Smart Football tackled an interesting discussion last week on how elite level teams sustain themselves through gonzo recruiting, how "system" teams sustain themselves through targeted recruiting and player development, and how having an identity is essentially how the have-nots keep up with the haves.
The part about quarterbacks is key here (long paste coming):
Moreover, spread offenses, option offenses, and really any pass-first offense (including West Coast attacks of which I'd put Georgia in the category) require very good quarterback play. Alabama and LSU are basically designed to win in spite of their quarterbacks; Nick Saban does not want to return an all world defense with a bunch of five-star playmakers and lose because his QB was a junior and had some "growing pains", which absolutely happens at every level. In other words, if you get be a top 5 recruiting team every year, it's not that you want to be pro-style it's that you want to be "system neutral." ...
I do think quarterback is the X factor for every single college and pro team nowadays, with extremely rare exceptions. The most "pro-style"-ist pro teams need great quarterbacking, but teams like LSU and Alabama do not. The reason: compared to their opponents, LSU and Alabama are simply much better teams, advantages that pro teams and very few, if any, other college teams have.
Wisconsin is odd in that it fits both of Chris' molds to some extent. Quarterback has arguably been the x-factor this season and last, when Wisconsin has been among the elite teams in the nation behind an extremely accurate Scott Tolzien and a once-in-a-generation talent like Russell Wilson. It is also true that Wisconsin has won in the past in spite of sub-optimal quarterbacking and non-elite recruiting. In 2006, Paul Chryst's second year as offensive coordinator, the Badgers went 12-1 and averaged just over 29 points per game with a true freshman at running back and John Stocco completing less than 60 percent of his passes. In 2008, during the Allan Evridge/Dustin Sherer boondoggle, the Badgers still managed over 27 points per game, putting them in the Top 50 of the FBS with a pair of quarterbacks that threw 10 interceptions to 11 touchdowns on the season.
Crist is big. Crist turned the ball over a bit too much at ND. Crist doesn't have the all-world gun that maybe Notre Dame thought they were getting. Those things don't matter as much as you think. He played at Notre Dame in an offensive system that really hasn't made any waves against decent defenses. He hasn't been supported by a big-time running game. So any positives that Crist can offer the Badgers is going to be magnified by the Wisconsin offensive system. Remember, Russell Wilson had some well-documented struggles with interceptions at NC State. Then he threw up a 31/3 TD/INT ratio for Wisconsin.
An uncanny ability to identify and develop talent along the offensive line and at running back will do that, which is all the more testament to the incredible job Bob Bostad and Tom Hammock have done. It is also a testament to Chryst, who has overseen the best offensive teams that Wisconsin has ever had. His departure will be a major blow to the Badgers, especially if it happens before a 2012 season that could feature someone completely green under center.
Conversely, couple Chryst's return with someone like Crist under center, and Wisconsin could be favored to make another run at a conference title. Crist isn't the quarterback that Wilson was/is, that much we know. We also know that he doesn't have to be. If Crist can be "good enough" he can be the x-factor Wisconsin needs to go Rose Bowling again, not to mention rejuvenate a career that looked so promising coming out of high school.
Speaking of which, Ball is Matt Hinton's second-most overachieving player of 2011.
Wisconsin blames distractions in part for last year's loss in Pasadena.
The State Journal is taking a look at a key matchup against Oregon every day leading up to the Rose Bowl. Sunday broke down the quarterbacks.
FishDuck does an informative breakdown of Wisconsin's strengths and weaknesses on defense.
Photo Gallery: Your year in Wisconsin spirit.