For my Wisconsin friends, as we dust off the "We Will Never Forget You Brent" t-shirts for the second time in recent memory, I thought I would re-live Bret's Greatest Games with the Red and White, as well as throw out a few games to help us feel better about his sudden departure.
#10 - Wisconsin 13, Fresno State 10 (September 13, 2008) - In what is probably Bielema's best non-bowl, non-conference win, the Badgers beat #21 Fresno State on the road in what ended up being a 7-6 season, the worst of Bret's tenure.
#9 - Wisconsin 83, Indiana 20 (November 13, 2010) - What this game said was I am not afraid to beat you into the ground. While I don't believe the Badgers ran up the score that day (the 4th qtr TD pass was fluky), they did prove that you can pile on points with their style of play.
#8 - Wisconsin 20, Miami, FL 14 (December 29, 2009) - The Badgers defied the experts and dominated the #15 Hurricanes in the Champs Sports Bowl, despite the score of the game. This would be Bielema's last Bowl victory with Wisconsin.
#7 - Wisconsin 48, Nebraska 17 (October 1, 2011) - Welcome to the Big 10 Nebraska, Bret Bielema-style. The Badgers whipped the Cornhuskers in the first Big 10 game for Nebraska and set the tone for a second consecutive Rose Bowl appearance.
#6 - Wisconsin 37, Michigan 21 (November 10, 2007) - Beating a #13 Michigan team in your second season is a signal that the program is not going anywhere under your leadership. While the team lost a combined 10 games in 2007 and 2008, they would only lose 13 in the final 4 years of Bielema's tenure.
#5 - Wisconsin 31, Iowa 30 (October 23, 2010) - After beating #1 Ohio State the previous week, the Badgers had the task of travelling to face #12 Iowa. While the Ohio State game announced their status as Rose Bowl contenders in 2010, it was Bielema's fake punt call and come-from-behind win against the Hawkeyes that earned Wisconsin the trip to Pasadena.
#4 - Wisconsin 17, Arkansas 14 (January 1, 2007) - Ironically, Bielema's first Bowl victory came against his future employer as Wisconsin stifled the Darren McFadden/Felix Jones tandem to complete a 12-1 season, Bret's first as a head coach. Some might feel this was Barry's team, but the record was impressive nonetheless.
#3 - Wisconsin 70, Nebraska 31 (December 1, 2012) - In what would be Bielema's final game as Badger Head Coach, he went out with an emphatic statement to salvage an otherwise disappointing season. The game plan was creative, different and effective, all things the Badgers did not necessarily display throughout the season.
#2 - Wisconsin 42, Michigan State 39 (December 3, 2011) - Bielema will always be the coach of the inaugural champions of the Big 10 Championship Game. The Badgers started fast and came from behind to win this game, which really justified Bret's biggest move in 2011, which was getting Russell Wilson to come to Wisconsin.
#1 - Wisconsin 31, Ohio State 18 (October 16, 2010) - From the kickoff, the Badgers were prepared for the #1 Buckeyes invasion into Madison. David Gilreath took it to the house and then John Clay proceeded to pound Ohio State into submission. J.J. Watt is still in Terrelle Pryor's dreams after that game. Lucky for Bielema, he will have more opportunities when he has to face #1 Alabama or #1 LSU in the coming years.
AND SOME MISSES
Illinois 31, Wisconsin 26 (October 6, 2007) - The Badgers were #5 in the country when they played at the Illini and proceeded to get run over by Rashard Mendenhall and Juice Williams. Probably didn't matter as they got trounced by Penn State the next week and by Ohio State later in the season.
Michigan 27, Wisconsin 25 (September 27, 2008) - At potentially the low-point of Wolverine football, the Badgers blew a 19-0 lead in the Big House to start a string of 4 straight losses.
Penn State 48, Wisconsin 7 (October 11, 2008) - The official low-point of the Bret Bielema tenure, Wisconsin lost by 41 to the Nittany Lions at Camp Randall Stadium. The embarrassment was almost matched against Cal Poly 6 weeks later, but UW escaped 37-36 in OT.
Michigan State 16, Wisconsin 13 (October 27, 2012), Ohio State 21, Wisconsin 14 (November 17, 2012) and Penn State 24, Wisconsin 21 (November 24, 2012) - Three overtime losses, two at home, frustrating play-calling, a costly time-out, trust in an untrustworthy kicker...I should stop.
Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31 (October 22, 2011) and Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29 (October 29, 2011) - The Badgers squandered their National Championship hopes by not one, but two game-costing defensive breakdowns that have to fall somewhat on the head coach.
TCU 21, Wisconsin 19 (January 1, 2011) and Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38 (January 2, 2012) - His predecessor did not just go to Rose Bowls, he won them. If Wisconsin defeats Stanford in this year's Rose Bowl, it will grow the legend of Alvarez, but also cement the perception of Bielema as the one who couldn't win the Grand-Daddy of them all.