Current, former Badgers respond to Tim Tebow slamming Wisconsin

Former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow came down hard on Wisconsin Friday morning, saying that even if the Badgers were to beat Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, they don’t deserve to be in the College Football Playoff.

“I’m saying they are not one of the four best teams,” Tebow said on ESPN’s “First Take.” “If you’re telling me that it’s the four best teams, then it can’t be who’s most deserving or undefeated. It has to be the four best teams. And you and me both know if right here [in Atlanta], Alabama played Wisconsin, they would probably beat the brakes off of them.

“So when you say the four best teams, don’t say undefeated, don’t say deserving, don’t say strength of schedule, don’t say strength of record, because it’s not the four best. You look at film, and [Wisconsin is] not one of the four best teams.”

The strong comments from the former Florida Gators quarterback brought strong responses from current and former Badgers. Here’s a little sampling of what was being said on social media.

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin’s sum is greater than the individual pieces

INDIANAPOLIS – Ohio State’s football program is nationally regarded as one of the historic powers of the sport. The Buckeyes have won eight national championships, possess seven Heisman trophies, and have won the Big Ten 35 times in the program’s history. The program is filled with star power, both currently and traditionally. Head coach Urban Meyer is considered one of the best in the world at his profession, and the program is truly elite. The operation run in Columbus, Ohio is one that nearly every program in the country strives to be. Very few can boast more impressive historical resumes.

For as good as Wisconsin has been in recent memory, they don’t have the historical relevance that the Buckeyes do. That won’t matter on Saturday when the two teams square off in the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis.

The Badgers aren’t trying to close the gap on Ohio State as a program, they’re trying to win one game and earn their first appearance in the College Football Playoff.

“It’s tough, obviously they have a lot of talent, but we have a lot of talent,” linebacker T.J. Edwards told the media. “The [recruiting] stars and stuff, it doesn’t mean much going into this game. We know we’re going to get their best and that’s not really something we’re focused on because we know we can match just about anything in the country.”

Since 2000, Wisconsin has had 38 recruits that have garnered either four or five stars, per 247. Ohio State has had 227 such players. The Buckeyes currently have more four and five-star players on their current roster than the Badgers have had in the past 17 years.

This isn’t something that’s new. Looking at the top eight in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, the Badgers are far behind the other seven teams. There are currently six players on Wisconsin’s roster that garnered a four-star rating out of high school, and none that were five stars. Ohio State has 62 such players rostered.

Ohio State is as successful of a program as they are in part due to the gaudy number of immensely talents players they’ve brought in. Wisconsin does things much differently. The Badgers develop kids and take an incredible amount of pride in their walk-on program. Very few, if any, other major college football programs have had this much success with that method.

The Buckeyes enter the game favored by nearly everyone. Despite their two losses this season, they get the benefit of the doubt. The Badgers are routinely criticized for going unbeaten through a primarily weak schedule, despite having two more wins against bowl-eligible teams than Ohio State does. Part of the reasoning for that is due to the amount of respect Ohio State gets natural talent the Buckeyes have, and possibly a little bit of disrespect of the way Wisconsin develops their talent.

The Buckeyes are going to continue to be in the national spotlight, and they’ve earned that. The Badgers shouldn’t be slept on, however. Wisconsin has been one of the best in the country over the past decade. They’ve won 100 games over the past 10 years, which is no small feat. In fact, only a few teams have won more games in that span, and Ohio State (110 wins) is one of them.

“I think it’s another great opportunity to prove that we are legit, that we are the team that we think we are,” tight end Troy Fumagalli, a former walk-on, said of the matchup with the Buckeyes. “I think it’s another great opportunity with another great team.”

The Buckeyes have an immense amount of talent. They’re one of the most talented in not only the Big Ten, but the country as well. At times, however, they haven’t shown up. There have been a number of occasions this season where Ohio State has failed to play up to their capabilities. Their 55-24 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes was the most drastic instance. On a weekly basis, the world can question as to which Ohio State team is going to show up.

The Badgers had moments where they didn’t play to their highest potential against lesser opponents, but still found a way to win. That’s the sign of a team that has things figured out despite not always being the most talented on the field.

Ohio State hasn’t had a game this season where they haven’t had the talent edge. Even in their two losses, the Buckeyes could make the argument that they had more individually talented pieces. In all of their wins, the Badgers have been able to say that the sum of their parts is greater than the individual pieces.

B1G Championship preview: (4) Wisconsin vs (8) Ohio State

THE BASICS

The teams: The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (12-0, 9-0) vs the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2, 8-1)

The time: 7 p.m. CDT, Saturday

The place: Lucas Oil Field, Indianapolis, Ind.

The TV coverage: FOX with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt in the booth, and Jenny Taft on the sideline.

The last time: No. 2 Ohio State came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat No. 8 Wisconsin in overtime 38-31 last October in Madison.

