Wisconsin Football: Comparing 2010 Badgers With 2006 Team
After nine games in the 2010 season, the Wisconsin Badgers are sitting at 8-1 (4-1) and appear to be on the cusp of a BCS bowl bid. If they win out, it seems almost inevitable that they'll at least get a bid to a BCS bowl, if not the Rose Bowl.
No, it's not a guarantee, but it seems quite likely.
However, as Badger fans not so fondly remember, a one-loss season doesn't guarantee a BCS bid.
In 2006 Wisconsin cruised through its schedule en route to an 11-1 regular season record. But because Ohio State and Michigan also had fantastic seasons, Wisconsin was left out of the BCS because of a rule that prohibited three teams from the same conference making a BCS bowl.
This year there is also a distinct possibility that Wisconsin could be left out of the BCS. Again, not likely, but it could happen.
Thus, let's reflect on some of the similarities and differences between a 2006 squad that finished 12-1 with a Capital One Bowl victory and a 2010 squad that could finish with the very same record.
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One of the big criticisms of the 2006 team was its incredibly weak non-conference schedule. Although the Badgers' early-season loss to Michigan and the fact that only two teams from the Big Ten were eligible for a BCS bowl both played a large part in their BCS snub, their non-conference schedule certainly didn't help.
That year, Wisconsin played Bowling Green, Western Illinois, San Diego State and Buffalo. Not too challenging.
Ironically, once again, Bret Bielema and the Badgers find themselves under criticism for a weak non-conference schedule.
UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State and Austin Peay.
What's more, if the Badgers do get snubbed by the BCS once again, their non-conference schedule may be to blame.
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However, one huge advantage the 2010 squad has over the 2006 version is its preseason ranking. Although most fans would argue that preseason ranking shouldn't play any role in where a team ends up at the end of the year, the fact is it does.
In 2006, Wisconsin started as an unranked team. They had a lot of work to do if they were going to move up in the polls and BCS standings. By the end of the regular season, with an 11-1 record, they were No. 10 in the country.
This year, with some lofty preseason expectations, the Badgers started out as the No. 12 team in the country in both the coaches' and AP polls.
Currently, they sit at No. 7 in the BCS standings and could very well be in the top five by the time the season ends.
Undoubtedly, their preseason ranking could help them get into a BCS bowl.
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In terms of comparing the actual teams, it becomes apparent that it's a very even matchup.
In 2006, the Badgers "O" scored over 29 points a game and had a very even pass-to-rush ratio, averaging 211 yards passing and 161 yards rushing. They also controlled the game clock, averaging over 33 minutes in possession a game.
Quarterback John Stocco was incredibly efficient, throwing for 17 touchdowns and 2,185 yards, while freshman running back P.J. Hill rushed for 1,569 yards and 15 touchdowns. The receiving corps was led by tight end Travis Beckum, who pulled in 61 receptions for over 900 yards and five touchdowns.
The 2010 version is very similar to the 2006 team—except they're higher-powered.
This year, the Badgers score over 35 points a game and average 216 rushing yards and 194 passing yards a game.
All-America candidate John Clay leads a trio of running backs with 929 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, while freshman James White and sophomore Montee Ball have chipped in with 570 yards and nine touchdowns and 346 yards and six touchdowns, respectively.
Like Stocco, quarterback Scott Tolzien hasn't been flashy, just efficient. He's thrown for 1,688 yards and nine touchdowns on 72 percent passing.
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One area where the 2006 team has a slight advantage over the 2010 squad is on defense.
In 2006, Wisconsin was one of the most dominant defensive teams in the country. They gave up just 12 points a game and had maybe the best pass "D" in the country, allowing only 138 yards a game and six total touchdowns.
Led by linebackers Mark Zalewski and Jonathan Casillas, the 2006 squad will probably go down as one of the best defensive units in school history.
The 2010 team is also playing great defense—they're just not as dominant.
This year's Badgers allow 19.4 points a game and are more of a "bend but don't break" phenomenon. However, despite losing star linebacker Chris Borland for the season, J.J. Watt, Culmer St. Jean and company are still playing well.
Although not as commanding as the 2006 team, the 2010 defense gets the job done.
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The last major difference between the 2006 and 2010 team is head coach Bret Bielema.
Yes, he was coach of both teams. But 2006 was his first year as a college football head coach. In 2010, he's now in his fifth year as the coach of Wisconsin.
He makes better decisions. He's more poised. He's more accepted as part of the Madison community.
Plus, this is his team.
In 2006, he inherited Barry Alvarez's team. Although you have to give credit to him for leading Wisconsin to a season most wouldn't have expected, the team was handed to him on a silver platter.
This year, the players are his. The coaching staff is his. The team is his.
Whether or not the 2010 team is headed to a BCS bowl remains to be seen. But this year, all the credit—or the blame—will go to Bielema.