Wisconsin running back Montee Ball received just 22 first-place votes for the Heisman Trophy despite leading non-QBs in touchdowns with 38. That lack of respect will help fuel the junior running back to a huge performance against the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl on Monday.
Even though the arrival of Russell Wilson from North Carolina State helped take the Badgers' offense to the next level, Ball remained the driving force behind it. He scored at least two touchdowns in every game, which is an astonishing accomplishment when you really think about it.
To be able to continue dominating despite the fact that defenses are keying in on the run is a testament to Ball's ability. He also doesn't get enough credit for his durability, which is one of the major reasons he was able to find paydirt so many times.
The story for Oregon has been the same for several seasons now. They can put up points at an eye-popping rate, but stopping the opposing team from doing the same has been a struggle.
Oregon is giving up nearly 140 yards per game on the ground and hasn't faced off with a running back on the same level as Ball. That's certainly a fact that has been causing Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti to have nightmares over the past couple weeks.
Look for the Badgers to feed Ball early and often with hope of opening up the play-action passing game for the second half. That's what makes the Wisconsin offense so difficult to defend; defenses need to pick their poison because it's virtually impossible to slow down all of the weapons.
While Ball hasn't made a big deal about the lack of Heisman votes, it's got to be eating a fierce competitor like him up inside. He probably couldn't have imagined such an eye-popping season and to not get rewarded for it has to hurt at least a bit.
Perhaps the only thing more dangerous than everyday Montee Ball is an extremely motivated version of Montee Ball.
And that's the way the entire Wisconsin team seems to be approaching this game. The Badgers feel like Oregon is getting all the attention and want to prove they belong among the nation's elite teams for 2011. An upset victory will go a long way in making that statement more widely heard.
If the Badgers are going to make that happen, it's going to be on the capable, motivated shoulders of Ball.
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