lows. Moments we'll never forget. The deepest playoff run in 29 years. And in Fielder's case, six-plus years of the greatest display of power to march through Wisconsin in...well...perhaps ever. What a ride it was, and maybe what a ride it will continue to be. Just like back in '08, now that I've gotten a taste, I want the whole thing. This will forever be the sport I love the most, and it's still hard to accept that I must move on. The success in Madison and Green Bay will help me cope. Okay. We've given the Brewers the time they've deserved, but while you're tuning in to football, basketball, hockey or any other sport this winter, NEVER FORGET the ride a group of 25 men gave you last summer, and remember how we all enjoyed every second of it.

Sports are amazing.

See you next year.

Friday, September 30, 2011

And Here. We. Go.

Consider this the "mega-blog post" of all blog posts because there's A LOT to get to. I've finally come to the realization that this will be my last post ever. No, I'm not willingly quitting the blog. I'm accepting its fate. Just take a look at what I have on my plate this weekend.

12:00 AM - My 22nd birthday
1:07 PM - Arizona Diamondbacks @ Milwaukee Brewers, Game 1 NLDS
7:00 PM - #8 Nebraska Cornhuskers @ #7 Wisconsin Badgers

8:00 AM - 10:00 AM - Recover, get picked up by from Oshkosh by Mommy
12:00 PM - Round up the troops for Game 2 of the NLDS
1:30 PM - 3:00ish PM - Tailgate the s*** out of the Miller Park parking lot
3:15 PM - Denver Broncos @ Green Bay Packers
3:37 PM - Arizona Diamondbacks @ Milwaukee Brewers, Game 2 NLDS

Uh huh. Yeah. This one's gonna be a doozy. Before I look ahead to what's about to completely rock my world and probably change the course of my life forever, I'd like to recap what happened in the past even though it's impossible to change. I'll start with the Wisconsin Badgers' final pre-conference tuneup against poor old South Dakota. The Coyotes (pronounced "kai-otes") I'm sure were paid a whole lot of green to march into the vice grip of Camp Randall Stadium and to be perfectly honest, I don't recall exactly what the final score was. What I do remember is Russell Wilson and Nick Toon hooking up over and over and over and me beginning to think that Toon has the makeup of a pro wide receiver. I know it was against South Dakota, but there's no question Wilson has found his favorite target with Jared Abbrederis being a solid number two option and tight end Jacob Pedersen eating up the redzone. This is probably the most I've ever talked about the air attack of the Badgers. Don't worry. Montee Ball is still there. James White is still there. The run game is still the bread and butter for this offense.

The Badgers now face their first test of the season, and oh, what a test it is. Nebraska makes its Big Ten conference play debut and no way was the Big Ten going to allow the Cornhuskers to play the Indiana Hoosiers back in Lincoln to help them get acclimated with their new conference. Hell no. You guys get to play a night Madison...against a top ten team...with College Gameday in town. Have fun with that. In all seriousness, though, this game is going to take a four quarter effort from the Badgers offense and most importantly, their defense, in order to escape with a victory. The number one unit for Wisconsin hasn't given up much this season as far as points are concerned and kind of have that bend-but-don't-break mentality...that phrase is really starting to become cliche, but I'm too lazy to think of a better descriptor. Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how the D handles Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, a sophomore dual-threat quarterback. There's no denying that the Huskers can put points on the board, but their defense has been unimpressive and with the second most efficient passer in the nation and one of the best running back duos there is, Wisconsin should be able to exploit this weakness. Sure, it's hard to gauge just how impressive the Badgers are from top to bottom because they haven't played anyone yet, but what about Nebraska? Their most difficult opponent to date has been a home date with middle of the Pac-10 team Washington (see what I did there?) and they gave up 38 points to the Huskies. The most Wisky gave up thus far is 17 to UNLV with most of those points coming in garbage time. I think the Badgers have the edge on offense, on defense and in location. Looking forward to watching the game on my couch enjoying a few cold ones, although I do envy those who will be in the house at the game that has produced the most coveted ticket in Wisconsin's history. Go Bucky.

