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Wisconsin’s offense is very boring. That’s probably intentional.

A theory for why the Badgers have been incredibly vanilla on offense this season.

Maryland v Wisconsin
“They won’t expect a 16th outside zone this half.” (I’m not mad about it)
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

I have a theory about the Wisconsin Badgers’ offense under Paul Chryst: I believe he intentionally waters down the offense against bad teams.

While I don’t have any cumulative data, I went through and charted the Badgers’ offense vs. Illinois. Here’s what I found:

  • Wisconsin ran 60 plays
  • 40 were runs
  • 20 were passes

Even further:

  • 6 of the runs were counters
  • 10 or 11 of the runs were outside-zone

I am wrong a lot—ask anybody—but it’s become seemingly more and more obvious to me thus far that the Badgers, who haven’t trailed during the second half of a game this season, simply trust that their base game plan will beat inferior opponents, and that they don’t need to show anything more elaborate leading up to the final three or four games of the regular season and/or the Big Ten championship game.

As I was sitting in the snow in Champaign, watching the Badgers bludgeon the Illini with their defense and screaming “BIG TEN FOOTBALL” to the enjoyment of those around me, it occurred to me that Wisconsin has yet to run the play-action TE Drag Seam play they ran vs. LSU with success, as well as against Nebraska last season with success.

While a lot can change over a year, and coaches are constantly updating and upgrading their playbooks, it’s important to remember that coaches are creatures of habit, and that they’ll return to things that were successful in the past. Many have lauded Chryst as one of the best play callers in the nation, and I agree with that praise. However, it’s painfully apparent that Wisconsin isn’t pushing any boundaries offensively, and it’s likely with good reason.

As a result, the Wisconsin running game’s struggles—as well as most of the passing game’s—can be attributed to this. In other words, the coaching staff’s philosophy has been, “Our base stuff will beat them.” And it has. However, against much more talented teams, the base won’t get it done.

For those who will look back down memory lane with me, when the Badgers scored 84 points vs. Indiana and 76 vs Northwestern in 2010, Wisconsin wasn’t doing anything wild. It was simply overwhelming up front and at running back. Those teams were more talented offensively, and you see the results were different. Still, I digress, that’s another topic for another time.

The point of this whole rambling is mostly this: Look for Wisconsin to greatly expand its offense, possibly against Indiana, but most definitely against Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota. It will make things easier on the players to execute, and will essentially just be concepts and plays the other team doesn’t know to be prepared for. Chryst has orchestrated some fun offenses in the past, and I think this one can be too, just not yet.

Good things come to those who wait.