Wisconsin Football: Would Boise State's Chris Petersen Fit as Head Coach?

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Wisconsin Football: Would Boise State's Chris Petersen Fit as Head Coach?
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

As Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez looks for someone to replace outgoing head coach Bret Bielema (working title: The Hunt for Red Successor), the difficulty isn't going to be finding an interested candidate. It's finding a good fit for the Badger program. 

Wisconsin's a good job. Bielema may not have thought the program was committed to paying enough to sustain stability in its coaching ranks (and the track record of the past few years kind of bears that out), but he certainly proved that a good coach can win there—and win consistently.

But Wisconsin's culture is an enduring one, one that Alvarez built and is probably eager to see through as the next chapter of Badger football begins.

It's not a difficult culture to explain, either: Run the ball down their throats, hit them with just enough passes to keep nine guys out of the box and play good enough defense that they're not going to outscore you.

Being that Alvarez and Bielema are first and second in all-time wins in Wisconsin football history, it's safe to say that's a culture worth preserving.

So the news from the Wisconsin State Journal that Alvarez is potentially looking to Boise State for his next coach is certainly interesting. Here's more:

[A] source close to the UW Athletic Department said Alvarez has been in contact with Boise State coach Chris Petersen and an interview could happen as early as Monday.

Petersen, 47, is the winningest active coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, with an 83-8 record (.912 winning percentage) over seven seasons. He makes $1.7 million this season, according to reports.

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Now, when people think of Boise State, they probably think of Kellen Moore tossing the ball all over the place against hapless WAC and Mountain West defenses for four years straight and thus there might be some concern that "that's not Big Ten ball."

That would be incorrect thinking.

Boise State threw the ball at will when Moore was in town, that's absolutely true. Moore's NCAA-record 50 wins in that time frame as a quarterback would bear out the idea that throwing a lot was a good decision.

But we're not talking about a Texas Tech or Hawaii team that just throws 60 times a game because it doesn't have the horses to run the ball. Boise State has been able to rush the ball just fine under Chris Petersen. In fact, what made the Bronco offense so deadly under Petersen is that it was able to identify and attack whatever weakness an opposing defense showed.

Showing blitz? Boise can attack one-on-one coverage deep, run a screen or a draw. Rushing three? Moore's blocking (more on that in a bit) was good enough that he'd just wait for someone to come open. Big defensive personnel on the field? Attack the edges. Going small and fast? Boise was more than happy to run the ball down your throat at that point.

In fact, during Petersen's seven years at the helm, Boise State's offense has averaged over 180 yards rushing per game and its average rank in rushing over that time frame was 36th in the nation. That's with one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history at the helm more than half the time.

Just to drive the point home, here's several minutes of Doug Martin annihilating defenses on the ground for Boise State.

Ah, but Wisconsin depends on its linemen for a bruising power attack. Can Petersen develop linemen? You can ask offensive tackle Ryan Clady, who was a 2-star recruit per Rivals coming out of high school, then developed into the 12th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Tackle Nate Potter was also drafted after last season.

Also, the 2006 NFL Draft saw Daryn Colledge drafted at OT in the middle of the second round, but Petersen was still Boise's offensive coordinator at that point—same as when OT Matt Hill was drafted in 2002.

As for this year, it's unlikely any Broncos get drafted, but three linemen made at least second-team All-MWC, including first-team center Matt Paradis, a junior.

So yes, Petersen knows a thing or two about working the ground game.

As far as defense goes, where does one begin? The nine defenders drafted during Petersen's time as head coach of the Broncos are a good start, and that number could rise this year if CBs Jamar Taylor and Jerrell Gavins impress at the NFL Combine.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports
DE Tyrone Crawford, now with the Dallas Cowboys, devours another quarterback.

There's the fact that Boise State has never been ranked outside the Top 25 in total defense with Petersen at the helm, and its average ranking in those seven seasons is 14th nationally. In scoring defense, again: never outside the Top 25 under Petersen, giving up fewer than 17 points a game in that span and averaging a rank of 12th nationwide.

Those are flat-out dominant defenses, and while you may certainly be excused for wanting to consider the competition, there's also this: Under Petersen, Boise State is 10-4 in bowl games and/or against BCS conference opponents and the Broncos have still only given up a hair under 22 points a game in those contests.

Those are Boise State's biggest games and the Broncos do more than just hold their own there—they succeed.

So yes, Petersen would be a great fit at Wisconsin. He would be a great fit basically anywhere, of course, but what he brings to the table would be so well-ingrained with the culture and legacy of Big Ten football, it'd feel like he had been coaching over here his entire life.

 

NOTE: Hearty thanks are in order to ncaa.org for its repository of official stats; the historical notes herein were compiled from that site.

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