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Why I AM Drinking the Wisconsin Kool Aid

July 18, 2010 Leave a comment

In today’s first ever edition of “Why I AM Drinking the Kool Aid”, I’ll be testifying for the Wisconsin Badgers.

A lot of pundits think that Wisconsin could be a Big 10 sleeper, but I’m dreaming bigger for the Badgers.  Wisconsin plays a brand of football that I absolutely love.  They pound rock, and pound it hard.  They play defense like it’s their job.  And perhaps the most appealing aspect to myself, they do it all relatively quietly.

The most attractive feature to the quiet riot that is Wisconsin to a savvy football eye is their seasoned and dominant offensive line.  Physically and fundamentally speaking, Wisconsin will have the best offensive line in the nation in 2010.  Names you may have already heard include left tackle Gabe Carimi (2009 second team all Big 10) and guard John Moffitt (2009 first team all BiG 10), and another name to watch will be tackle Josh Oglesby.  Carimi and Moffitt will be All-America candidates, and near-locks for first team All Big10.  Want more evidence of how good this line is?  Wisconsin running back John Clay ran for over 1500 yards in 2009.  An accomplishment in itself, no doubt.  But a thing to remember is that Clay is 6’2″ 246 pounds.  He is by no means a blazer or scat back, he is an up the middle between the tackles runner who gets his yards 3-6 at a time.  Running backs as big as middle linebackers don’t run for 1500 yards without incredible play from their offensive line.

The next thing I love about Wisconsin is a combination of 3 smaller aspects; schedule, defense, and resolve.  Firstly, the schedule sets up nicely for Wisconsin in 2010 with the only truly tough road test at Iowa, October 23rd.  They play a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule, with the only BCS opponent being Arizona State.  They get rival* Minnesota at home, and perhaps most importantly, they also play Big 10 favorite Ohio State at home.

As for defense, Wisconsin quietly racked up a top-20 defense (#17 to be exact) featuring a 5th ranked run defense.  The only “star” on Wisconsin’s 2009 defensive squad was defensive end O’Brien Schofield, a first team All Big 10 member, but gone to the NFL draft.  I think Lindy’s said it best calling Wisconsin’s defense a “meat and potatoes” style of defense, although “hard hat and lunch pale” come to mind when I think of the Wisconsin defense.

Thirdly, the resolve of this team will play a big part for them in 2010.  In 2009, Wisconsin won some close games in rather unattractive fashion, but the fact of the matter is that they won them.  With the way the Badgers play ball, the thick skinned resolve is practically a by-product.  Teams that run the ball and play defense will not only hit you in the mouth and wear you down, but they are highly successful in road games.

If I haven’t sold you on the Badgers yet, consider the offense.  You already know about John Clay, who will be an early Heisman candidate.  Wisconsin will be led by second year starting senior Scott Tolzien, who threw for just over 2700 yards in 2009 with a 64.3% and 143 passer rating, 24th nationally.  His 2 top targets, receiver Nick Toon and All Big 10 tight end Garret Graham both return.  Behind their dominant offensive line, don’t be surprised to see Tolzien exceed 3000 yards in 2010, even with Wisconsin’s run heavy offense.

One final thought about Wisconsin is their chances to win the Big 10.  If you ask me, Ohio State, Iowa, and Wisconsin are about as close to each other as 3 teams can be.  Ohio State is the best team, but has to travel to Iowa and to Wisconsin.  Iowa, who I would pick third among these teams in a controlled contest, gets both Ohio State and Wisconsin at home.  And finally Wisconsin, the second best team of the three (in my very humble opinion) gets to play favorite Ohio State at home, but must travel to play the Hawkeyes in Iowa.  Gun to my head, I’d pick Ohio State win the Big 10 with an undefeated conference record, Wisconsin to finish second with one conference loss to the Ohio State University, and Iowa to finish third with conference losses to the Badgers and Buckeyes, considering the rebuilding required.  But as they say, that’s why they play the game.