Bart Miller’s job is simple: Undo whatever evil stuff Mike Markuson did to the Wisconsin blocking scheme and get the unit back to the dominance they knew under Bob Bostad. And do it quick. Cause if those guys don’t start blocking like they’re supposed to block? You can kiss Montee Ball’s Heisman candidacy goodbye.
Yeah yeah sure. Fixing the offensive line will help the Badgers win games too. But let’s be serious for a second. How many games can the Badgers really hope to win this year even with a fixed-up offensive line? Have you seen that defense? Did you see the way Danny O’Brien played against Oregon State? Have you seen our receiver corps lately? Seriously, have you seen it? Cause I can’t find it anywhere.
All right I grant you, some of those other issues would be helped by getting the line back in order. Danny O’Brien might actually look like a legit college QB with some blocking. And who knows? Give him a little protection and he might even be able to find Jacob Pedersen. He’s out there somewhere Danny. Send a memo to Matt Canada while you’re at it. Jacob Pedersen, tight end, Mackey Award nominee. Good guy to throw to.
But there’s one thing fixing the offensive line can’t solve, and that’s the defensive mess. Yes I know they played a little better against Oregon State. Still they had breakdowns in the secondary. Still they have injury problems. Still they can’t find a consistent pass rush. And they haven’t even played a good team yet. What happens against Nebraska? Ohio State and Braxton Miller? Michigan State?
A .500 record in the Big 10 looks like a realistic goal for this team with all their personnel problems. Of course that might still get them into the Big 10 title game, when you consider the post season bans against Ohio State and Penn State, the only two legit programs in their division. Okay so maybe they squeak into the title game only to get destroyed by Nebraska or Michigan State or Michigan. That’s a good year? Not in my book.
In my mind, this isn’t about wins. If this team maxes out they’re looking at a second-tier bowl at best and after two straight Rose Bowls that’s just not exciting. The only reason to get excited about this team is Montee Ball and his run at a Heisman. Salvaging that candidacy is Bart Miller’s real task. He must get the road grader running again, so Ball can rack up those easy yards. Ball needs stats. And he needs them now.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m certain Bret Bielema was mostly thinking about team wins and losses when he tossed Markuson. But don’t tell me he wasn’t thinking at least a little about Montee Ball. Heisman trophies don’t just help players get drafted higher than they should, they also help programs. Bielema realizes this. If the offensive line goes poof, Montee Ball’s Heisman run goes poof, and there goes the recruiting benefit that would come with the Heisman. So that was extra incentive to pull the trigger on Markuson.
Can Bart Miller do it? I have no earthly idea. It helps him to have a couple All-Americans on his unit. We’ll see how fast those guys can get back to doing what they used to do before the Markuson tweaks started messing with their heads. My faith in the Wisconsin system – the Wisconsin way – has me halfway convinced they will come out and destroy Utah State this weekend with Montee Ball running for 200 yards and 3 TDs. But I admit I’m a bit of a sap.
I’m certainly pulling for Bart Miller. Young man could make a real reputation for himself by succeeding in this quick-and-dirty reclamation act. No pressure on you Bart. It’s only the Heisman trophy. And maybe an extra win.