2012 Wisconsin Badgers Football Preview
The Wisconsin Badgers have played in each of the past two Rose Bowls. They won the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game last December. They remained in the top tier of the Big Ten largely because they were able to get a quarterback who transferred from a school in the Atlantic Coast Conference. What more could possibly happen to keep Wisconsin prosperous, relevant and optimistic heading into its 2012 season?
Getting yet another quarterback as the result of a transfer from an ACC program, that's how.
A year ago, Wisconsin's Big Ten-winning season was made possible well before the opening kickoff in early September. Russell Wilson, the quarterback at North Carolina State, made the decision to transfer to Wisconsin for his senior season, giving the Badgers a ready-made dual-threat quarterback with abundant talents and dazzling athleticism. Wilson was shaky in road games, but he was almost untouchable at home, and in a weak Big Ten Leaders Division that was partially affected by Ohio State's fall from grace in the wake of scandal, the Badgers were able to win the Leaders championship and face Michigan State for the conference crown in Indianapolis.
Now, Wisconsin has caught the same bolt of lightning in the same bottle, improbable as that seems.
Danny O'Brien, the quarterback at the University of Maryland, tired of the (lack of) direction he received under Terrapin head coach Randy Edsall. He narrowed his transfer choices to Penn State and Wisconsin, and after visiting both campuses, he took the Badgers. Quarterback was going to be a problem for UW this season, but O'Brien's presence as a capable pocket passer will diminish head coach Bret Bielema's worries. Wisconsin is entering this season with a new offensive coordinator as well. Former coordinator Paul Chryst took the open head coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh, and Bielema replaced him with Matt Canada. Having a relatively proven signal caller will give Canada and Bielema a smoother transition than they might have expected back in January, when they were just beginning to plan for 2012. O'Brien's decision making is still shaky at times, and he's nowhere close to Wilson as a runner out of the pocket, but he has a major-league arm that can extend opposing secondaries and move linebackers away from the line of scrimmage. When this happens, the Badgers can run the ball between the tackles behind their huge offensive line. O'Brien is the key to Wisconsin's season. He is in position to make the Badgers' 2012 season a lot like their 2011 campaign.
Another Rose Bowl berth? Yes, Wisconsin could certainly live with that.
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