Tag Archives: Badgers

Players to Watch: Wisconsin vs Northern Illinois

15 Sep

All right, I bought a new Ethernet cord for Saturday afternoon. Here’s to hoping my computer doesn’t crash before then.

Ok, back to business. Here are your Badger players to keep a close eye on this Saturday:

Offensive Player to Watch: James White, RB

James White, simply put, is too good to stay under the radar for three weeks in a row, especially when his next opponent has as hard a time stopping the run as Northern Illinois does. Now you may be saying, “whoa, whoa, Larson, James White has not been ‘under-the-radar,’ Montee has just been that dominant.” I get that, but I also get that Nebraska comes a-knockin’ in two weeks. I doubt Bielema is going to want to lean too heavily on his TD machine, Montee Ball. I also know that, with a flashy, quick scoring offense like the Huskies have, part of Chryst’s game plan will feature a lot of time-eating, run-heavy drives. Now, it’s not rocket appliance that Wisconsin leaning on the run + Bielema using Ball more sparingly = (to the dismay of the Huskies) James getting plenty of touches come Saturday. And I expect James to fully take advantage of the opportunity. Expect big things from number 20 come Saturday.

Defensive Player to Watch: Marcus Cromartie, DB

Ummmm, could it have been anyone else? It’s been well-documented (initially through the awesome-ness of Twitter) that senior corner back Devin Smith has been forced to miss the remainder of the playing season. Here’s where the importance Continue reading

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Wisconsin’s Ten Biggest Storylines for 2011

29 Aug

Ready…Set…Football!

Well sports fans, it’s finally upon us. And after what seemed like an endless off-season of college football embarrassment, scandal, and overall craziness, the dawn of Wisconsin’s first kickoff is a welcomed sight. As a chorus of camera flashes signal the start of Wisconsin’s 2011 campaign, we as college football fans can finally put a tumultuous off-season behind us. And as Bucky begins its journey in the newest edition of the BIG TEN, let’s take a look at UW’s ten biggest upcoming story lines for the 2011 season:

10) Nick Toon’s Health

Nick Toon's health will be a key for Wisconsin's offensive clout. Toon will be tasked with keeping defenses honest and being Russell Wilson's go-to man.

We all know the 2010 Bullies of the Big Ten’s made their money through the running game–but let’s not forget the importance of the UW passing attack. The 2010 Badgers featured on of the most balanced offenses in the nation last year. Despite the parting of David Gilreath, Kyle Jefferson, and Lance Kendricks, I doubt Paul Chryst will deviate much from last year’s offensive blue print. Especially with the addition of an exceptional passer in Russell Wilson, Bucky needs a go-to target to keep defenses honest: enter Nick Toon. Toon is an NFL-caliber receiver with great size and athleticism but struggled with nagging injuries in 2010.  For the 2011 Badgers to continue their balanced offense, Toon will have to stay healthy and emerge into one of the leagues top-tier targets.

9) Beat Sparty

I don’t know about you, but Michigan State whining over being passed up for the 2010 Rose Bowl still weighs heavy in my memory. My dad taught me one thing: if you don’t like the cards you were dealt, go out and prove the haters wrong. Apparently daddy Dantonio’s version of that advice included getting curb-stomped 49-7 by Alabama in their bowl game. That surely doesn’t sound like a BCS team to me. Yet still, the Spartans claim they’re in the hunt for the Big Ten title. Bucky gets a shot to go back to East Lansing and end those dreams. Last year Sparty was lucky (numerous times) this year, they’ll get a heavy dose of reality. And it’s up to Wisconsin to make sure that reality hurts.

8 ) The Russell Wilson Project

This subject was much more intriguing and questionable before the start of camp. I know Coach Beilema always has preached about the character of Russell Wilson, but I was still reluctant to see how he gelled with the team. After listening to many interviews, player reactions to Wilson’s work ethic, and the sheer fact that his team-mates voted him as a captain tells me that he will be just fine wearing the Cardinal and White. The only thing that remains to be seen is how he adapts to a Big Ten style of football. While I’m optimistic, I (as well as many Badger fans out there) am extremely excited to see the energy and play-making ability Wilson brings to an already loaded Badger backfield.

