In regard to the Heisman, all anyone could talk about after the Badgers knocked off Nebraska Oct. 1 was the gaudy numbers Russell Wilson was putting up. The man was putting up elite statlines while only attempting 20-25 passes per game -- the ultimate efficiency guy. But when a Hail Mary and miraculous last-minute drive cost Wisconsin two consecutive games, the Badgers tumbled in the polls, and Wilson's Heisman stock fell with them.
Unfortunately, that's the way things are in the BCS-driven world of college football of 2011: when your team isn't contending for a BCS bowl, its players -- for some reason -- can't contend for the game's highest individual honor. But it only took the Badgers about three weeks to reassert themselves as frontrunners in the Big Ten race, so it might be time for Heisman voters to readjust their perspectives once again. And now, Wisconsin has two candidates one could argue have the credentials to earn a trip to New York in a few weeks.
Russell Wilson still has the elite numbers you look for in a Heisman candidate. He leads the nation in yards per attempt (11.1) and quarterback rating (201.6). He also ranks in the top 10 nationally in completion percentage (73.4), touchdown-to-interception ratio (8.3:1) and touchdown passes (25). He had a rough start against Michigan State, but shined down the stretch in leading the Badgers back into the game and back against Ohio State the next week, only to be let down by Wisconsin's defense both times. Even more impressive, Wilson has faced as many top 40 defenses (three) as Brandon Weeden, Andrew Luck, Kellen Moore and Case Keenum have combined to face.
At this point, Montee Ball may have an even better Heisman resume than Wilson. He already owns the Big Ten single season touchdowns record with 27, and has a chance make a run at Barry Sanders' NCAA record of 39. In addition to leading the nation in touchdowns, Ball ranks fifth in rushing yards (1,242) and 15th in yards per attempt (6.7). His numbers compare favorably to Alabama's Trent Richardson's and more or less equally to Oregon's LaMichael James.
Will two Badgers be invited to New York City for the Heisman ceremony in early December? Probably not, but they certainly have a case as things stand right now. Strong performances to close the regular season and in the Big Ten Championship game (yes, they have to win it for either to have a chance) would certainly help.
Here's a scouting report on the Badgers' next opponent, Illinois.
The Illini are currently on a four-game losing streak, and head coach Ron Zook's seat is getting warmer.
In fact, the author of a Chicago Tribune column writes, "Unless [Zook] pulls off a major upset over Wisconsin, this looks like it will be his last season at Illinois."
Tight end Jake Byrne has been so valuable as a blocker this season that he only has one catch all year.
How the Badgers ran and passed in week 11.
Jim Polzin previews tonight's game against Colgate.
Josh Gasser worked hard to improve his shooting touch in the offseason. So far, so good.