In case you forgot (which I'm sure you didn't...just needed a transition), the Chicago Bears foolishly believed that they would be able to knock off the Packers in Soldier Field for the second straight year in week 3, but the Packers would have nothing of it. They took care of Da Bears 27-17 in a game that was never really all that close. Green Bay never relinquished their lead after Aaron Rodgers found Greg Jennings what seemed like 15 times on the first drive, leading to a touchdown catch by Jermichael Finley. I'm not going to give a play-by-play because I know everyone saw this one, but I would like to point out a couple of performances that shouldn't go unnoticed. First of all, I understand that Finley's performance didn't exactly fly under the radar, but did you notice how he was getting his scores? The Bears' secondary was so afraid of Rodgers throwing up the fade in the corner of the endzone to Sirmichael that they forget he can just cut inside on a slant and find himself wide open. Man, talk about a dilemma for future opposing defenses. Are they really going to have to focus two guys on our tight end to avoid him beating us? Probably, and I don't know why more teams do it. After all, Finley is the Packers' only real threat through the air and...wait a're telling me Green Bay has five wide receivers that are good enough to start for any other team in the National Football League? Oooooo. That sucks, rest of league. Good luck with that one. And if that's not enough, Ryan Grant is kind of starting to rekindle that old flame inside as he rushed 17 times for a convincing 92 yards, although he did suffer a bruised kidney and could be held out of the Broncos game as a precautionary measure. That's fine by me, because James Starks can then take over and maybe we would even get to see a little of the rookie, Alex Green. I mean, c'mon, let's be's the Denver Broncos coming into town. I think we'll survive. The only downer about the weekend I'm about to experience is that I'll miss the Packers' game in its entirety because of the scheduled time of Game 2 that I HAVE to attend. But I think I'll get over it. I mean, c'mon, let's be's the Denver Broncos coming into town. Quick shout-outs to Morgan Burnett (2 picks against the Bears, you the man Morgan), and injured Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (glad the knee injury isn't anything serious, get well soon), defensive end Mike Neal (take it slow, buddy) and linebacker Frank Zombo (apparently 100 percent now). Go Pack.

Get this, everybody. It'll be October 1st on Saturday, and the Brewers will still be the talk of the state; at least in my mind. Why's that? Well, the Milwaukee Brewers have stolen the hearts of Wisconsin because of their potent 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup, an outspoken and fiery competitor who gives the best interview in sports...other than the mustache aficionado John Axford, a team that set the franchise record in wins with a 96-66 record and obtained home field advantage in the first round. But most importantly, we're here today because of a competent starting rotation and a bullpen with defined roles. I remember 2008 quite vividly, and I'm in the same boat as many when I say that I was just happy that the Brewers reached the playoffs. Whatever happened after that was gravy. I'm embarrassed to an extent to admit that, was the Brewers in the POSTSEASON. It hadn't happened before in my a long shot. What I will always remember most about the Brewers' first playoff appearance in 26 years is Ryan Braun's game clinching go-ahead 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th against the rival-Chicago Cubs, then watching the New York Mets fall to the Florida Marlins to give the Brewers the NL Wild Card position. The champagne started to flow, hilarity ensued and tears flowed from my eyes. Seriously. Don't judge. Three years later, albeit about a week earlier than in '08, Braun once again stepped to the plate in a 1-1 ball game with a chance to clinch a playoff berth and what happened? Of course. Braun bashed one out to deep center for a 3-run homer and the Brewers were NL Central Divison champs. All that was left to do was root for the Braves to hold onto the Wild Card position (they didn't...that honor belongs to the hated Fightin' LaRussas) and cling onto the number two seed so that the Crew had home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Despite the best efforts of the baseball gods, Milwaukee earned the two seed and will host the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Divisional Series beginning on Saturday.

