One year ago, if you had told me (or anybody else around the University of Wisconsin) there would be talk of a Wisconsin quarterback winning the Heisman Trophy this season — hell, any season in the next five years — you probably would’ve been laughed out of the room. Wisconsin has had a few talented quarterbacks — Scott Tolzien, Jim Sorgi, Brooks Bollinger, Darrell Bevell, for example — but never the kind of national standout who gained traction in Heisman voting. The Wisconsin Quarterback™ is more of a game manager and less of a game changer, a role typically left to the running backs.
Not this year. Russell Wilson earned a place in the Heisman watch columns of both Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s Big Ten blog, and by the numbers and by simply watching his impact on the Badgers’ offense, the praise is well deserved.
Through the Badgers’ first three games, Wilson has completed 50 of 66 passes, totaling 791 yards, eight touchdowns, and one extremely silly interception at the end of the Northern Illinois game, as well as 110 rushing yards and a score on 11 runs. He ranks 5th in completion percentage, second in yards per attempt, second in adjusted yards per attempt, and second in the NCAA’s official passer rating (which is about as meaningful as NFL passer rating, which is to say not very).
Wilson’s superior in the latter three categories is Robert Griffin III of Baylor, who in his club’s first two games has put up 624 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions on 41-of-49 passing. Griffin put up very good numbers as a sophomore in 2010, passing for 22 touchdowns against eight picks on 67% completions, and it should not be a surprise if he continues to match Wilson’s performance as the year continues and both teams face tough, in-conference opponents — I would note TCU as a tougher defensive opponent for Griffin had they not allowed 17 points in the first quarter to Louisiana Freaking Monroe last week.
As ESPN’s Brian Bennett notes (linked above), Wilson still needs his Heisman Moment™®♫☯, but he will most certainly get that chance October 1st against Nebraska, a game recently announced as an ABC prime time pick. Until then, we’ll have to settle for the marvelous performances we’ve watched him put up in the Badgers’ non-conference schedule.
Photo Courtesy Katie Garth