7) Nebraska vs Wisconsin

We all remember the electricity of OSU last year. Now imagine it was OSU’s inaugural Big Ten game… The Badgers and Huskers will be in America’s spotlight; I get chills thinking about it already. If you’re not already jacked for this game, check your pulse because you might be dead–or a Gophers fan.

6) Paving the Way

Last year’s Wisconsin rushing attack was a beast. It’s that simple. While a lot of the credit falls on James White, Montee

Ball, and John Clay, college football pundits were quick to point out the hand that Wisconsin’s O-Line had in that rushing dominance. But even for a program known for producing NFL quality lineman, replacing the thrashing performances of two All-Americans in Gabe Carimi (Outland Trophy Winner) and John Moffit is a tall task to handle. I’m going to go out on a limb and say UW is one of the only football programs that can do just that. The Badgers move an experienced Ricky Wagner to left tackle, and bring back center Peter Konz and right guard Kevin Zeitler. They also return experienced players like Josh Oglesby and dark-horse players like Ryan Groy and Ray Ball. These Badgers may lack the star-power that last year’s squad had, but the certainly have the clout to punish Big Ten defenses and pave the way for another version of Wisconsin’s rushing attack.

So there you have it, Wisconsin’s 10 through six biggest story lines heading into the 2011 season. Tomorrow we will count down Bucky’s final five biggest storylines. So sleep tight; kickoff is just a few nights away!

-Mitch Larson

The Russell Wilson Effect

5 Jul

Paul Chryst got a new toy this year. And Big Ten defenses beware: somewhere, right now, he’s salivating as he figures out how to use it.

Arguably Bret Bielema’s biggest win in the offseason was keeping Chryst, the Badgers’ offensive coordinator, out of Austin, Texas and in Madison. And after a quick glance at the Longhorn’s depth chart compared to Wisconsin’s returning offensive talent, I think Chryst may have a little more fun in the Badger State, this year.

And that brings us to Bielema offseason win #2: Russell Wilson.

Wilson comes to Madtown with a decorated ACC resume. And despite the fact that most Big Ten fans like to look down on “basketball conferences” like the ACC, Wilson’s gaudy stats speak for themselves. This kid can play. Just check out this video and see for yourself.

I hope the thought of that, but with a Motion W on the helmet, gave you chills.

Now, it remains to be seen IF Russell Wilson can bring that level of play to Camp Randall and it’ll be very interesting to see how quickly Wilson can adjust to smash-mouth Big Ten football.  What’s obvious, though, is that Wilson possesses a skill-set that hasn’t been seen under center in Madison for a long, long time.

If Wilson adjusts to and thrives under Wisconsin’s offense, Chryst continues to schematically create nightmares for opposing defenses, White and Ball shred defenses, Nick Toon plays like we all know he can, and Borland sparks a very good Badger defense, we could be looking at another special year in the Badger Nation. I know those are a lot of ifs, but the truth is, those things are far from being unrealistic.

With the buzz created from the 2010 campaign, and more recently, with the addition of Russell Wilson, Wisco has been getting a lot of love from the so-called “experts.” But I’m going to go a little bit farther. I’m going to say that the hype that has been generated this offseason is part of something bigger, something on a broader scale. I think the nation is ready to see Wisconsin replace OSU as the Big Ten’s top player in the college football landscape.

Uff-da. That can’t settle well with tOSU faithful. But with Wisco’s recent success and the widely publicized happenings in Columbus, it’s hard to argue against.

Who has the most prime-time televised games in the Big Ten this year? Wisconsin.

Who are most pundits picking to win the Leaders Division? Wisconsin.

Who are a lot of people predicting to take the Big Ten’s first championship game? Wisconsin.

