Let's cut to the chase here, Wisconsin isn't supposed to be where it is right now, not techncally. The five recruiting classes making up this year's squad held an average rank of 41.6 (the 2010 class didn't make the rankings so I gave them a generous rank of 50) at Rivals.com, far below the benchmarks set by the conference's most consistent recruiters. Ohio State (11.6 average), Michigan (14.2), Nebraska (21.6) and Penn State (27.6) all technically have better talent, and should be atop Wisconsin in the polls if recruiting rankings are to be trusted.
Wisconsin's ascent can be explained as some beautiful combination of player development along the lines, a defense that actually believes this "next man in" stuff, and Russell Wilson (except Scott Tolzien, so I don't know). The big question is whether the model is sustainable, or whether we are doomed to crash back to earth in two years like this year's Iowa, a team that's idling somewhere between meh and bleh.
Recruiting services often get it wrong on a case-by-case basis (obviously), but as a general barometer they do pretty well. For example, the three teams atop both major polls this week all ranked within the top 15 for every recruiting class since 2007. Wisconsin has some natural deficiencies when it comes to recruiting. The weather sucks for half the school year and the area doesn't produce great athletes at the same unholy rate of Ohio or Texas. But a school with solid academics, a fun campus, and a well-funded and rabid athletic atmosphere should be an easy sell to any high schooler, right?
The difference as near as I can figure is history. Schools like Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State have established themselves as namebrands through multiple decades of success, while Wisconsin is still relatively new to the scene. Which is why this season is doubly important. 2011 has the potential to be a culture-defining year for the Badgers, especially if they wind up in New Orleans by some miracle. With the proper momentum in the recruiting game, the Badgers could stake a regular position as a college football "elite." Then we could have this much fun every year.
Not a ton of links coming off the bye week:
Jerry Kill says his Gophers are soft, slow and undisciplined. Now, he's NOT saying that it's all Tim Brewster's fault. But it's all Tim Brewster's fault.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel documents the stellar play of Wisconsin's defensive backups in place of injured starters.
Indiana actually showed some life in the first quarter before Saturday's game against Illinois turned into a rout.