Against Michigan State, the Badgers encountered their first capable opponent. An opponent, who was able to capitalize on mistakes the Badgers made, and fight back when they made their own mistakes. Their defense? Effective. Their special teams? Electric. And quarterback Kirk Cousins was every bit of Joe Montana when he finally iced the game, hitting his receiver B.J. Cunningham in the end zone for the one yard score.
The Badgers, however, found themselves digging into a hole with quarterback Scott Tolzien's first ineffective day, as he passed just 11-25, and their short possessions putting their defense back on the field after a stop.
The Badgers had an astonishing seven drives of pushing the ball less than 25 yards down the field from the original start of the drive.
You simply can't win, when half your drives end in punts or turnovers.
It is not as if the Spartans came into Camp Randall and blew away the Badgers, though
Cousins, even considering he finished the game off with the 4th down pass to Cunningham, had thrown two interceptions. He wasn't perfect. The Spartans, were not perfect.
In the end, really no team is perfect. It's a battle of who can make the least mistakes, and capitalize on the other team's mistakes.
That's why the Badgers lost to Michigan State. They lost, because they couldn't take advantage of the three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) by the Spartans.
If the Badgers hope to make any sort of noise in the AP Polls come the end of the year, and make a push to the top of the Big Ten, they'll need to be much more capable in that facet of their game. Leaving points on the field, leaves opportunities for big victories, squandered.
Saturday, the Badgers face the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Can they rebound for "Homecoming week" against a struggling team who seems unable to stop shooting itself in the foot?
Minnesota has given up 30 points per game this season, and I'd be surprised if that stopped this next game.
The Badgers should win against an inconsistent Minnesota team, but the Badgers were also supposed to beat Michigan State as well. As always, expectations and evaluations of teams will vary with performance.
Surely, the Badgers season hopes and nation wide perception took a considerable hit after last week's loss, but there's room for improvement, which means the Badgers haven't played up to their potential yet.
A turnaround win against Minnesota would get the momentum juices running through Camp Randall, as the team looks to turn its season around going forward.
The Badgers will face Iowa and Ohio State in back to back weeks after Minnesota, so to say getting a win against a top ten team like Iowa would get the confidence back to a high level, would be an understatement.
The Badgers need every bit of momentum they can muster, if they have any hopes of beating Ohio State, and pushing back into Big Ten title contention.
Conference champions often have one loss, so potentially, the Badgers could sneak in and play spoiler for both Iowa and Ohio State.
Which is exactly why I wouldn't jump off the red and white tractor just yet.
The Badgers have a nice combination of John Clay and James White, a sort of "Smash and Dash", if Clay can stay healthy, something which hampered his performance against Michigan State.
A healthy running game, and a more effective passing game, as wide receivers Nick Toon and David Gilreath readjust to the game after their injuries, will lead to better performance from the Badgers in the remaining weeks of the season.
Opportunities for the Badgers to get back into the Big Ten title chase are there, it's up to the Badgers to grab them as the season moves forward.
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