Russell Wilson joining Wisconsin for the 2011 season has made the task for Oregon State in September seemingly all the more challenging. Many have the Badgers as the favorites in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten. Some pick the Badgers as the conference favorite and a few think they have a shot at making the National Championship game. The expectations are high for Wisconsin and Oregon State will have their work cut out for them come fall in Camp Randall Stadium.
Wisconsin had effective quarterback play last season and Wilson will have to win the starting job. Last year’s QB, Scott Tolzien had Canfield senior year like efficiency, completing over 70% of his passes. Wisconsin gained an impressive 9.2 yards per passing attempt which was 5th best in the country and best in the Big Ten. Ex-OSU offensive coordinator Paul Chryst calls the Badger offense and his results of late have been clearly more impressive than current Oregon State O.C. Danny Langsdorf.
Wilson threw and ran for 37 touchdowns for N.C. State in 2010, but rated lower in efficiency. Averaging nearly 40 passing attempts per game, he racked up 3,563 passing yards, a 1,000 more than Tolzien, but only netted 6.8 yards per attempt.
Wisconsin rushed over twice as many times as it passed in 2010, and the rushing attack gained 5.5 yards per attempt, good for 7th best in the nation. They will try to keep the run game going at a similar clip and Wilson won’t be required to be as much of the offense as in his Wolfpack days. It remains to be seen if Wilson will achieve as productive numbers with a better balanced team that doesn’t require him to carry it to the same extent. N.C. State in 2009 may provide an example. They ran as much as they passed and Wilson threw for 31 touchdowns, three more than 2010, in nearly 150 fewer attempts.
The Badgers last year combined a power running game with an efficient passing game. They will need Wilson to also complete a high % of his passes. Whether or not we see the same stat sheet from Wilson he undoubtedly is on a better team. Wisconsin lost to TCU in the Rose Bowl last year and they are eager to get back and win it. Oregon State typically has started seasons a bit slow and then warm up and finish strong under Riley. Last year was an exception but facing Stanford and Oregon at the end was a tough way to finish. I see this game going about like the Penn State visit a couple years back. I would like to see a stronger performance more like our trip to LSU in Baton Rouge, but Riley just hasn’t instilled enough confidence in Beaver Nation that we can hit the ground running in early high profile matchups. After breezing through Sacramento State the Beavers are likely to suffer a little shell shock in Madison. Pulling out a ‘W’ would be a huge win for Riley and his revamped staff but as long as they play a close game it should provide them the confidence to get back to a bowl game in 2011.