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SPORTS EXTRA / COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2000 | BIG TEN PREVIEW

Wisconsin State Flower Has Become the Rose

August 26, 2000|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When you're sitting in Milwaukee or Racine or Kenosha, New Year's seems pretty much like the old year and Pasadena looks like Emerald City.

Palm trees, sunshine, beaches close by--will the last one out of Wisconsin please turn out the lights?

There can't be too many of you left. Everybody's already here.

The state university's football team has spent so much time in Pasadena the past few years, the city is ready to add Coach Barry Alvarez to its tax rolls, and every time the Badgers play in the Rose Bowl, about 10,000 cheeseheads somehow don't make their way back.

You doubt? Take a look at the bumper stickers on the 405 freeway. There's an alumni meeting in the Sepulveda Pass at 8 every morning.

Here's a travel tip for Wisconsin: Skip Pasadena this year. Send Michigan in your place or Ohio State or even Illinois as a novelty act. Or Penn State, with Joe Paterno, a granddaddy coach for the granddaddy game who can remember reading the next day about Michigan beating Stanford in the first Rose Bowl in 19-ought-two.

Send Michigan State. Indiana. Purdue. Heck, send Iowa or Northwestern. It really doesn't matter. Whoever comes beats the Pacific 10 team anyway.

Tell your pilot to head south, to Miami, where bigger pickings await. We're talking Oranges here.

Everybody in Wisconsin is too well-bred to say so, but Pasadena is getting to be a been-there, done-that, got-the-Rose-Bowl-watch deal. The Badgers would just as soon skip the prime rib at Lawry's, thank you very much, and get in line at Joe's Stone Crabs.

Two Rose Bowls in a row. Three since 1994. Disneyland hasn't changed all that much. It's still a Small World After All.

Miami makes it bigger.

Why bother beating Washington or USC for the right to be No. 4 or 5 or even 10 in the land? Bring on Florida State or maybe Nebraska, even Virginia Tech for No. 1.

To do that, though, Wisconsin has to replace Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, now in the employ of the New York Giants. No problem. Alvarez merely has the Badgers play some defense, takes the governor off quarterback Brooks Bollinger's arm and lets him throw it around a little. For variety, Bollinger can give it to Michael Bennett, who averaged 5.2 yards a carry last season, few tried though there were for him.

No problem. Wisconsin beats Michigan in the Big House and waves while flying over to Hawaii to finish the season and get ready for the Big One.

It would be a fitting sendoff for Alvarez, who has gotten comfortable enough in Madison to turn down the odd NFL entreaty, but probably not enough to tell Notre Dame no. And the call has to come if Bob Davie has another no-bowl season at South Bend.

If Wisconsin doesn't beat Michigan, the Irony Sweepstakes takes over. Michigan beats Wisconsin and everybody else, then goes to Miami and plays in the national championship game.

Wisconsin finishes second in the Big Ten.

Yup, it goes to the Rose Bowl and beats USC or Washington. UCLA. Doesn't matter.

Southern California's population increases by another 10,000 people, all searching the grocery stores for bratwurst.

And all meeting in the Sepulveda Pass every morning at 8.

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