One of the few blessed weekends of the year is nigh-- 27 hour period in which all three teams that Camp Lambeau is devoted to- the University of Wisconsin football team, the UW men's basketball team, and the Green Bay Packers- play meaningful televised games. Hip hip hooray! Or as Lil' John says-- "Yeah-uh!" I am especially enthused as I have recently been stricken with a hilarious case of shingles (aka "The Shingles"), which has left me couchbound, and usually in the fetal position. (Although it did merit me a Vicodin prescription, so I can't be too upset.) The football games are far more important than the basketball event, but Bo Ryan's team will be playing it's first actual (non-exhibition) game of the season, so that has to account for something.
Anyhow, as U-65 nicely explains below, the UW football team's bowl options hang in the balance tomorrow against the Minnesota Gophers. Actually, UW's ability to go to any bowl whatsoever hangs in the balance. If UW loses, and then goes on to beat Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 8 days, yes, the team will be "bowl eligible" with six wins. But last season two other Big Ten programs (Iowa and Northwestern) hit the allegedly magic number of six wins, and the only bowling they did was at their local Brunswick-affiliated alleys. So UW needs this win to keep hope alive for any bowl game whatsoever, in addition to all those other excellent reasons-- to have the option of a pretty solid bowl destination, to make sure this year's seniors continue to hold onto the axe, to keep a lid on a big rival, because beating Minnesota is fun, etc.
As far as scouting that game goes, you hope UW will keep up it's MO of late--run the ball effectively, and play passable solid defense. Minnesota's run defense, at least on paper, hasn't played that well, and UW's passing defense is leaky enough that holding onto the ball and having a bunch of punishing ground-oriented drives could be really helpful. In other news, I have no doubt that the crotch-puncher, aka Gopher wideout Eric Decker, who's allegedly out with a sprained ankle, will play. No doubt whatsoever.
The Packer-Bear game on Sunday is equally pivotal for Green Bay. The Packers are 4-5, coming off two very close road losses to decent ('Queens)/very good (Titians) teams, where they didn't play all that well, with neither the offense nor the defense able to get it done when it mattered, and with the refs not helping either (the no-call PI on Jennings in the Titan game, and Peterson taking off his helmet with no penalty against the 'Queens). They stand one game behind Minnesota and the Bears in the standings. This is their chance to pull themselves back into the division race and make a real run for the playoffs. (Since it looks like the runners up in the NFC South and East will take the wild card slots.) And it's a chance for Rodgers to show he can perform under pressure, when teams have had a chance to scout him out, and for McCarthy to show that he can beat Lovie Smith in a meaningful game. With a loss, and upcoming games against New Orleans, Carolina, and at Jacksonville and Chicago, the playoffs are likely out of the question. It's simply a huge game. The most meaningful Packer-Bear game in several years.
Thankfully, the Bears' weakness this season- inability to get pressure and a therefore poor pass defense- matches up with the Packers offensive strength-- throwing the football, when Rodgers can get some protection. Unfortunately, the Bears are running the ball decently, and the Packers have had serious difficultly stopping the run for most of the season. I think this will be a very, very close game, unfortunately, and given the buddha-like Lovie Smith's record against the Pack, I could definitely see it turning South. Let's hope the Sexy One, aka Gross Rexman, makes some key errors, or if Captain Neckbeard, v. 2.0, plays, that his sore ankle makes him immobile enough so he takes some sacks.
But don't despair for long even if the Packers lose, since as that grudge match is ending, the UW men's basketball team will be tipping-off, with their game against Long Beach State set to start at 3 pm on the Big Ten Network. (The Kohl Center is going to look like a Dodger game-- half full until 45 minutes in.) The notable thing about this game will be seeing who hits the floor: Keaton Nankivil is expected to be the fifth starter, but what will the rotation be behind him, and which of the five frosh are going to redshirt? It also marks the return of former Minnesota coach Dan Monson to the Kohl Center. Hopefully, two-Gopher connected teams will leave Madison with losses this weekend, as you'd expect this one to be a nice, encouraging win, with LBSU picked to finish in the middle tier of the Big West.
Anyway, a wild weekend awaits. Set your Tivos!