I'm not sure if anyone wanted that two seed worse than I did. In case you weren't aware, I was randomly selected out of over 190,000 entries to have the OPPORTUNITY to purchase postseason tickets to a Brewers' home playoff game. When I opened my email last Saturday and saw the "NLDS Ticket Opportunity: Congratulations" subject heading, I went completely bonkers, immediately texted longtime friend/fellow sports enthusiast/friend of the blog Kyle and we held about a 15 minute conversation screaming "Oh my GOD" back and forth to each other. There was nearly an identical conversation that took place last Friday night (good song) after the Beer Makers clinched a playoff spot. The email told me to follow a link and enter a code on Tuesday, beginning as early as 9 AM. I got in the waiting room. I was selected instantly. I nabbed those left field bleacher seats. The only aspect that poked at me was that I bought tickets for the 2nd home game rather than the first. Why? Because two of the people I would be bringing with me to the game go to Madison and the first home game was potentially going to fall on October 1st (enough said). So what was the problem? Well, what if the Brewers hadn't gotten the two seed? They would be on the road the first two games, then return to Miller Park for game three. It would've been unlikely to happen, but what if the Brewers got swept in three? I'd be stuck with tickets for game four. No playoffs for me. Someone would surely die. Thank goodness for the will of the Crew and the managerial skills of Ron Roenicke to help lead Milwaukee to that coveted two seed and restore comfort to my insides.

So it'll be 17-game winner Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers unprecedented ace no matter what you tell me, against 21-game winner Ian Kennedy, a former Yankees reject who appears to have rejuvenated his career. Arizona is just as hot if not hotter than the Brewers and won the season series over Milwaukee, 4-3. It's all out the window now. Playoff baseball is a totally different monster. Now we wait for the Crew to announce their playoff roster on Saturday morning as well as the game 2 starter, who we can only hope is Zack Greinke. If you don't hope it's Greinke, here's why you should: the Zack Attack is 11-0 at Miller Park this season and the Brewers are 15-0 when he starts at home. 15-0! Holy, man. I know it would be his second start on three days rest, but he didn't go as deep into the game on Wednesday as he could have and my feeling is that he will be able to talk his way into a start on Sunday. Grienke at home >>>>>>>>>>>>> Greinke on the road. 'Nough said. Go Crew.

On a lighter note, I went to see the movie "Moneyball" a few hours ago and it basically rocked my socks off. For a baseball nerd like me and a stats nerd like me, I was hooked from the very beginning and the emotional roller coaster that Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill lead me on helped me forget that it was over two hours long. Every single minute of that movie was worth it. I hate to hype up a film and cause anyone who plans on seeing it to have high expectations going in, but it's that good. Then again, that's just me talking. I HIGHLY recommend it, baseball fan or not. It goes beyond baseball and that's what helps make this film so special.

Well,'s been nice knowing ya. I hope the state of Wisconsin has braced itself for what's about to take place this weekend, because I have. That's for damn sure.

Monday, September 19, 2011


What a week for Wisconsin sports. I can't remember a more exciting time to be a sports fan in Wisconsin. Well, maybe that whole Super Bowl thing last February, but now we have multiple teams that are legitimate in their respective sports. I challenged the Brewers a week ago to step it up and trim that magic number down to about four and whaddaya know; it's four. The Philadelphia Phillies did the Crew a favor by beating the Cardinals once this weekend, but the Beermakers took care of their own business and won four of five games during the week, including a sweep in Cincinnati, to basically wrap things up in the Central. Along with the Brewers recent success, the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers won games that they should win, albeit the Pack didn't do it in the most convincing fashion. At least we haven't seen either team drop a game this fall. Let's hope it stays that way.

