Special Seasons Brewing for Football Fans in the Badger State
Take notice America, the state of Wisconsin might have the best team in both college football and in the NFL.
The 10-1 Wisconsin Badgers and 7-3 Green Bay Packers are playing outstanding football, and Wisconsinites are well aware that they might get two very important bowl games this year.
I'll start with the No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers.
After a sluggish start to the season, which included a 20-19 win over Arizona State and a 34-24 loss at No. 10 Michigan State, it looked like the Badgers would flounder, and a three-game losing steak looked likely with games against then-No. 1 Ohio State and Iowa upcoming. Yet since the opening kickoff against Ohio State, Wisconsin has played like the best team in the country. Wisconsin dominated Ohio State at home, then went on the road and beat Iowa. They followed those two impressive wins with three blowouts.
In fact, Wisconsin has outscored their last three opponents by a combined score of 165-61.
On offense, Wisconsin is extremely talented. Wisconsin has three running backs with over 600 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Running back John Clay is a finalist for the Doak Walker award while his backup, James White, will likely win the Big Ten Freshman of the Year Award. Quarterback Scott Tolzien is a finalist for the Unitas Award, and tight end Lance Kendricks is a finalist for the Mackey Award.
It would also be a mistake to forget to mention the Badgers dominating offensive line, whose average weight is 320 pounds. All of these factors are contributing to an offensive that is averaging more than 42 points per game in Big Ten play.
Wisconsin also features a physical defense and is one of the most disciplined teams in all of college football. Going into their game against Michigan, Wisconsin was leading the nation is penalties committed per game (3.1), turnovers committed (seven) and was third in penalty yards (31 yards per game). Defensive lineman J.J. Watt is having a breakout year, with 52 tackles (18 of them for loss), six sacks, eight pass deflections, one forced fumble (two recovered), two blocked field goals and one interception.
Overall, Wisconsin is seventh in the NCAA in points scored (40.9), 12th in total rush yards (2639) and eighth in third-down percentage (51 percent).
The Green Bay Packers have taken a similar path. After a mediocre 3-3 start, the Packers have won four straight, winning their past three games by a combined score of 85-10. While the Packers' defense has been dominant over the past few games, the offense has started to play up to their potential.
The Packers have the largest positive point deferential in the NFL, and despite having 11 players on IR (including five starters), they are extremely talented on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is beginning to heat up, and he now has 22 total touchdowns on the season. Wide receiver Greg Jennings is tied for third in the league with nine touchdowns, and James Jones is emerging as a favorite target of Aaron Rodgers, as well.
And unlike last year, the offensive line (knock on wood), is holding up and giving Aaron Rodgers enough time to find his targets downfield.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers are loaded with talent. Linebacker Clay Matthews is leading the league with 11.5 sacks and may be on his way to winning his first Defensive Player of the Year Award. Last year's DPOY, Charles Woodson, continues to make plays all over the field, which gives Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers flexibility in his play-calling. Cornerback Tramon Williams is also having a Pro Bowl-caliber year. In fact, the Packers were so satisfied with his performance on the field that they released longtime cornerback Al Harris. Other players, like B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins, A.J. Hawk and Sam Shields, are having quality seasons, stepping up while other players have been lost to injuries.
This season—if everything goes right—could result in a Rose Bowl appearance for the Wisconsin Badgers and a Super Bowl appearance for the Green Bay Packers. This was commonplace in the 1990s for these teams, but neither has been to these big games in over a decade.
The Badgers need to beat Northwestern at home next weekend, and along with an Ohio State win or a Michigan State loss, they will most likely be going to the Rose Bowl.
The Packers have a much more difficult road to get to the Super Bowl. They play at Atlanta (8-2) this weekend and have games against the New York Giants (6-3) and Chicago Bears (7-3) at home and must travel to New England, as well. They have a difficult schedule, but they are playing as well as any team in football right now.
With both teams poised for a significant postseason, this could be a special year for Wisconsinites.
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