There’s only one team you can call elite right now in the Big Ten, and it’s not the traditional powers- the Ohio State Buckeyes (things will get worse before they get better) or Michigan Wolverines (decent start, but they always start fast, only to fade later in recent years). It’s not the two conference teams beyond the fringes of Big 10 country either- Nebraska Cornhuskers (defense looks terrible right now) and Penn State Nittany Lions (big time issues at quarterback, plenty of other places).
And the best team in the Midwest is certainly not Notre Dame (you can commence laughing now).
The only program that could compete for a national title this season is in Madison, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is one of just six teams in the nation averaging at least 220 yards a game rushing, and they’ve won 31 straight non-conference games, which is second only to LSU. In the Big Ten Leaders division, the only team that looks like it could possibly challenge them in the division is the Illinois Fighting Illini, largely because they have a powerful rushing attack like the Badgers.
In addition to vaunted ground attack, the Badgers have a top ranked NFL talent at WR in Nick Toon and the most exciting and explosive dual threat quarterback in school history with Russell Wilson.
“I have been in this profession for a while and you can see guys that naturally got a little bit of something to them, some moxie, some savvy, some God-given ability that makes him love every single minute of the day. Russell is a guy that has been very impressive. You’ve heard me say it a million times but I think people will see that. For instance when NFL scouts come in, when visitors are at practice, they are just amazed at the way he works. And today you saw why,” Head Coach Bret Bielema said of his QB, now a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender.
Fresh off their 49-7 pasting of the NIU Huskies at the home of the Chicago Bears, Northern Illinois quaterback Chandler Harnish, himself a NFL prospect had big praise for Sconnie.
“I thought they played awesome,” Harnish said.
“They were on point, and their defense flew around and linebackers were all over the place. No question they’re a top ten team and I wouldn’t be surprised if they set themselves up for something special in the future.”
So why is Wisconsin so good? Part of it is their system, articulated by Badger safety Aaron Henry.
“Coach B. kind of brain-washes players when they first get here about doing things the Wisconsin way, and that’s doing it right and making sure you’re clean, and making sure you’re flying to the ball no matter what,” Henry said.
And although we really haven’t touched on it much in this piece, there’s that Badger defense. They’re extremely talented, but they fly under the radar, because of all the headlines the offense receives.
“Our best reps are against our offense,” Henry said at the home of the Chicago Bears last Saturday.
“Unfortunately, we’re only allowed to have so many against them being that we’re going against opponents like this who run something different, but any time we go against them in practice we try to get the worst out of them, and I’m sure they’re trying to get the worst out of us, so eventually they’ll get the best out of us, and vice versa when it’s all said and done.”
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
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