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Under The Hood: Wisconsin Badgers

As we get into the stretch run of this 2006 season, it's reasonable to say that we've got most teams pegged by now. We can't predict the winner of every game, but there's a general consensus surounding just about every team.

But not all of 'em.

And one of those teams that's driving us bloggers bonkers is Wisconsin. How good are these Badgers, anyway?

We don't have time to get into -too- much detail, but let's take a snapshot of what Wisconsin's accomplished thus far, and see what we can learn about 'em.

Bowling Green W 35-14
Western Illinois W 34-10
San Diego State W 14-0
@Michigan L 27-13
@Indiana W 52-17
Northwestern W 41-9
Minnesota W 48-12
@Purdue W 24-3
Illinois W 30-24
Penn State W 13-3

Margin of victory: +20.6 points

Their opponents have a combined record of 37-52 record for the season. As another rough guide, Jeff Sagarin rates their schedule as the 61st toughest in Division 1 football. How is Wisconsin performing statistically? Below are tables of Wisconsin's season totals, with national rank in parentheses.

Wisconsin By The Numbers: Offense
Rush YPG Rush YPC Touchdowns Pass YPG Pass YPA Touchdowns QB Rating Total Offense Scoring Offense
183.6 (19) 4.35 (40) 20 (9) 200.7 (56) 8.2 (18) 15 (42) 143.94 (26) 384.3 (30) 30.4 (23)
Wisconsin By The Numbers: Defense
Rush YPG Rush YPA Pass YPG Pass YPA Total Defense Scoring Defense
107.4 (29) 3.50 (44)) 138.5 (3) 4.6 (1) 245.9 (6) 11.9 (6)

The next, final, step, is to put those numbers into context. The following chart shows the national rank in total offense and total defense for each of Wisconsin's 2006 opponents. Western Illinois, a Div 1AA team, is excluded.

Wisconsin's Opponents' Positional Ranks
Total Offense Rank Opponent Total Defense Rank
Bowling Green
San Diego State
Penn State

Looking at all the above data, then, what can we conclude about Wisconsin?

*The margin of victory is nice; at just over 20 points per game, that means the Badgers are doing a good job of taking care of the business that they're supposed to.

*The ineptitude of a number of their opponents is striking. Over half of the offenses they've faced are outside the top fifty, and another sits at #48. The defensive numbers - impressive without context - aren't as impressive when all things are considered.

*Wisconsin's own offensive numbers - roughly top third nationally - have come against some pretty lousy defenses. Illinois, Penn State, and Michigan are excellent, but outside those three teams, the defenses are pretty bad.

Can we draw any firm conclusions about Wisconsin, then? I'm loathe to admit this, considering all the work I just put into trying to answer this conclusion, but it's not terribly clear that we can. Wisconsin's pretty much done what a good team is suppose to do to bad teams, and got beat solidly by the only truly good team it played.

All of which means that we're back where we started; Wisconsin's not proved itself dominant enough against the lesser competition for me to consider them a Top 10 team, they lack a signature win, and yet they're ambling along at a very solid clip. A top 15-20 ranking seems about right; above that seems too generous.

Any further thoughts on Wisconsin, or a different approach to this kind of exercise, is certainly welcome. Expect more of these "Under The Hood" features on Top 25 teams soon.