Wisconsin Badgers (and Big Ten) Need Signature Win Over LSU
In his first season in Madison, Andersen failed to pick up a signature win, with his team falling to marquee opponents like Ohio State and South Carolina. A win over the Tigers would be huge for Andersen, and would help him avoid being labeled as a coach that “can’t win big games” like his predecessor Bret Bielema.
Despite going 68-24 during his tenure at Wisconsin, Bielema was often criticized for being unable to win games against high-quality opponents, at least until his last few years in Madison.
Bielema and the Badgers finally broke through in 2010, when they took down the undefeated and top-ranked Buckeyes in an October clash at Camp Randall Stadium.
It was a huge victory for Wisconsin that seemed to help get it over the hump, as the Badgers would go on to win three consecutive Big Ten titles and make three straight appearances in the Rose Bowl.
Over this span, they won the first two Big Ten Championship Games and cemented their place among the conference’s elite programs, but were unable to come up with a victory in any of their three trips to Pasadena.
These Rose Bowl losses also helped give ammunition to Big Ten detractors, who are quick to criticize the conference’s performances in bowl games against the country’s best teams, especially those from college football’s most dominant conference, the SEC.
And these critics’ arguments certainly are valid; the Big Ten simply has underperformed in January on the biggest stage in recent years.
Over the past four seasons, Big Ten teams have gone a dismal 6-16 in bowl games played on or after Jan. 1, including a lowly 4-9 mark against the SEC. The conference also hasn’t produced a national champion since the Buckeyes won it all the way back in 2002.
The Big Ten and SEC don’t face off all that often in the regular season, especially matchups between top tier teams from both conferences. The only real marquee regular season games between the two conferences in recent years were Alabama’s wins over Penn State (twice) and Michigan.
That’s why the showdown in Houston between LSU and Wisconsin is so pivotal, not just for the Badgers as a program, but the entire conference. It's a rare opportunity for a Big Ten team to slug it out with one of the SEC's premier teams during the regular season, a game where fans of all Big Ten teams should be pulling for the Badgers.
Bo Ryan finally exorcised his perceived March Madness demons when he led his squad to the Final Four this past season.
Now Andersen and his team have a chance to similarly change the perception, to some degree, of both their program and the Big Ten when it takes on Les Miles’ Tigers in late August.