Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason report: Wisconsin
By Brian Bennett
Record: 5-0 (1-0 Big Ten)
Wisconsin entered the season as one of the two favorites to win the Big Ten. Now the Badgers have their sights set even higher, aiming at a BCS national title. No one can argue against their sheer domination thus far this season. They've outscored opponents 242-51, ranking in the top three nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense. Many questioned their nonconference schedule, but critics quickly hushed up when Wisconsin hammered the other supposed Big Ten favorite, Nebraska, by 31 points in the conference opener for both. Russell Wilson has been even better than advertised at quarterback, putting himself squarely in the Heisman Trophy discussion despite not even joining the team until this summer. The running game remains a steamroller, and tailback Montee Ball is on pace to smash the league record for touchdowns in a season (he's already got 14 of them). The defense, meanwhile, has looked better than most expected, though some depth concerns remain, particularly in the secondary. The Badgers are now the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten, and if they keep up this level of play throughout the second half, they could be doing even more than that.
Offensive MVP: Quarterback Russell Wilson. Don't just take into account Wilson's ridiculously good numbers -- he's completing nearly 75 percent of his passes, with a 13-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio while leading the Big Ten in passing yards. Also remember that the guy who was pegged as the starting quarterback after spring practice, Jon Budmayr, had to undergo a second surgery on his throwing elbow. If Wilson hadn't transferred in from NC State this summer, the Badgers would be playing an unproven freshman at quarterback instead of a savvy, fourth-year starter. So, yeah, that worked out pretty well.
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Mike Taylor. The junior has already won two Big Ten player of the week awards, including one for his 14-tackle, one-interception performance against Nebraska. He leads the team in tackles with 44, or 14 fewer than he made all of last season. Along with middle linebacker Chris Borland, who has successfully returned from a shoulder injury that cost him last year, Taylor has helped anchor a Wisconsin defense that has allowed a little more than 10 points per game so far.