Unfair expectations for transfer QB O'Brien

If you thought the O'Brien experience was bad, it could be worse ... look at Kansas. - Jonathan Ferrey

Now that we've all seen the ascension of Russell Wilson to NFL starting quarterback in addition to a dismal start of the season for the Wisconsin running game (and now some staff turmoil), people are gaining a deeper appreciation for the stability and brilliance the Badgers had under center last season.

After a narrow Week 1 victory in which he was a bright spot, you can already hear the jeers calling for poor Danny O'Brien's head. Behind O'Brien, Wisconsin's offense was forced into six 3-and-outs (compared to three for Oregon St.) and two turnovers on downs (3 for OSU). A dreadful game all around.

But it's not really O'Brien's fault, is it? That he's not Russell Wilson? C'mon. Bielema certainly doesn't think so if he fired Mike Markuson. And couldn't it have been even worse? Keep in mind that O'Brien wasn't even Wisconsin's first choice for its second transfer quarterback.

Dayne Crist ring a bell anyone?

Crist was the first potential heir apparent to Wilson. A Notre Dame washout whom many Badger fans have possibly scraped from their memories by now. He spurned Bret Bielema's courting to follow Charlie Weis to Kansas. Through two games, Crist doesn't look like anything close to a savior in Lawrence either.

Keep in mind Wilson didn't play a road game until his seventh game in a Badger uniform (and he played one FCS school, South Dakota*). O'Brien went out to the West Coast for his second start; Crist has already lost at home as a Jayhawk.

Dayne Crist, Kansas (2012)

Game Result Comp Att % Yards Yds/Att TD Int Rating Sacks Fum Lost Rush Yds Rush TD
S. Dakota St. W (31-17) 17 36 47.2 169 4.7 1 1 90.26 1 0 -6 0
Rice L (24-25) 16 28 57.1 144 5.1 1 2 97.83 1 0 -5 0
2-gm Totals 1-1 33 64 51.6 313 4.9 2 3 93.57 2 0 -11 0

Danny O'Brien, Wisconsin (2012)

Game Result Comp Att % Yards Yds/Att TD Int Rating Sacks Fum Lost Rush Yds Rush TD
N. Iowa W (26-21) 19 23 82.6 219 9.5 2 0 191.29 1 0 3 0
at Oregon St. L (7-10) 20 38 52.6 172 4.5 1 1 94.08 3 1 -35 0
2-gm Totals 1-1 39 61 62.2. 391 6.4 3 1 130.72 4 1 -32 0

Russell Wilson, Wisconsin (2011)

Game Result Comp Att % Yards Yds/Att TD Int Rating Sacks Fum Lost Rush Yds Rush TD
UNLV W (51-17) 10 13 76.9 255 19.6 2 0 292.46 0 0 62 1
Oregon St. W (35-0) 17 21 81.0 189 9.0 3 0 203.69 1 0 11 0
2-gm Totals 2-0 27 34 79.4 444 13.1 5 0 237.64 1 0 73 1

(Data courtesy of cfbstats.com)

As you can see in the tables above, from a production standpoint there simply wasn't a quarterback on Wilson's level on the free agent market this past offseason. Nor teammates at either school as talented as the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers. The most glaring difference is that Wilson and last year's offense was so much more explosive than anything we've seen this year. Part of that has to fall on onfensive coordinator Matt Canada too, and I assume it would have been a problem no matter who was UW's starting QB this season.

Instead of Crist coming to Madison, O'Brien came over from Maryland -- albeit with a mixed resume. People assumed the junior would more than serviceable behind a revamped offensive line. Though expectations weren't as high as they would have been with Wilson returning, O'Brien didn't get much slack. Wisconsin was a "shoo-in" for the Big Ten title game thanks to scandals at Ohio State and Penn State; the national media and coaches voted UW the consensus No. 12 team in the land during the preseason despite all the turnover on the coaching staff and major question marks on the roster.

And that wasn't fair.

Both coach and player acknowledged before the season how ridiculous comparisons to Wilson are. And now we are seeing how right they both were.

*I previously stated Wilson never played an FCS school, which was incorrect.

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For more Wisconsin coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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