Bielema backlash and the Big Ten factor

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
6:30
PM ET
Wisconsin's 83-20 shellacking of Indiana continues to be the hot-button topic in the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
AP Photo/Morry GashBret Bielema and the Badgers hung 83 points on the Hoosiers.
Media folks from around the country have criticized the Badgers' offensive surge, including ESPN colleagues Pat Forde and Mike Golic. A handful of Big Ten coaches were asked Tuesday to weigh in on 83-20.

Michigan's Rich Rodriguez: "The only way you can say somebody is truly running it up is if they’re keeping their starters in all the way until the end and actually trying to do things with their starters to put points up on the board."

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio: "Sometimes things just begin to roll on a football team. It's like a wave and it’s difficult to stop it. … It's difficult to tell your players to go in and not play hard."

The coach in question, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, faced another round of questions about his decisions in Saturday's game. To recap, Wisconsin had the highest points total for an FBS team this season, its highest total in the modern era and the third-highest total scored in a Big Ten game.

Here are some of Bielema's comments Tuesday:

  • On the criticism: "It was accusations that came from people probably that didn’t see the game. If you watched it, you'd see the way it unfolded. … In the second half, especially, we had our fourth-string center snapping to our fifth-team quarterback, and so on and so forth. And we were still able to have productive yards.
  • On the third-and-5 pass that went for a 74-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter: "My backup quarterback has thrown six passes, and he could be the starting quarterback in one play this weekend. So I would do it again 100 times over. It was a broken play, if you watched it."
  • One whether coaches consider margin of victory in the BCS climate: "It won't factor into my decision-making. People are going to raise an eyebrow to that after what we just did. But there wasn’t any intentions of doing that. It was a 10-10 game, and things unfolded very quickly."

Indiana coach Bill Lynch reiterated that he took no issue with Wisconsin's decision-making Saturday.

"I didn't have any problem," Lynch said. "It was our responsibility to stop them, and we didn’t do a very good job of that."

Quite frankly, I'm surprised that this has generated so much attention. And I think it goes back to something Bielema said Tuesday.

"The part that surprises me is that when other schools across the country -- obviously no one's put up 83 -- put up big numbers, no one says anything, depending on the region," Bielema said. "But it's so surprising when Wisconsin puts up 83."

Pardon the pun, but Bielema makes a really good point here.

If this happened in the Pac-10, Big 12 or SEC, I think it's a minor story. Hello, Bob Stoops. Hello, Urban Meyer. Hello, Jim Harbaugh.

(Not to get off on too big of a tangent, but if Harbaugh ever comes to the Big Ten, you better get ready for scores like the one Saturday in Madison. That guy never takes his foot off the gas.)

As Iowa beat writer Marc Morehouse tweeted earlier: "Oregon does this on a weekly basis and it's considered 'neat.'"

I really think the backlash toward Bielema and the Badgers is largely because they're in the Big Ten. A lot of people think scores like Saturdays simply have no place in a conference of supposedly superior sportsmanship.

Gimme a break. You're naive if you think the Big Ten is a bastion of morality. Need I remind you of what Woody Hayes said about going for two against Michigan?

I bet these are the same folks who hated the wildly entertaining 67-65 triple-overtime game between Michigan and Illinois.

There's no ideal way to handle situations like Saturday's at Camp Randall Stadium. You can't just stop the game early in the fourth quarter, shake hands and call it a day.

These things happen sometimes, even in the hallowed Big Ten.

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