Wisconsin is in decent position to make the Rose Bowl this season. That'd make it three straight trips to Pasadena for the Badgers, and it just so happens that nobody's done that in the Big Ten since Bo Schembechler sent Michigan there three times from 1977 to 1979 (before that, four straight for Woody Hayes and OSU).
If the Badgers are getting back to the "Granddaddy of Them All," though, they'll need to do it with a new quarterback with Russell Wilson replaced by Danny O'Brien, and a new offensive coordinator with Paul Chryst replaced by Matt Canada.
So who's this Matt Canada fellow? Well, we'll tell you.
Canada was most recently the offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois, who you may recognize from such MACtion thrillers as 63-60 over Toledo, 51-22 over Western Michigan, and 71-3 over Eastern Michigan. Yes, the Northern Illinois offense was especially potent under Canada, averaging at least 38 points per game in 2010 and 2011, winning 11 games both years and blowing out Arkansas State and Fresno State in bowl games in those two seasons.
How did the Huskies score that many points and win that many games? By running one of the most dynamic, unorthodox offenses in college football. Observe:
Now, granted, these are Chandler Harnish highlights, and Canada used Harnish in ways that he simply won't be able to use Danny O'Brien, especially against Big-Ten defenses. That would be a recipe for disaster. But Canada didn't have Montee Ball at NIU, and he certainly didn't have Wisconsin's never-ending stream of road-graders on the offensive line.
So what we've really seen is a great deal of creativity from Canada in playing to his team's strength, and we'll be seeing that manifested in the ground game in Madison in 2012 and beyond. Canada even said so himself at his hiring:
[T]here's a brand of Wisconsin football that we all understand and know and it's based upon what was built and what has been here, and we're going to continue on with that."
To avoid any confusion over where he stands philosophically, Canada added, "We're going to run that offense and use the talent that we have and also the talent that we can recruit to."
Citing the "unbelievable tradition of offensive linemen, running backs and tight ends'' that have made up the brand, Canada acknowledged that UW coach Bret Bielema made it clear what he wanted.
"No question, that was certainly the parameters that he set for me,'' Canada said. "I've looked at the program for a long time and I've understood what it stood for.''
So, yes, running the ball isn't going anywhere. It'll be interesting to see what a Matt Canada ground game looks like compared to a Paul Chryst ground game, though. Maybe, based on the number of odd formations and usages in the above highlight reel, there's a little more fun to be had.