Coming into 2011, many questions surrounded the Wisconsin football program. Will it have the same success as last year, which produced the first Rose Bowl berth since 1999? Will the departure of veteran quarterback Scott Tolzien have a significant effect on this offense? Moreover, who is this transfer Russell Wilson and how will he factor into the depth chart?
Heading into Week 6 of this college football season, the Badgers have not only answered these previously looming questions, but silenced the critics on whether this team can compete with the best of the best in the NCAA.
The Week 5 clash against No. 8 Nebraska in Madison was a great test to see how the Badgers matched up with another great team, for their past four wins acquired came over teams with a combined record of 6-12. The Badgers firmly answered this question with a statement win over Nebraska, 48-17.
In this game, the Huskers hung with Wisconsin throughout the early parts of the game, but over time, the Badgers had too much size, skill and Montee Ball. Ball was terrific with 151 yards on 30 carries with four touchdowns in the game. The Huskers simply had no answer for him defensively.
Wilson was brilliant too, making big throws, playing smart and consistent football, and he finished the game without a turnover, a performance not to be overlooked.
With a No. 4 rank nationally, right in the mix with LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma, is this Wisconsin team worthy of its ranking. Better yet, is it a legit contender for the title?
Yes, and yes.
The Badgers are big on each side of the line. They have amazing veteran skill players in Wilson, Ball and senior wide receiver Nick Toon. And defensively, the Badgers have allowed an average of just 10 points a game, worthy of a second national ranking in that category.
Looking forward, Wisconsin has an easier road to the BCS National Championship Game than LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma. And if the Badgers were to face one of those previously-named teams, Wisconsin has the size, playmakers and coaching to fair quite well.
Big upcoming matchups include road tests at Michigan State and Ohio State, both winnable games, nonetheless. They also face an undefeated Illinois team in Champagne, who may be underrated, but still untested.
After a close, heartbreaking loss last year in Pasadena, the Badgers are hungry for more—not just another Rose Bowl berth, but a chance to show the nation they're the best team in the land. And with the way they're playing right now, come January 9th, we very well may see this Badger team in New Orleans, holding the crystal football.