Wisconsin's Best Move Is to Hire Bo Pelini as Badgers New Head Coach

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2014

Nov 15, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Bo Pelini (left) greets Wisconsin Badgers head coach Gary Andersen following the game at Camp Randall Stadium.  Wisconsin won 59-24.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

It might seem crazy, but Bo Pelini would look pretty good in Wisconsin red and white. He's already got plenty of that color pallet in his closet, not to mention the kind of coaching traits the Badgers should be looking for in their next coach.

The college football coaching carousel reached peak "silly season" with Wednesday's news that Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen had accepted the job at Oregon State.

Andersen's departure comes six days after Oregon State had a sudden opening, with Mike Riley leaving after 14 seasons to take the Nebraska job. That gig was open because the Cornhuskers decided Pelini, who had won at least nine games in each of his seven seasons, wasn't the answer.

One team's trash could be another team's treasure, especially with Wisconsin finding itself in need of a coach for the second time in three years.

While the scenario itself may never come to fruition, it's hard to imagine Wisconsin could find a better coach than Pelini, who went 67-27 at Nebraska and helped make the program's transition from the Big 12 to the Big Ten a seamless one. That move took the Cornhuskers farther from the Texas recruiting landscape they had cultivated for decades to one that relied more on finding diamonds in the rough and developing stars rather than landing them.

Two examples: senior running back Ameer Abdullah was a 3-star prospect from Alabama that picked Nebraska because Pelini wanted him as a running back while most other schools had him pegged as a cornerback, and junior defensive end Randy Gregory ended up with the Cornhuskers after washing out at Purdue and then spending time in junior college.

Wisconsin has ranked at a similar level as Nebraska on the recruiting trail, listed by 247Sports as having the No. 33 class in 2014 compared to Nebraska's No. 36 class, so Pelini would be a guy able to work with the same kind of talent.

Pelini also always had a standout rusher at Nebraska, with Abdullah the latest following the likes of Rex Burkhead and Roy Helu. Wisconsin is also a running back factory, so Pelini's offensive style would fit in Madison.

More than anything, what makes Pelini a great fit with Wisconsin comes in the reputation category. After seeing Andersen jump ship just two years after Bret Bielema abruptly left, it might be better off bringing in someone looking for redemption rather than a resume boost.

Andersen was at Wisconsin for less than two seasons, going 19-7 and showing little drop-off from the success that Bielema had from 2006-2012. Bielema shockingly left in December 2012 to take the job at Arkansas, and athletic director Barry Alvarez tabbed Utah State's Andersen as the successor.

Bielema was the heir apparent to Alvarez, chosen by him after Alvarez retired from coaching in 2005.

Pelini reportedly was offered the job at FCS Youngstown State, but Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated tweeted late Tuesday that Pelini had denied such rumors.

Wisconsin crushed Nebraska 59-24 on Nov. 15, a game in which Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon ran for a then-FBS-record 408 yards. Pelini was fired two weeks later, despite a 9-3 record, while Andersen's Badgers won the Big Ten's West Division but then were dominated 59-0 by Ohio State in the conference title game on Saturday.

Alvarez has yet to name an interim coach to run the team for its game Jan. 1 against Auburn in the Outback Bowl, though Wednesday he did say "My goal is to have somebody in place before the bowl game," according to Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

Alvarez coached the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl after Bielema left, losing 20-14 to Stanford.

Pelini would also bring some much-appreciated defensive grit. The Badgers ranked fourth in the country in yards allowed this season, even after getting run over by Ohio State, and Pelini's background has been on that side of the ball.

Nebraska struggled at times on defense this year, but from 2009-2013 his teams ranked in the top 40 in yards allowed every season.

Prior to running Nebraska, he spent five seasons as a defensive coordinator, including three years as Les Miles' DC at LSU from 2005-07.

That experience could bode well for the Badgers, who open the 2015 season in Arlington, Texas, against Alabama.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.

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