It has been a trying season for the Wisconsin Badgers.
A team coming off back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances has found itself floundering at 2-2, with an ineffectual running game, a fired coach and Bret Bielema's first non-conference loss.
With perennial powers Ohio St. and Penn St. marred by NCAA sanctions, it is still possible that Bucky will be able to right the ship. So far the Badger's have had more disappointments than pleasant surprises, but last week's close loss to a powerful Nebraska team should bring at least some hope to Madison.
With that being said, here are the winners and losers of the relatively young Badger season.
Wisconsin surprised many when it decided to start freshman quarterback Joel Stave.
Stave, however, has played fairly well in the three games that he has seen action. While his game might not be perfectly polished yet, the homegrown Wisconsin product may eventually turn into a pretty good quarterback.
His completion percentage of .565 leaves much to be desired, but can be forgiven when you factor in the QB's young age and inexperience. Stave has also not had the amazing line play that previous Wisconsin QBs have had the luxury of.
His ability to take the big hit and not turn the ball over (Stave only has one interception) are very promising signs that he can be the Badger signal caller of the future.
Unfortunately, placing Stave in the "winners" column comes at the expense of...
It appears that ACC transfer quarterback saviors and the Highlander have something in common—there can only be one.
After the Badgers' tremendous season last year with transfer Russell Wilson running the show, many were expecting Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien to enjoy similar success.
Sadly though, while Russell Wilson seemed to be a natural leader who loved winning, O'Brien seems to enjoy turning the ball over and taking bad sacks. While O'Brien is still trusted over Stave to run the two-minute offense, and may even get another chance to start, it appears that the O'Brien-to-Wisconsin experiment is destined to be a failure.
The Wisconsin offense is supposed to be sputtering, but no one seemed to tell Abbrederis. The junior receiver has reeled in twenty catches for close to 400 yards, while averaging an impressive 20 yards per reception.
In a season full of woe, Abbrederis has been one of the few bright spots. The Wautoma native's numbers are even more impressive when you factor in the game he was forced to miss due to injury.
This line is too big and too talented to not be dominating the point of attack.
Last week, the line got manhandled in the second half by Nebraska, which is understandable given the talent the Cornhuskers have on the defensive side of the ball.
However, the Badger line was also pushed around by UTEP and Northern Iowa.
The line play has been so bad that the line coach was fired two weeks into the season, and has been bad enough to knock Montee Ball almost completely out of the Heisman race. While Ball is still one of the better backs in college football, its impossible to put up great numbers when defenders are routinely in the backfield.
With Wisconsin's tradition of excellent play upfront, do not expect the atrocious play to continue.
Everyone expected Wisconsin's starting front seven to be strong. No one was sure how deep it was though.
With the rash of injuries that have plagued the Badgers, Dippel has proven that this team has some depth. When given the opportunity to start against UTEP, the junior recorded a sack.
Expect great things from Dippel as the season progresses.
Abhorrent, abominable, atrocious, awful: The jury is still out on if there are enough a-words to describe how bad this unit is.
Without the Badgers being able to control the ball offensively, expect to see this unit get beat even more frequently.
For Wisconsin fans, watching a team throw against the Badgers is like playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun. On the bright side, this unit probably can not get any worse, as when you hit rock bottom, further devolution becomes impossible.