Wisconsin’s loss to lowly Cincinnati last week raised eyebrows nationally and gnarled teeth locally. Prior to last week’s defeat, ESPN’s number one pre-game show, “College Gameday,” was all set to air their broadcast from Madison. They ordinarily choose the game of the week, but with the stunning failure by the Badgers, “College Gameday” almost turned the truck around and set up shop in a more worthy location.
However, the famous crew of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit knew of Madison’s appeal and decided to drop anchor there anyway. Most of it had to do with a letter that was printed in the student newspaper pleading for the show to come to Madison. Students simply needed to sign the form letter and send it in to ESPN. Thousands of letters later, the world’s leading sports network forgave the Cincinnati loss and focused on a huge Big Ten opener versus Michigan.
So many questions surrounded this contest: Could the Badgers bounce back after last week’s devastating defeat? Can Ron Dayne continue his trek towards the national rushing record? Would the winner have the inside track to the Big Ten title? Most importantly, Wisconsin needed to prove themselves as a better team. Their offense required a lot of tweaking – they couldn’t be just a Dayne machine. These were some of the issues addressed on “College Gameday.”
On the Friday night prior to the game, we went to see the stage set up just outside of Camp Randall Stadium on the practice fields. The Friday night piece is a simple promo for the show that airs on Saturday morning. The three stars of the show showed up in different ways. The most memorable was Chris Fowler driving in on a big white SUV. Once they were set-up and on stage, I noticed that they were all wearing sport coats with jeans because the desk they sat at only revealed the upper body. Being in the first row, I shouted “I knew you guys wore casual clothes behind there!” We all laughed included the Gameday gang.
Once done with their promo, they chatted with the crowd a bit. Kirk Herbstreit asked about what bars to hit in town, while Lee and Chris expressed their excitement to be in Madison. I was able to catch up with Lee Corso and get a photograph. These three broadcasters are treated like rock stars when they come to campuses – it was a thrill to see them and I couldn’t wait for the actual show the next day.
We got to the site at five a.m. and earned a front row vantage point as a result. The crowd was wild and the show was phenomenal. At the end of the show, Lee and Kirk made their picks. From the start of the show, Badger fans knew that Lee Corso had Michigan on his mind. He was booed the entire show and wouldn’t turn around to face the crowd. Badger fans took any opportunity they could to make fun of him. At one point, Lee grabbed his briefcase, which looked much more like a handbag. Wisconsin fans began chanting, “Corso has a purse! Corso has a purse!” He didn’t stand a chance.
As expected, Lee did choose Michigan by donning a yellow and blue wig (wearing headgear is his trademark). Herbstreit went with the safer pick (Wisconsin), which, by the response of the crowd, could have earned him votes for governor. After the show, the three gentlemen signed autographs and chatted with the crowd. The experience was beyond memorable.
The game, however, was not. Michigan had control for most of the game. Dayne had one break away score causing the crowd of over 77,000 to explode, but the Wolverines stifled Dayne to only 88 yards overall including an astounding zero yards in the second half. There was a small glimmer at the end when backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger displayed his athletic ability and scored late for the Badgers.
However, many saw this as the end for Wisconsin. With two losses, the platform for a return trip to the Rose Bowl and Dayne’s Heisman collapsed. Moreover, a trip to Ohio State next week didn’t sound like a certain cure.