The Spread, Week Fifteen: Gone Baby Gone


Bret Bielema is leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas and of course this a huge black eye for the Big Ten, because as you know, Bielema was one of our finest coaching minds and the SEC just swiped him right out from under our noses. In his seven years as King of Badgers, Bielema won an astounding 75% of his conference games, produced a Heisman-winning quarterback and guided his team to two BCS national championships.

Oh wait, that was Urban Meyer, some guy who ascended to legendary status at an SEC power before leaving the profession, only to be pulled back in less than a year later by a Big Ten school.

Bielema won 69% of his conference games, produced no Heisman winner and never even won a BCS bowl, let alone a championship (although it should be noted that he played for zero of those).

But yeah, the SEC sure got the best of us.

There’s a lot of speculation as to why Bielema wanted to leave and why Wisconsin let him go without, apparently, much of a fight (it’s been reported that his new salary is not significantly more than his old one). It doesn’t seem that complicated to me.

He wanted out because he’s a gigantic baby who saw years and years of losing to Ohio State and Michigan and (if they can keep Bill O’Brien around until they’re eligible and relevant again) Penn State and never being the Big Dog he always wanted to be. Will he find that in the SEC? No, but at least he’ll have ESPN to make excuses for him there for three years before he gets fired.

Why didn’t Wisconsin fight for him? Because they saw the exact same thing. Bielema has had success in the Big Ten, but he’s not an innovative coaching mind. He’s not going anywhere. If Arkansas wants to win 4-5 conference games a year, lose bowl games and never sniff the playoffs, then they’ve hired the right guy.

Don’t let that 70-31 thrashing of Nebraska fool you. The Huskers’ run defense (#96 nationally!) had already been exposed a few times before the Badgers exploited it in a nothing-to-lose free-for-all. And don’t believe it when ESPN blames Wisconsin’s inevitable poor performance against Stanford (#3 rush defense!) in the Rose Bowl on Bielema’s absence.

And while we watch Urban Meyer rip the Big Ten a new one next season, maybe–if we’re lucky–we’ll get some cutaway shots of Bielema scowling on the sideline as Nick Saban or Les Miles runs up the score on him.


With just bowl season remaining, it’s time to see how well the annual Fraud List did this year. Under the rules of this exercise (a major conference team that is undefeated in September but loses at least 5 games on the season), there were only three fraud teams in the nation this year, and they all play in the Big 12.

As I guessed, TCU was one of them, dropping their first game after the List and two more in October alone. The Horned Frogs contributed to West Virginia’s fraud season, a plummet I should have seen coming with the margin of victory shrinking with each passing week in their five-win opening stretch. As you might remember, they then lost their next five. Less predictable was Texas Tech, who seemed to just win or lose with no discernible pattern.

I can’t be too hard on the system this year, since no other team achieved true fraud status, but I am disappointed that West Virginia slipped through the cracks. I will be doing some more research in the off-season in hopes of improving the method for next time.


This weekend is the Army/Navy game and I have nothing against this rivalry, a college football tradition that transcends the sport itself. That said, it’s not much of a rivalry these days, with Navy on a 10-game streak of mostly blowout wins. Army hasn’t won two straight in the series since a 1992-1996 stretch that saw the Black Knights reel off five consecutive victories by a TOTAL of 10 points.

But what else are you going to watch?


  1. I’m going to miss these posts, but I’m mostly going to miss the Bielema bashing. I hope they make the fraud list every year he’s there.

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