Big Ten

Russell Wilson Makes Wisconsin Favorites to Win Big Ten

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It’s official: Former NC State Wolfpack standout Russell Wilson will play one more season of college football.

Wilson has been playing minor league baseball for the Asheville Tourists—part of the Colorado Rockies system—who announced Wilson’s intention of playing another season of college football. The team did not make clear for which team Wilson would play, but a report from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and ESPN.com indicated that it would be the Badgers. The report has since been confirmed by Wisconsin. Wilson had also considered Auburn.

So now that we know where Wilson will play his final season of college football, what’s it mean for the Badgers, the Leaders Division and the Big Ten in general?

Thanks in part of the turmoil affecting Ohio State, Wisconsin had been considered by many the favorite to win the division despite questions as to who would replace Scott Tolzien at quarterback. With that question seemingly answered—although Wilson will of course have to learn the new offense and earn the starting job—Wisconsin jumped ahead of the Buckeyes as the favorite to earn a trip to the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in December. 

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Wisconsin boasts a very good ground game that, while it loses John Clay, returns James White and Montee Ball—both of whom were big parts of the 12th ranked rushing offense a year ago. Adding a proven quarterback like Wilson to the mix will only help the offense continue to put points on the board after it averaged 41.5 points per game a year ago.

Before Wilson’s arrival, there was concern that Jon Budmayr, the presumed starter, would not provide the Badgers with the consistency under center that they received from Tolzien. Wilson seems a good fit in the pro-style system used by the Badgers and given his experience, he is apparently the better option. Receiver Nick Toon will return in fall camp after recovering from foot surgery, giving Wilson a big-play type of guy to work with when he joins the team for fall camp.

Factor in a defense once again expected to be among the nation’s best, and Wisconsin is looking good for not only the Big Ten title, but perhaps an unexpected run at the national title if Wilson is able to come in this fall and quickly assert himself as a team leader, grasp the offense and gives the Badgers that missing piece.

I’m not ready to put Wisconsin in the preseason top ten or even declare them the undisputed favorites to win their conference (Nebraska or Michigan State could have something to say about that from the Legends Division, while Ohio State and Penn State won’t be steamrolled in the Leaders Division), but adding Wilson certainly helps.
Wisconsin will take on Michigan State and Ohio State on the road, but gets Nebraska and Penn State at home this year. The Badgers open the year at home against UNLV on Thursday, September 1.

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