When I say I'm a man of science, I'm not being completely hyperbolic. In a previous life, I would write up conference power polls based on a series of four marginal on-field statistics. (By that I mean the difference by the offensive and defensive performances. Man of science, after all). I would add in the Sagarin strength of schedule, and subtract five points for a loss.
It's no surprise that the Badgers offense has put them in last place by this metric. Worst offense in yards per play, second worst in points per play -- it's been the darkest possible timeline for the season. We do not look like a BCS team. We look like something else.
(I know your likely response, go ahead and say it to yourself, and pretend I sold it with a laugh.)
But, I'm here to say to you: this dark cloud has multiple silver linings. Join me after the jump and I will explain. Scientifically.
1. The return of Jared Abbrederis.
A part of the reason why the Badgers have had so much trouble offensively is because they haven't developed a reliable second receiver. Though interestingly enough, Matt Canada's not been the stentorian and inflexible coach we've all thought.
Balance Ratio via CFBstats.com
|Season||Run Plays (Percentage)||Pass Plays|
|2012||112 (59.8)||77 (40.2)|
|2011||609 (65)||328 (35)|
|2010||584 (68)||276 (32)|
|2009||581 (63)||340 (37)|
|2008||567 (63)||333 (37)|
|2007||587 (62.8)||347 (37.2)|
Now, there is a logical explanation of this. Without Abbrederis, the Badgers have not had a consistent threat to throw to in the passing game. I mean, he's missed most of the last seven quarters, and he's still tied for the lead in receptions. With seven. Seven other players have 36 catches split amongst them. No one else has stepped up.
This means they can overload the offensive line with playing the run. It also means that perhaps the Danny O'Brien move might be exactly as much of a panic move as it seems to me. But what's most important, Abbrederis will keep defenses more honest. And Montee Ball needs help.
2. The Defense: 3 Plays Away From Greatness.
I know 4.82 yards per play doesn't seem like an impressive amount. But what if I told you that in the past five full seasons, the worst 4.82 yards per play was good for was a tie for 26th place? And what if I told you the Badgers were 16th nationally and 17th per attempt against the run? This is a great performance for a front four that was a question mark and the linebackers have been pretty much as good as advertised. The reason why this defense isn't getting more plaudits is unfortunately obvious. But the defense is underrated.
"But wait!" a hypothetical reader might say. Haven't the Badgers not managed a turnover this year? And I say to the eagle-eyed reader, the Badgers haven't managed a turnover yet. But there's almost no correlation between the turnovers generated early in a season and overall turnover rate. So, there's a possibility of more short fields in the Badgers future.
3. The Badgers are 2nd in the Big Ten by the Sagarin Strength of Schedule.
Surprised me, too. But the fact of the matter is that we're in a world where soft schedules are a watchword. And a great FCS team, a decent Pac-12 team, and a mid-major that's got a real chance to win 10 games? That's not a top-20 schedule, but when we're discussing this in comparison to Purdue (one good team, a horrendous MAC team, and a decent FCS team), Illinois (a decent MAC team, a decent Pac-12 team, and Charleston Southern (which allowed more points to the Citadel)), and Minnesota (a bad Miountain West team, a decent FCS team, and Western Michigan, which is a decent MAC team).
So truth be told? This doesn't mean the Badgers are going to rally. But perhaps some of the seeming better performers are fixed to fall back to the pack. And the Badgers will achieve a level of health.
So I say to you. I still have hope. It may die hard. But I'm still on board.