Ah, how that blessed season, where the Packers, Badger men's basketball and Badger football overlap, comes and goes so quickly. And this weekend may not even count, as the Packers don't play until Monday night at the Saints (Monday is definitely a weekday, I don't care what the ESPN ads say) and the Badger basketball team is gallivanting around the Virgin Islands in a tournament that may or may not be aired anywhere. Bummer.
Thankfully, the most entertaining and perhaps the most important even this weekend will be the most easy to catch, I think. It's the University of Wisconsin football team playing the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs on Saturday morning at 11 am. Don't laugh. Yes, Cal Poly may be a Division I, FCS level school (formerly known as D-IAA). But they're also ranked third in the FCS polls. They have one of the leading offenses at that level, something callled the "triple option," which, since I wasn't watching much football in the 70s and 80s, is beyond my current understanding. They also have an enormous wideout that's being hyped as a potential first-day draft pick. And they run a 3-4, which could be effective as it's a somewhat novel scheme at this level. In short, this game is nothing to sneeze at and will likely be hard fought and close down to the final minutes. Frankly, I'm frightened by it-- the Badgers need the win for guaranteed bowl eligibility (and the ability to practice through December), but they'll obviously get no credit for a win, let alone a close win. And if they lose, the ramifications are very serious. It'll be a very serious blow to Bielema, the coaching staff and to the program generally, totally killing the goodwill garnered by the Minnesota comeback. And what bowl game is going to take an underperforming 6-6 squad that just lost to an FCS school? This is an important, scary game.
Thankfully, it's played in Madison, starting at 2:30 pm Central time (allegedly on the Big Ten Network, though check your alternates). This means it's going to be friggin' freezing, and especially cold as the game winds down. Since California's central coastline is one of the most temperate places in the Continental United States, you'd have to think the Mustangs will not be loving their environs by the end of the game. Hopefully, the Badgers' running game and some effective passing by Sherer will allow them to play keep away, keeping Cal Poly's bizarre and scary offense off the field. But you have to think the Cal Poly guys will be fired up to prove something, evn though this game basically doesn't matter to them, as their season will continue in the FCS playoffs regardless.
The UW men's basketball will be playing at least three games in the next four days as part of the Paradise Jam tourney in the sunny Carribean. (Why didn't I think to follow them down there again?) Anyhow, unfortunately, their first game (against Iona tonight at 7:30) will not be broadcast, except on the radio or on a terrible paid online feed. See here. You'd hope they'd take care of Iona (12-20 last season, and a member of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), but win or lose they'll play either Valparaiso or San Diego. Valpo gave UW a tough time in Madison last season, and San Diego won the WCC tournament last season (Gonzaga's conference), beat UConn in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, and returns all of its guys. Two potentially very tough match-ups. Anyhow, things go screwy from there, depending on if they lose and to whom. They could play UConn or Miami in the final (UConn is currently ranked in the top 5, and Miami in the top 20), they could play LaSalle or Southern Mississsippi in some type of consolation game. It's all up in the air. (Here's the bracket.)
Anyhow, thanks to the tropical locale, it seems very dubious as to whether you'll be able to watch any of those games whatsoever. Allegedly, some of the games on Sunday (when the Badgers will play if they beat Iona) will be broadcast on some series of Fox College Sports (FCS) channels. Alas, I get none of them. The championship game, should the Badgers make it that far (dubious), will be broadcast on Monday night on one of the thousands of derivations of Fox Sports Net. But, of course, this broadcast will run right up against the Packer game. Sigh. Anyhow, go Badgers! I'll be cheering for them in abstentia, apparently.