Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Midseason review: Wisconsin
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Record: 5-2 (2-2 Big Ten)
After its wins total dropped in each of the last two seasons, Wisconsin appears to have the arrow pointed up again. The Badgers won their first five games and nearly cracked the national rankings before backsliding a bit against Ohio State and Iowa. Still, Wisconsin appeared at No. 21 in the initial BCS standings and remains in good shape for a top-tier bowl game. Despite some struggles in his last two games, junior Scott Tolzien looks like the long-term answer at quarterback. He manages the game well and can execute play-action passes to complement Wisconsin's bread-and-butter rushing attack. Sophomore tailback John Clay leads the Big Ten in rushing (102.3 ypg), and Nick Toon leads an improved wide receiving corps. An opportunistic defense also is performing better than many expected. Defensive end O'Brien Schofield has been one of the Big Ten's surprise players so far, leading the nation in tackles for loss (16.5) and ranking 19th in sacks (6.5). Wisconsin must do a better job of limiting mistakes, putting away teams when it has the chance and executing on special teams, but the Badgers' remaining schedule looks favorable.
Offensive MVP, RB John Clay -- It's a close call between Clay and Tolzien, but the sophomore running back gets the nod after leading the Big Ten in rushing and averaging 5.2 yards a carry. Clay manhandled Minnesota in the second half of an Oct. 3 victory,and he rebounded well after losing his starting job to Zach Brown in preseason camp. Honorable mentions go to Tolzien, tight end Garrett Graham and Toon.
Defensive MVP, DE O'Brien Schofield -- Schofield is certainly saving his best for his senior season. He leads the nation in tackles for loss and has recorded multiple tackles for loss in five of Wisconsin's seven games. Schofield's speed creates problems for any offensive line, and his aggressive style epitomizes the change with the Badgers' defense this season. Honorable mentions go to linebackers Mike Taylor and Chris Borland, and safety Chris Maragos.