I'll begin with Wisky, who brought a bunch of cheeseheads with them down to Chicago and Soldier Field to play a "neutral" field game against potential dangerous mid-major Northern Illinois. You might think that my sarcastic use of the word "neutral" meant that I felt NIU would have an unfair advantage as far as fan support because they were playing in their own backyard. You'd be mistaken. Badger fans were in the majority Saturday afternoon and Wisconsin took care of business by defeating the Huskies 49-7. Northern Illinois didn't stand much of a chance after Wisconsin pulled away for good from a 7-7 tie midway through the first half. I'm guessing the Badgers looked good - apparently the MAC had television rights for this game and therefore it wasn't televised in my neck of the woods. Sure, I could have walked down the street and watched on, which is free on college campuses, but I decided it wouldn't be worth my time. That, and I'm a lazy piece. What I got out of watching gamecast on ESPN is that Russell Wilson and Montee Ball are still viable Heisman candidates, especially Wilson, and that the Badgers' defense is doing a good job of keeping teams out of the endzone. So now Wisconsin stands at 3-0 in preseason college football and faces one more joke of an opponent before we reach the big test: Nebraska coming into Camp Randall for arguably one of the biggest games in school history. Oh yeah, and it's on my birthday. We'll see whether or not my birthday combined with either a depressing loss or an inspiring win powers my binge drinking Saturday night. Just kidding, mom!

Fortunately on Sunday, I actually got to WATCH football rather than follow it on the internet when the Packers took the field at Carolina. If this one didn't scream "trap game" going in, I don't know what did. Low and behold, the Pack started off about as bad as you can by letting Cam Newton walk down the field (with some pretty impressive throws, mind you) and jump ahead 7-zip. If that wasn't bad enough, upstart rook Randall Cobb ran into the back of his own teammate returning the ensuing kickoff and coughed up the football. 10-0. Then it was a three-and-out for the offense and the Panthers' offense had the ball back once the first quarter came to a close. That's right. Green Bay's offense was on the field for three plays in the first quarter. THREE. PLAYS. Ouch. But after the Packers' D was able to limit the Panthers to a field goal again, the O kicked things into high gear.

After Aaron Rodgers hooked up with Jermichael Finley what seemed like 15 times, John KUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHN punched it in after dropping a touchdown and it was a ball game. The offense absolutely exploded in the third quarter, racking up four scoring drives. Unfortunately, only one of those drives resulted in a touchdown...the first one, which took under three minutes and ended with a wide open Greg Jennings hauling in a 49-yard touchdown. Even though the Packers were unable to bring the hammer down on their next three drives, the Panthers started turning the ball over...a lot. For as awful as the Packers' defense looked early in the game, particularly Chuck Woodson covering Steve Smith, they made up for it and then some. Charles "In Chuck We Trust" Woodson picked off Cam-not-really-the-man-especially-in-the-red-zone on the first second half Panther possession and then recovered a Smith fumble on their next possession to make up for his lackluster start. After it was 20-13 Packers, Newton carelessly threw another pick, this time to safety Morgan Burnett. 23-13. Game's over, right?

Not so fast, my friend (Lee Corso voice). All of a sudden, the Panthers were knocking on the door inside the GB 5-yard line down by just a touchdown. But it was fourth down and Clay Matthews smelled blood, bringing down a scrambling Newton...all he does is make huge plays..before the goal line to get the ball back in A-Rodg's hands. Rodgers hits Jordy Nelson on a slant route for a rather exhilarating 84-yard score...Jordy's only catch of the game, by the way...and that was your dagger. Sure, Newton racked up a bunch of meaningless garbage time yards through the air, but he looked like a rookie in many ways. Also, there was no Tramon Williams, no Frank Zombo and no Nick Collins after a scary play in which Collins' neck got jammed, leaving him to be carried off on a stretcher. Thankfully, the news is promising regarding Collins, and the Packers beat those pesky Panthers 30-23 to improve to 2-0. Never a dull moment in Titletown. Week 3 presents a matchup with Da Bears in Soldier Field. If they can do half as well as Bucky did yesterday and get either/both Collins and Tramon-man Williams back, the Pack should be in good shape. Then again, losing against the Bears last season in week 3 didn't exactly turn out to be the end of the world...hmmm...

