Hughes: Ingredients for a Badger Thanksgiving

first_imgIn this world, there are few things as intricately and beautifully composed as a Thanksgiving meal.It gets down to the cornerstone of any real spread with the presence of meat and potatoes, which happen to be showered in yummy gravy. There is also a large, round and golden turkey, which is flanked by plenty of other goodies.Although there have been plenty of hiccups this season and the nefarious BCS system still refuses to rank the Wisconsin football team in the top 15 of the country, I still believe there are few teams as intricately and beautifully composed as the Badgers (maybe we can exclude the whole special teams part).To some degree, this season might seem like a disappointment to some fans, since there was once legitimate discussion of a national title appearance. But in a system where teams are more or less handpicked to contend for championships and when you consider just how the Badgers lost their two games, I’m not too bent out of shape about what Wisconsin may have missed out on.There is, after all, still the Granddaddy of Them All to chase down, and Barry Alvarez’s three Rose Bowl teams didn’t exactly have spotless regular seasons either. This team is just as deserving as those three.The 1993 edition lost to an unranked Minnesota team and later tied No. 3 Ohio State at home. Rose Bowl 1998’s squad lost one game on the road to lower-ranked Michigan by 17 points, and in 1999, Wisconsin began the year 2-2, losing on the road to unranked Cincinnati and at home to No. 4 Michigan.Still, those teams are remembered as wonderfully composed squads – the best Wisconsin has ever seen. This year’s Badgers could do the same, as they have all the ingredients of a Thanksgiving meal.Turkey – Running back Montee BallAs in the main course, a true pi?ce de r?sistance. Ball has carried the rock 239 times out of a total of 725 UW plays this season and has had a hand in 31 of Wisconsin’s 68 touchdowns.He’s covered more ground (1,699 total yards) than any running back in the nation and knows the endzone so well he could be a tour guide for anyone else in the country. Ball’s season has been so delicious that he’s gained more yards on the ground than Ron Dayne did in two of his four years as a starter. Ball has also scored far and away more touchdowns than the Heisman winner ever did in one season.Potatoes – The offensive lineEver hear the expression “meat and potatoes”? That is what a line is all about in an offense. It gets the big gears rolling and that is exactly what Wisconsin’s blockers have done this year.Travis Frederick, Josh Oglesby, Peter Konz, Ricky Wagner and Kevin Zeitler have all had imperfect games, but they’ve kept the quarterback’s pocket well-fortified this season, allowing less than two sacks per game.And, obviously, a good portion of Ball’s success is owed to this line. But here’s how good Wisconsin is at keeping defenders out of the backfield: on all rushing plays that resulted in yards lost, Wisconsin has lost a total of 59 yards on the season compared to a total of 2,125 yards gained (between Ball and James White). That comes to an average of 5.3 yards lost per game, which basically means UW allows a tackle-for-loss just once or twice a week. That is pure gravy.Stuffing – Linebackers Chris Borland & Mike TaylorWith their knack for stuffing the opponent’s run game and any receiver who crosses over the middle, Borland and Taylor earn the designation of Thanksgiving’s most delicious dish.Taylor is eighth in the country with 121 tackles and Borland is 11th with 118, and nobody has stalked ball carriers like this in recent memory for Wisconsin. Leading tacklers since 2005 have typically finished in the 50-70 range. Jaevery McFadden accumulated the most in one season over that time with 84 in 2008.Cranberry sauce – Safety Aaron HenryJust like the taste of this Thanksgiving relish, Henry’s play has been oh-so-sweet this season. The safety has amassed 51 tackles (a number that, in years past, might lead the team), nosed around for three tackles for a loss, grabbed three interceptions and denied nine other passes.Pumpkin pie – Quarterback Russell WilsonDessert: the luxury item. Wilson suiting up as a Badger proved the deus ex machina is more than just a plot device for movies and novels. On a team known for having game-managers rather than playmakers at quarterback, Wilson is putting together the best season any Wisconsin QB has ever seen, leading the nation with a 199.27 passer rating.He will likely finish inside the top three for most passing yards in a season for Wisconsin, and first in completion percentage, passing touchdowns and pass efficiency – the latter of which is likely to stand for decades.And that calls for some whipped cream on top.Elliot is a senior majoring in journalism. Do you think Wisconsin is as good as a Thanksgiving meal? Compare the team to your favorite foods by emailing him at ehughes@badgerherald.com or tweeting @BHeraldSports.last_img

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