Big Ten Media Days isn't happening as planned, but we can always pretend!
We didn't get a chance to talk to the delightful cast of Big Ten coaches at Big Ten Media Days this year, but that didn't stop us from using a little bit of imagination and creating a pretend Big Ten Media Days of our own.
Here's how it works: each of our interviewers poses a hypothetical question to the coach (some serious, some not at all serious) and provides a brief explanation as to why that question is being asked. Some folks even took a shot at pretending how the coach might try to answer it, because roleplaying is fun.
We're working from the bottom up in the conference, and we're more than halfway through with Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska already taking their turns. Now, we're into the "contenders" as Paul Chryst of Wisconsin steps to the podium.
Let us begin.
David Regimbal: Your team's performance in the conference championship game arguably cost Ohio State the No. 1 spot in last year's college football playoff and a gimme matchup against fourth-seeded Oklahoma. Are you proud of yourself?
Had the Buckeyes made easy work of Wisconsin in their second matchup like they did earlier in the season, it would've been harder for the playoff committee to knock Ohio State out of the top spot in favor of LSU. That would've given the Buckeyes a much easier opening-round opponent in the playoff and an almost certain advancement to the title game.
But Jack Coan and Jonathan Taylor just had to make things interesting in the first half as Wisconsin built a 21-7 lead before the break. Selfish.
Dan Hope: How do you get back over the hump and win a Big Ten championship?
It has to be getting frustrating for Wisconsin to keep coming home from Indianapolis empty-handed. While the Badgers have played in six of the first eight Big Ten Championship Games, they’ve lost each of their last four appearances in the game – with three of those losses coming to Ohio State, including last year, when they took a 21-7 lead into halftime – after winning the conference’s inaugural two title games in 2011 and 2012.
While the Badgers have repeatedly been the class of the Big Ten West, and are the frontrunner to win their division once again entering this season, they’ve been a step behind the powers of the Big Ten East – particularly Ohio State, who has now won eight straight games over Wisconsin. And chances are good that if the Badgers win the West once again in 2020, they’ll be set for another date with the Buckeyes in Indianapolis in December (assuming there is a Big Ten Championship Game).
Wisconsin should have one of the nation’s best defenses once again this year, with nine returning starters from a 2019 defense that ranked in the top 10 nationally in both points and yards allowed per game. But can its offense, which now must replace superstar running back Jonathan Taylor, give the Badgers enough firepower in a hypothetical matchup with Ohio State? They might once again sit in the purgatory of being good enough to win the Big Ten West, but not quite good enough to win the conference or be a playoff contender.
Ramzy Nasrallah: Coach, Wisconsin’s losses since you took over in 2015: Alabama, Iowa, ranked Northwestern, No.4 Michigan, No.2 Ohio State, No.8 Penn State, No. 8 Ohio State, BYU, No. 12 Michigan, B1G West champ Northwestern, Penn State, Minnesota, Illinois, No. 3 Ohio State, No.1 Ohio State, No.6 Oregon. That’s it.
There are only like four programs in the entire FBS that have more wins than the Badgers do during your tenure, and yet Wisconsin rarely shocks the world. The program hasn’t won a B1G title since Ohio State was safely locked away in NCAA purgatory. My question is what is it like to be just good enough to still be deeply unsatisfied, for such a lengthy period of time, and what has Wisconsin done to deserve being mentioned with other programs that actually win big games and conference championships?
Paul Chryst, probably: [three minutes of sleep-inducing mumbling without breaks]
Zack Carpenter: Coach, I know you guys are very deliberate in your recruiting strategy and zero in on finding the right fit for your system. But is that truly a sustainable approach in order to get you over the hump to win a Big Ten title and make a College Football Playoff push?
Wisconsin has never been known as a recruiting juggernaut, relying on a core of mostly three-star players instead of five-stars or high-end four-stars. However, things still have started to shift for the Badgers over the past three classes, as all three cycles have had at least 200 points in the composite rankings (the previous nine classes had finished with only two such cycles combined). The 2020 class was one of its best ever, and the 2021 cycle might finish even better.
Still, their classes are filled with mostly three-star recruits, and if they ever want to make a push into the playoffs — and finish off games like last season’s Big Ten title game — they’ll need to find a way to more consistently bring in those blue chips. Perhaps we will see that more in the near future.
Matt Gutridge: Coach Chryst, over the past six seasons, Wisconsin won the B1G West four times. With those past results, your team is rightfully the perennial favorite to win the West. However, since the B1G split the conference into East/West divisions, your side has never won a title. Will this be the year Wisconsin ends the championship drought? Will it also be the year you end the eight-game losing streak to Ohio State?
Paul Chryst, probably: “I like cheese. Behold the power of cheese.”
Johnny Ginter: Paul, I genuinely respect the hell out of what you've done in Madison. Wisconsin under your leadership has somehow improved on the formula while not deviating even one single iota from what we might think of as 'Badger Football.'
With that said, should you? Despite the winning and the nice bowls, Wisconsin hasn't won a Big Ten title since 2012, coincidentally (or not) the same year that Ohio State was banned from postseason play. And that was Bielema, which, yikes.
So how does it get done? Because more of the same is cool, but remember, I'm saying this as an Ohio State fan.
Wisconsin hasn't beaten Ohio State on the football field in a literal decade. That's eight losses in a row, including three Big Ten Championship Game defeats. They haven't beaten Ohio State in Columbus since 2004. Chryst, for all his talent as a coach, needs to try and figure something out, because Brutus is standing in the Badgers' way and isn't budging.