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Best case-worst case rewind: Wisconsin

My look back at the best case-worst case series continues with ... Wisconsin.

In case you missed it: Wisconsin's best case-worst case.

Best-case synopsis: Wisconsin gets back on track by reclaiming its core values, namely the power run game and stout defense. ... Scott Tolzien is a pleasant surprise at quarterback and provides balance in the offense with wide receiver Nick Toon and others. ... The Badgers start 5-0 and complete a 9-3 regular season before heading to the Outback Bowl and beating Mississippi. ... Head coach Bret Bielema regains some goodwill among Wisconsin fans, and the Badgers head into the 2010 season with legit BCS bowl hopes.

Worst-case synopsis: There's no clarity at quarterback for the second straight year and the defense falls apart as heat continues to rise on Bielema. ... Despite a soft nonconference slate, Wisconsin only manages to go 2-2. ... Penalties once again hurt the Badgers in a loss to Michigan State, and Wisconsin loses Paul Bunyan's Axe to Minnesota. ... Needing to win two of its final three games to reach a bowl, Wisconsin drops all three contests and misses the postseason for the first time since 2001. ... Running back John Clay can't keep his weight down. ... AD Barry Alvarez brings Bielema back for 2010, but season-ticket sales drop and both coordinators are fired.

You can't handle the truth: (quotes from the original post) "The Badgers get back to the basics, running backs John Clay and Zach Brown punish defenders, the quarterbacks limit mistakes, the defense remembers how to finish and head coach Bret Bielema's seat cools down." ... "The Badgers retain Paul Bunyan's Axe the next week in Minneapolis." ... "The Badgers drop games to Ohio State and Iowa but respond against the Indiana schools to go 7-2, as wideout Nick Toon becomes a star." ... "Wisconsin splits its last two games to finish 9-3." ... "A week later, former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz avenges his surprising dismissal by helping Northwestern to a [win]." ... "The Badgers get some clarity at quarterback and enter 2010 with BCS bowl hopes."

Lies, lies, lies: "The downward slide continues, a lack of discipline shows up again, the quarterbacks crumble, the defense caves and the head coach gets more heat." ... "Wisconsin needs no drama to beat Fresno State." ... "The Badgers go through another year with below-average quarterback play." ... "Wisconsin suffers another mental meltdown against Michigan State, drawing 12 penalties in a 30-17 loss." ... "After building a 21-point halftime lead against Michigan, the Badgers collapse for the second straight year as Tate Forcier rallies the Wolverines in overtime." ... "Wisconsin heads to Hawaii and sleepwalks through a 44-20 loss. Clay can't stay below 250 pounds. The wide receivers continue to drop passes."

Reality check: The best-case scenario looks pretty spot on for these Badgers, who certainly got back on track after a very disappointing 2008 campaign. Though Wisconsin ended up in the Champs Sports Bowl for the second straight year, there's a totally different feeling around the program this time around. Tolzien was the Big Ten's surprise player for much of the season, while Clay won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and linebacker Chris Borland won the league's Freshman of the Year award. The offense showed good balance, while pass rusher O'Brien Schofield led a more assertive defense. Wisconsin lacked a signature win but can still get one against Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl. Win or lose, the Badgers will be in the Big Ten title mix in 2010.