Ryan Chartrand

Let me begin,
I came to win, battle me that’s a sin
Come on, throw your hands up
If you’ve got the feeling, jump across the ceiling
I’ll serve your ass like John McEnroe
I’m the cream of the crop, I rise to the top
Get used to one style and you know I might switch
I came to get down (repeat)
So get out your seats and jump around,
Jump around (repeat to your heart’s content)

I grace you with a few snippets from House of Pain’s “Jump Around” not because it’s great music (which it undoubtedly is), but rather because of the University of Wisconsin’s tradition to play the song during home football games between the third and fourth quarters while the crowd – you guessed it – jumps around.

Given that the capacity for Camp Randall Stadium is more than 80,000, it makes for quite a scene, one that few Cal Poly players have experienced firsthand, let alone played in front of.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if Cal Poly head coach Rich Ellerson broke the song out a few times for motivation during mundane spring practices, nor would it shock me if it got a little more play on the Mustangs’ iPods.

But those lyrics were not chosen at random. Each of those rhymes could be applied to the upcoming Cal Poly football season, which was already shaping up to be highly anticipated as the Mustangs look to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence.

Cal Poly, which finished the season ranked No. 24 by The Sports Network, returns all but one starter from an offense that averaged 39.3 points per game and ranked second in total offense in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) behind Appalachian State (remember what those guys did?).

Returning weapons include dual-threat quarterback Jonathan Dally and star wide receiver Ramses Barden.

Now with the addition of the Nov. 22 match-up with Wisconsin, the season is sure to go down as the most historic since that of the 1980 Division II National Championship team. The Badgers represent the Mustangs’ first ever Bowl Championship Series opponent.

Additionally, Wisconsin ended last season ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press poll and has been to four-straight bowl games, including the Rose Bowl as recently as 2000.

By far, this is the biggest opponent Cal Poly has ever faced.

The national exposure garnered from the game should be unprecedented for the program. Wisconsin’s conference, the Big Ten, has its own television network, meaning the game will at least be shown regionally. Any chance to siphon recruits away from the likes of Montana, South Dakota State and North Dakota State will not go amiss.

Plus, if the Mustangs are able to make the game competitive, highlights would likely be shown across the nation. I realize I’m getting far ahead of myself, but who can say? We might look at this as a defining moment in the process to move up to the I-A level down the road.

And in that sense, I am completely for playing this game.

Prime-time sports are good for the school, and this is definitely a step in the right direction. Combined with the cool half-million dollars the university stands to make, it was a no-brainer, not to mention it will be an unbelievable experience for anyone associated with the football program, especially the players.

Having said that, the game is not without risk. Cal Poly will likely be in one of two situations by the time the game rolls around: using its offensive firepower to roll up opponents, and in prime position for a playoff berth or struggling with an already extremely difficult schedule and fighting desperately for the postseason.

In the former scenario, the Mustangs run the risk of injury, or more likely, being over-excited for the game and wearing themselves down, only to suffer a letdown in the first round.

The latter scenario is certainly in the realm of possibility, as Cal Poly faces a murderous schedule even before traveling to Wisconsin. Montana and McNeese State both made the playoffs last year, while San Diego State is another I-A opponent, meaning Cal Poly will have done well to get to Madison, Wis. with only one or two losses.

Another loss, even against vaunted competition, might not help the Mustangs get a bid to the playoffs. Of course, there is always the danger the Mustangs could be completely blown out, which would be detrimental in all cases.

But even if that’s how it plays out, I won’t look back with regret. If I had my druthers, Cal Poly would play such a big-time I-A opponent every year. The money and exposure make the game a win-win situation, no matter what the final score is.

Finally, I offer a fearless prediction. The final score may be closer than anyone outside of San Luis Obispo thinks possible – see if you can follow my logic.

Last year the nation saw what can happen when a pesky defense and an explosive offense play a Big Ten team that doesn’t take its opponent seriously. Everyone remembers Appalachian State upsetting Michigan, but The Citadel (they play football?) came into Camp Randall and was tied at half with the Badgers before fading, eventually losing by a couple scores.

Now consider that North Dakota State beat Minnesota last year. The same North Dakota State that Cal Poly went toe-to-toe with for the better part of four quarters. And Minnesota only lost to Wisconsin by a touchdown and even had a chance to send the game to overtime.

So by my calculations, if the ball bounces right, and the questionable calls go Cal Poly’s way, and the Mustangs play the game of their lives, don’t be surprised if next Thanksgiving you have a little more to be thankful for.

Kory Harbeck is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily reporter.

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