Preseason college football rankings: No. 8 Wisconsin

New Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson makes the Badgers an exciting title contender.

August 24, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • New Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson chat's with assistant coach Paul Chryst.
New Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson chat's with assistant… (M.P. King / Associated Press )

We say Wisconsin and you say: girth, milk, linemen, cheese, boring, proficient and power tools.

"Wisconsin is what it is," Badgers Coach Bret Bielema said at Big Ten media day. "We're not real sexy. I always say we're not the first girl taken for the prom, but we're not the last."

Someone just slapped lipstick on Porky Pig.

This may be the first year Wisconsin has ever been accused of being intriguing.

College football's most exciting off-season move did not involve a coach. It was quarterback Russell Wilson's announcement in June he was transferring from North Carolina State to Madison.

Imagine Lady Gaga moving to Sheboygan.

Flamboyance at quarterback has never really been Wisconsin's "thing." The Badgers prefer burly backs running behind bigger linemen with the quarterback acting as the dutiful game manager. Rock-steady Scott Tolzien barely raised his voice last season in leading Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl.

This year should be different. Wilson is a run-throw threat who passed for 8,545 yards and 76 touchdowns in three years at North Carolina State.

He used the NCAA's graduate transfer exception to sign with Wisconsin without having to sit out a year. Wilson also considered Auburn, which was looking to replace Cam Newton, but opted for the heartland.

Wilson was not promised the starting job, but he was willing to take his chances against what Wisconsin had returning. He might have been influenced by the fact the Badgers' offense failed to score a touchdown in the spring game.

Before Wilson arrived, the battle for Tolzien's job included Jon Budmayr and Joe Brennan.

"I was very open with Russell during the recruiting process," Bielema said. "You will have an opportunity to come in and show us what you can do. I think that's one of the things that attracted him to our program.

"We were honest, truthful. My parents said if you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said. That's what we said: come in, have this opportunity, take full advantage of it."

Wilson was named a co-captain last weekend.

He gives Wisconsin an east-west option to go with its north-south mentality. Opposing coordinators now have to deal with Wilson's legs and the hammerhead running back combination of Montee Ball and James White.

Wilson is a wild card who is not that wild. He might not match Tolzien's 72.9% completion rate last year, but at North Carolina State Wilson threw 379 consecutive passes without an interception.

Funny how fast things change. Ohio State was supposed to enter the season with senior quarterback Terrelle Pryor leading the Buckeyes to national title contention. Wisconsin was supposed to be scrambling for Tolzien's replacement.

As it turned out, Ohio State will be without Pryor while Wilson's arrival suddenly makes Wisconsin a title contender.

The countdown so far: 25. Texas; 24. Georgia; 23. Arkansas; 22. Arizona State; 21. West Virginia; 20. Auburn; 19. Ohio State; 18. USC; 17. Michigan State; 16. Florida; 15. Virginia Tech; 14. Texas A&M; 13. Texas Christian; 12. South Carolina; 11. Notre Dame; 10. Louisiana State; 9. Oklahoma State.

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