Saving the best for last (in my opinion), the Brewers eliminated any doubt in the minds of their fanbase...which honestly shouldn't have been lingering around in the first place...and trimmed their magic number down to 4. I'm sorry. There actually IS still some doubt. ESPN currently has their "% chance of making the playoffs" at 99.9. Don't breathe easy just yet! To make you feel better, it's now a 6.5 game lead over the Cardinals for the division crown, and if the Crew really needs to look somewhere for motivation, I've got a couple places. First, that two seed would be nice to obtain. They have a two game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks for that number two seed and if they were to relinquish that spot, they would have to face the Phillies - again - in the first round of the playoffs with no home field advantage. Should they hold on, they would get to play the slumping Braves - with home field advantage. I think I know which option I'd prefer. Second, have you seen the Brewers' road record lately? 38-40. If they sweep the Cubbies at Wrigley, they will have broken .500 away from Miller Park, which would be completely insane. And then their last six games are at home. Milwaukee holds a half-game lead on the Phils for the best home record in baseball and I'd like to think that's an honor the Brewers would like to hold. So there you have it. The Brewers are 90-63, would have to completely tank to not surpass my prediction of a 91-71 record (a prediction I'm sure all of you found ignorant), and are set to claim their first title in 29 years. Cool. Pretty much all that's left is to figure out who will be on that postseason roster. Taylor Green over Josh Wilson? I think so.

Coming up...

Milwaukee (90-63): @ Cubs (MON-WED), vs Marlins (FRI-SUN)
Green Bay (2-0): @ Bears (1-1) SUN, 3:15
Wisconsin (3-0): vs South Dakota State

Let the good times roll.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Winning Over Here, Losing Over There

Good evening, everyone. I'd like to mention a few things before we get started. First of all, I hope all you guys took the time to remember what happened 10 years ago yesterday. There were many touching shows dedicated to the 9/11 attacks and I thought the sports world did a great job honoring the ones we lost on that fateful day - I especially thought what they did at every NFL game where the players from both sides stepped out to hold the enormous American flag was an awesome tribute. Second, I know I'm going to be pretty late with my game reviews of the Packers and Badgers, but like I said before, working two jobs and starting up school again is gonna be a doozy and I'll try my best to keep this thing active. Which brings me to my next point...if anyone would be interested in writing a guest post here and there so that I don't leave so much time in between posts, they would be more than welcome. Whether anyone ACTUALLY wants to do that is another question because writing is pretty boring, but the offer is on the table.

So let's start with what took place Thursday night at the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field. No, I'm not talking about the Kid Rock concert...the Green Bay Packers kicked off their season by welcoming the New Orleans Saints to town and these two teams seem to be similar in several different ways. The most obvious comparison comes at quarterback and if Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers aren't currently top four quarterbacks in the NFL, then I've lost all faith in humanity. Both Brees and A-Rodg tore apart the opposing secondaries and once the first quarter was all said and done, it was apparent that whoever bet the over on the over/under points number was going to be raking in some cash. It was about as good of a start as Packer fans could've hoped for...the Packers won the toss and elected to receive...a no brainer and possibly the biggest reason Green Bay prevailed, Rodgers hit Jennings for six after a five minute drive, an ensuing fumble by the Saints was recovered by Tramon "Man" Williams (miraculously the only turnover of the game - was that the difference?) and then another quick score on a pass to my boy Jordy Nelson. After the first quarter, the Pack had jumped out to a 21-7 lead thanks to a no-huddle offense being run to near perfection by Rodgers. I felt that even though there were a few false start penalties, the guys up front really dominated and gave A-Rodg enough time to do what he wanted - the no-huddle was without question hindering the Saints defense, who couldn't put pressure on Rodgers.

There's no denying that the Packers' offense was slowed down for the remainder of the game and I think there were a few reasons behind this: the Saints defensive coordinator figured out a new scheme to keep Green Bay's offense at bay, sure, but I also thought Mike McCarthy lifted his foot off the gas pedal for some reason. It just seemed odd that the offense could go from completely unstoppable to being held in check for the last three quarters. Whatever the reason for this, Brees took advantage and used his ridiculous accuracy to get the Saints back in the game faster than I would've preferred. Special teams for both squads were about as up-and-down as they could possibly be, with Darren Sproles taking a punt to the house for the Saints and rookie sensation Randall Cobb returning a kickoff from Appleton all the way to the end zone - 108 yards in all - to inject new life into the Packers and jump ahead by 15. Funny thing about Cobb...he ran the wrong route on his touchdown reception in the first quarter and then by no means should have taken that kick out of his own end zone, but I think coach McCarthy will begrudgingly accept the results.