Who beat out the defending national champion and, dare I say it, an SEC team, for Russell Wilson? Again, Wisconsin.

I’m not saying that the Badgers will waltz into the Big Ten Championship game unscathed and leave with their tickets punched for Pasadena, but I am saying that the retention of Paul Chryst, the signing of Russell Wilson, and the growing perception of Wisconsin football definitely has the Badgers moving in the right direction as a Big Ten powerhouse.

The stage has been set, Wisconsin. Now don’t squander the chance.

-Mitch Larson

From Red to…Red: Russell Wilson Officially a Badger

27 Jun

Well Badger fans, it’s official. After months of speculation following dismal quarterback performances at April’s annual spring game and the announcement that North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson was transferring, the Wisconsin Badgers have a quarterback for the 2011 season. And, as many news outlets had been predicting, it is indeed the former signal-caller for the Wolfpack.

Wilson, who for the last three years was under center in the ACC, will be heading to Madison and the Big Ten in the hopes of leading the Badgers to consecutive Rose Bowl appearances.

After being replaced as the NCSU starting quarterback because of his commitment to his professional baseball career, it appears as though Wilson will again put that part of his life on hold. Following a two-day visit to the UW campus, Wilson will be trading in his N.C. State red for Wisconsin cardinal.

So, it’s real. Russell Wilson will be a Badger for the 2011 season.

But, what will he actually do for Wisconsin? Can he replace the departed Scott Tolzien and match or improve on the 11-2 season Wisconsin posted last year?

Let’s take a quick glance at Wilson.

Standing 5-11, Wilson does not have the ideal size for a Big Ten quarterback. Big Ten offensive lineman (especially in Wisconsin’s case) are huge and it’s essential for a quarterback to be able to see down the field. Wilson will be shorter than every single one of his lineman.

But, unlike Tolzien (who stood an impressive 6-3), Wilson has scrambling ability and is more than comfortable moving out of the pocket. Then, it doesn’t really matter how tall you are. If you can dodge defenders while still looking downfield, size matters little.

In three years at N.C. State, Wilson tossed 76 touchdowns and just 26 interceptions. In fact, in statistically his worst year, Wilson threw 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season while still leading the Wolfpack to a bowl win. On the other hand, Tolzien, considered by many to be one of Wisconsin’s best quarterbacks, threw 32 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in two years as a starter. Not exactly Heisman-esque.

Now, of course, the Badgers ran the ball much, much more than N.C. State. And, unless coach Bret Bielema completely alters Wisconsin’s game plan to match Wilson’s skills, there is no way Wilson will throw as much as he did the previous three years. That said, it’s pretty obvious Wilson has passing skills not seen by Wisconsin fans in years.

With the signing of Wilson, Wisconsin becomes the odds-on favorite to win the Leaders Division in the Big Ten. As Terrelle Pryor is no longer a Buckeye, Ohio State will, for the first time in a decade, play second fiddle to Wisconsin to begin a season.

Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Wilson will bring the talent and experience that Wisconsin hasn’t had at the quarterback position in maybe…ever. But, he’s not a savior.

The rushing attack, led by James White and Montee Ball, will still be key to Wisconsin taking the Big Ten. Wilson, if he can be as efficient and protective of the ball as Tolzien, will be vital to any success the Badgers have. Yes, he’ll bring a passing option that Wisconsin hasn’t seen in years. But to think that he’ll be airing it out all year would be foolish.

In the end, for one year at least, Wilson could be one of the best quarterbacks in school history. He’s certainly a better option that Jon Budmayr, who, as the spring game indicated, needs another year learning the system before he’ll be capable of taking over the Wisconsin offense. But, he won’t put up the ridiculous numbers be put up in the ACC, not only because the Big Ten features much better defenses, but simply because the Badgers run a much more ground-oriented attack.

If he can match the production of Scott Tolzien in 2010, he’ll be worth all the buzz he’s currently receiving.