Badger fans, I know how you are feeling right now.
It's kind of a "Wow, this team looks like they could win it all, but I know they are going to find a way to blow it so I don't want to buy in yet."
You've never won a national championship before, so I get it. And I feel the same way about this team right now.
Through four games, Wisconsin is outscoring its four opponents 194-34. The Badgers have only allowed four touchdowns all season, with only two of those coming while the first-team defense was on the field.
But UW hasn't played any tough opponents yet. UNLV's defense was atrocious. Oregon State's offense was putrid. Northern Illinois wasn't nearly as good as once thought. And South Dakota was, well, South Dakota.
So here comes the No. 8 team in the country, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, into Camp Randall Stadium.
Las Vegas says the Badgers will win by at least nine points. Few experts think Nebraska has a shot. Everyone is picking Wisconsin.
So should you buy in? Is the National Championship a realistic possibility?
Reasons To Buy1) Russell Wilson - OK, let's get the obvious reason out of the way. Admit it, Wilson is even better than you thought he'd be. Wisconsin has never had a quarterback this good. Better yet, I'm not sure they've ever had a quarterback this eager to win, and that's saying a lot because Wisconsin has a history of great leadership at the quarterback position. Through four weeks a year ago, Wisconsin's passing offense ranked 55th in the country and eighth in the Big Ten. This year, it's 21st in the country and No. 1 in the Big Ten.
2) Lack of turnovers - The Badgers are once again one of the best teams in the country at holding onto the football. They only have two turnovers this season. Only four teams in the country rank better with only one turnover. Badger running backs haven't fumbled the ball in over a year, which is ridiculous. Ball security is huge and few teams do it better than Wisconsin.
3) Chris Borland is healthy and the defense looks good - We don't want to jinx anything, but Borland is starting to look like his old self and he is settling into the middle linebacker position. The coaches let him blitz more last week and he looked good doing it. Sure, the defense hasn't played anyone yet, but despite UW's poor non-conference schedule, it's probably still better than last season's non-conference slate and the defense is performing much better. It allowed 14.25 points through four weeks a year ago (15th nationally) and this year it is third in the country, allowing just 8.5 points per game.
4) Nick Toon is finally emerging as a legit No. 1, NFL-type receiver - At the end of last season, tight end Lance Kendricks was UW's leading receiver with just 3.31 receptions per game and 51 receiving yards per game. Neither output ranked him in the top 100 in the country. This year, Toon ranks 64th with 5.25 receptions per game and 38th with 88.25 yards per game. Sure, it helps to have Wilson, but remember, when Scott Tolzien threw the ball last season, he usually completed it, unless his receivers -- especially Toon -- dropped it. Oh and you know how Kendricks led the team with 51 receiving yards per game last year? Not only is Toon above that mark, but Jared Abbrederis is averaging 58.25 receiving yards per game though four weeks.
5) The running backs are the same - Despite an offensive line that has not been as dominant as last year's line, Montee Ball's rushing average (90 yards per game) is pretty much right where it was at the end of last season (92 yards per game). James White's average is a little lower, but he's not getting as many carries and it's understandable for the rushing numbers to be down slightly because Wisconsin isn't relying on the run game as much this year. Still, comparing this year's numbers to last year's numbers after four games, Wisconsin is averaging just about 12 yards less per game (257.5 in 2010 after four games and 245.69 this year). That's a good sign.
Reasons To Sell1) Penalties - The Badgers led the country in fewest penalties last season and it's alarming that they have become an issue this season. They had only 41 penalties as a team in 2010 and they have 24 already this year. That's six a game. The only time they had six last season was when they racked up that many in the Rose Bowl. Considering the Badgers have yet to play in a meaningful game, what happens when the pressure is on Saturday? This is something to be worried about.
2) The kicking game - There's a chance Philip Welch will return Saturday and that would certainly help, but considering he hasn't kicked in a game yet this season and he missed a big field goal in the Rose Bowl, Welch isn't exactly a reliable option. With that said, he's got to be better than Kyle French, who has struggled this season. Meanwhile, kickoff specialist Alec Lerner doesn't seem to be able to put the ball in the end zone and he's kicked it out of bounds a bunch of times. All of these problems have occurred against bad teams. What's going to happen in the fourth quarter of a tight ball game?
3) The schedule - This year's slate is notably harder because of the road games. Wisconsin will once again have to go to Michigan State, where it lost last year, but now it also plays on the road at Ohio State, instead of getting the Buckeyes at home. And now that game at Illinois Nov. 19 is looking harder and harder as well. If we're talking about a national championship, Wisconsin is going to have to run the table and it's not going to be easy to go 3-0 in those three games.
4) Offensive line - Relax. The line is still good, but it doesn't appear to be quite as dominant at run blocking as it was a year ago. Some of the uncharacteristic penalties have come from the o-line as well. I should mention that even last year's line got off to a somewhat slow start. We should get a better idea of how good it will be this season when we see it go up against Nebraska's dominant defensive line Saturday.
5) Injuries - There haven't been any devastating injuries yet (although the loss of Devin Smith hurts), but they have been a pretty big issue since the first week of training camp. Wisconsin was able to fight through a lot of nagging injuries to key players a season ago -- and even a huge one to Chris Borland -- and make the Rose Bowl, but injuries are never a good thing.
So, are you buying in?