Then there was the frantic finale to the NFL's opening game. With the Packers up 42-27 and Green Bay unable to convert a third down with just under six minutes left, they were forced to punt and watch Brees lead a hurry-up offense down the field in just over three minutes to make it an eight point game. During this drive, Williams took a helmet to the shoulder from his own teammate and it appeared as though he may have separated his shoulder (we now know it was just a shoulder bruise). Even though the Saints failed to recover the onside kick, they still had a timeout and the two-minute warning on their side. Fast forward to a punt after some questionable play calling, a crazy-fast drive down the field and a questionable (bull s***) pass interference call on A.J. Hawk, and the Saints had it at the GB one-yard line with barely any time left on the clock. At this point, I was wondering how the Packers would manage to stop the two-point conversion, but then the Saints made their second questionable play call of the game when faced with a yard to go and got stuffed on a run up the middle. Ball game...whew...and a classic one at that.

So I liked what I saw in the passing game and the run game was actually somewhat respectable thanks to the success Green Bay had through the air. Obviously, the performance of the defense left something to be desired and it was especially concerning that whenever the Saints scored, they did it very quickly. Like I mentioned before, I didn't like how it seemed that the offense slowed things down and didn't keep up with the no-huddle offense after how successful it was early on. The biggest play call I had a gripe with was when McCarthy predictably called a run on second down of the Packers' final possession and then risked stopping the clock on the third down with a dump off (for a loss) to John Kuhn. I'm certain that for as long as I live, I'll question what in God's name some coaches are thinking when they call a certain play. Those are my biggest concern moving forward into week two's match-up with the Carolina Panthers, but for now I'll relish in the 42-34 victory for the Super Bowl Champs.

The Wisconsin Badgers continued their sheer dominance of college football by shutting out an Oregon State team that arguably might not win a game this season. Once again, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball had enormous performances while Nick Toon looked as sharp as ever and tight end Jacob Pedersen scored twice in a 35-0 route of the Beavers. The Badgers are now up to seventh and eighth in the two major polls, Wilson and Ball should both be legitimately considered for the Heisman trophy up to this point...for whatever that's worth...and Wisky still hasn't played anybody that'll reach a bowl game this season. That'll change next week when they go up against former defensive coordinator Dave Doeren and a dangerous Northern Illinois team down in Soldier Field. Could prove to be a bit of a test for the Badgers, but if they can keep playing the way they have been playing, Wisconsin should come back to Madison with a 3-0 record. That's all from me about preseason college football.

In case you forgot, the Milwaukee Brewers still have a season going on and are somehow managing to cling onto a division lead. The reason I say "somehow" is because they have literally been doing everything in their power to blow a lead that was at one point 11.5 games. That lead is now down to six, but the magic number has also gone down...which is a good thing. It's now at 10 and the Crew has for the most part cleared the difficult part of their September schedule, so my hope is that it'll be smooth sailing from here. Since I last posted, the Brewers lost five games in a row to two of the more elite National League teams (Cardinals and Phillies), including the game I attended Friday night in order to get a Tony Plush rally towel. Not only did Nyjer not respond very well to 30,000 towels being waved (went 0-4), but the Brewers played the most uninspired game I've personally attended this season. Not much of a surprise,'s September. The last four times the Brewers have been in playoff contention, including this season, they appear to have lost all will to live. Not sure what it is, but things are getting a little dicey and even though I remain confident that the Brewers will be playing in October, their play against top teams recently, and this season in general, should be cause for concern. If only everyone had the swagger and attributes that Taylor Green brings to the table...

Coming up...

