For 25 years, the Badgers football program has had its greatest long-term renaissance. Six Rose Bowl appearances, with three victories, and constant presence in the college football top 25 rankings.
Wisconsin has excelled at two particular things quintessential with the program's agent of change and consistency, Barry Alvarez - the running game and defense. They have a strong recruiting base (offensive line, running back, defense) and have built a program where they contend every year for the Big Ten title and sometimes win it.
But after getting closer year after year in that quarter century, there seems to be a desire for more. For Wisconsin to truly meet the hope of actually contending for and winning a national championship - an opportunity they lost after losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten Title Game on Saturday night, leading to an Orange Bowl appearance instead.
Notice something in the history of Wisconsin football:
- Number of consensus All-American QB's: 0
- Number of national championships: 0
Not every national title winner has a great quarterback. But more often than not in recent history, the national title winner has had better-than-a-game-manager quarterbacking. Playmaking QB's.
The only two times Wisconsin has ever sniffed a national title:
- 1962: Ron Vander Kelen (5 points away from beating No. 1 USC in the Rose Bowl)
- 2011: Russell Wilson (two enemy Hail Mary's away from playing in the BCS Title Game)
Having covered the Badgers for years with their radio network, I've learned not to give college athletes too much criticism. I won't denigrate Darrell Bevell, Brooks Bollinger, Jim Sorgi, John Stocco, Scott Tolzein and other predecessors at the position who gave their all, but few of them stepped beyond "game-manager" status at a championship consistency.
Alex Hornibrook is who he is: A courageous QB who is mistake prone (like all college-age kids are) but tries his best. He played with a ton of heart Saturday night in the 4th quarter against Ohio State, but the athleticism of OSU was too much.
If the standard is winning national titles or at least contending for them, the Wisconsin program of recruiting needs to be looked at. The Badgers will not get as many 4-star or 5-star recruits as the Alabama's of the world, but getting a 5-star QB can be as valuable as getting four or five 5-star players at other positions.
And yes, as the Wilson-led offense proved in 2011, Paul Chryst will open up the playbook and the passing game if the talent is there.
What do you think?
- Are you OK with the standard being contention/occasional success in winning Big Ten titles?
- Or is the standard now winning national championships? And if this is the standard, does Wisconsin need to raise its recruiting game, particularly at the quarterback position?