Milwaukee (86-62): vs Rockies (TUE-WED), @ Reds (FRI-SUN)
Green Bay (1-0): SUN @ Carolina (0-1)
Wisconsin (2-0): SAT vs Northern Illinois (Soldier Field)

The Cardinals still have to travel to Philly for a 4-game series and are currently in Pittsburgh for a three-gamer. I would be pleased to see the Brewers' magic number down to that 4-5 range by the end of the week so I don't have to rely on the Packers to calm my worries. Besides, I can't remember the last time watching a Packer game was a calming experience.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Taking a stab at the NFL

I'll admit that this might not be fun for you to read, but I'm about to unleash my NFL predictions like I said I probably would at the end of my last post. But don't worry...this is basically replacing the boredom I put everyone through week after week during the last NFL season where I guessed the lines with Kyle, got dominated and barely broke .500 on the season (a moral victory to say the least). And before I get to picking the over/unders and eventually settling on a final record for each and every team in the NFL, I'll update the world on a few newsworthy items regarding Wisconsin sports. By the way, there aren't many. With the Brewers cruising along and the entire state in a calm before the storm mode before the Packers take the field on Thursday, I'm scrambling, which makes it a good time to do the over/under thing. So here we go:

The Brewers magic number is currently 11. This number goes down every time the Cardinals lose or the Brewers win, so that's why tonight's loss is unfortunate. Only one more game to go this season against the Cards.

Today it was announced that on the rise linebacker Vic So'oto hurt his back in the weight room and will miss Thursday's game against the Saints. This is extremely disappointing because of how fun So'oto was to watch in the preseason, so now it looks like it will be the Erik Walden and Brad Jones show opposite of the Claymaker.

The Badgers look to continue their strong start to the season on Saturday at Camp Randall against Oregon State. For what it's worth, the Beavers lost to Sacramento State last week. I know what that's worth...Oregon State sucks something fierce. Should be an easy task for Bucky. Phillip Welch will be out for the second straight week after having a minor surgery, so it's be Kyle French holding the kicking duties again.

Alright. That's all I've got for now. I'll have more to blab about after Thursday night for obvious reasons. For now, let's get to the over/unders!

Green Bay: 11.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 11-5
Chicago: 8.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 9-7
Detroit: 7.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 9-7
Minnesota: 6.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 6-10

Philadelphia: 10.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 12-4
Dallas: 9.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 9-7
NY Giants: 9.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 9-7
Washington: 6.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 5-11

Atlanta: 10.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 11-5
New Orleans: 10 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 11-5
Tampa Bay: 8 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 9-7
Carolina: 4.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 4-12

St. Louis: 7.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 8-8
Arizona: 6.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 6-10
San Francisco: 7.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 6-10
Seattle: 6.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 4-12

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Pittsburgh: 10.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 11-5
Baltimore: 10.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 11-5
Cleveland: 6.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 8-8
Cincinnati: 5.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 4-12

New England: 11.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 12-4
NY Jets: 9.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 10-6
Buffalo: 5.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 7-9
Miami: 7.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 5-11

Houston: 8.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 10-6
Indianapolis: 9.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 9-7
Tennessee: 6.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 6-10
Jacksonville: 6.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 4-12

San Diego: 9.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 10-6
Kansas City: 7.5 - [UNDER] - PREDICTION: 7-9
Oakland: 6.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 7-9
Denver: 5.5 - [OVER] - PREDICTION: 6-10

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


NFC: 1. PHI, 2. ATL, 3. GB, 4. STL, 5. NO, 6. DAL
AFC: 1. NE, 2. PIT, 3. SD, 4. HOU, 5. BAL, 6. NYJ

NFC Champ: Philadelphia
AFC Champ: New York Jets

Super Bowl Winner: New York Jets

Whatever. Everyone knows this is a bunch of crap, but just by looking at the schedules of each team and going with my gut feeling, I think other teams have managed to do just a bit more than the Packers in an NFC Conference that I feel might be better than the AFC this season. The Jets have been knocking on the door to get in the Super Bowl the past two seasons and I think this is the year they break through. As for the Eagles, they give me the same kind of feeling the Miami Heat gave me and therefore, I have them losing in the biggest sporting event in the World. I'm sure I'll look back at this in February and regret I'd ever set myself up for such failure.