The series: Ohio State leads 58-18-5

The line: Ohio State -6

The Badgers injury report:

OUT

Game:

TE Luke Benzschawel (leg)
OLB Noah Burks (leg)

Season:

WR Quintez Cephus (leg)
S Patrick Johnson (arm)
RB Taiwan Deal (leg)
LB Jack Cichy (knee)
LB Zack Baun (foot)
RB Sam Brodner (knee)
LB Mason Stokke (leg)
TE Zander Neuville (leg)
RB Bradrick Shaw (leg)

THE BREAKDOWN: FOUR THINGS TO WATCH

1) Biggest game in school history

It may seem like hyperbole, but Saturday night’s game is the biggest in Wisconsin football history. A win against one of the blue bloods of the sport would give the Badgers their first Big Ten title since 2012, almost surely punch their ticket to the College Football Playoff and leave them just two victories short of the school’s first national championship. A loss wouldn’t make the season a failure, but it would be looked at as a missed opportunity to make a splash the rest of the country couldn’t ignore, one that would force the doubters to at least respect what the program has become. This is not the first time Wisconsin has been in position to make that statement but it’s certainly its best and something the Badgers can’t let fall by the wayside.

2) Containing J.T. Barrett

The big story this week has been the knee injury to Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, the one that knocked him out in the third quarter of last week’s game at Michigan. The senior reportedly had arthroscopic surgery on the knee on Sunday, but coach Urban Meyer is expecting him to play. If he does, then it becomes vital for the Wisconsin defense to keep him in the pocket. In last season’s game, Barrett was Ohio State’s leading rusher with 92 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. It’s not that he can’t beat you with his arm — he can — but if you’re Wisconsin, you want to force him to show it again.

3) No turnovers

Wisconsin is a bit of anomaly this season. You don’t normally see an unbeaten team like the Badgers turn the ball over as much as they do. They rank No. 97 in the country with 21 turnovers and there are only three FBS teams with a winning record that have more than that. It’s not an every player problem. In fact, it’s mainly a two player issue — quarterback Alex Hornibrook and running back Jonathan Taylor. The duo has accounted for 18 of the 21 turnovers this year. Wisconsin’s defense has been able to erase many of those mistakes, but you sure don’t want to put them in that position against the most explosive offense the Badgers have faced this year.

4) Redemption

When people hear the term redemption in regards to this game, most probably think of the 59-0 shellacking that Ohio State delivered to Wisconsin in the 2014 title game. But they would be wrong. Sure, that one hurt, but that game was over almost as soon as it started. No, the game the Badgers want (need?) redemption for is the 2016 title game when they blew a 28-7 lead to Penn State and lost 38-31. A defense that was so good all year, got exposed with big plays down the field and some brilliance from All-American running back Saquon Barkley. Nearly all of Wisconsin’s defenders from that game are still around and have told the media this week they believe they learned some valuable lessons as a result of that collapse. We could see if that’s true on Saturday night.

NUMBERS TO CONSIDER

Wisconsin is an underdog for the first time in 20 games. The last time the Badgers weren’t favored was the Buckeyes visit to Camp Randall Stadium last October.

Current or former walk-ons have combined for 862 yards of total offense, seven touchdowns, 117 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks and four interceptions this season for Wisconsin.

The Badgers are allowing just 236.9 yards per game, the lowest mark by a Wisconsin team since 1954.

Hype videos

A couple of the better hype videos to get you ready for the game:

ZONE PREDICTIONS

Zach Heilprin’s prediction: Ohio State 31, Wisconsin 21
Ebo’s prediction: Wisconsin 27, Ohio State 24
Joe Miller’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 21
Danny Cunningham’s prediction: Wisconsin 24, Ohio State 21

NATIONAL PREDICTIONS

Wisconsin (14)

Eric Single, SI.com: Wisconsin
Molly Geary, SI.com: Wisconsin
Andy Staples, SI.com: Wisconsin
Joan Niesen, SI.com: Wisconsin
Paul Myerberg, USA Today: Wisconsin
George Schroeder, USA Today: Wisconsin
Erick Smith, USA Today: Wisconsin
Eddie Timanus, USA Today: Wisconsin
Dan Wolken, USA Today: Wisconsin
Corby Davidson, Sportsday: Wisconsin
Rich Cirminiello, College Football News: Wisconsin
Jeff Feyerer, College Football News: Wisconsin
Pete Fiutak, College Football News: Wisconsin
Mitch Light, Athlon Sports: Wisconsin

Ohio State (18)

Edward Aschoff, ESPN: Ohio State
Zac Al-Khateeb, Sporting News: Ohio State
Tom Fornelli, CBS Sports: Ohio State
Bruce Feldman, SI.com: Ohio State
Chris Johnson, SI.com: Ohio State
Scooby Axson, SI.com: Ohio State
Jace Evans, USA Today: Ohio State
Ben Baby, Sportsday: Ohio State
Scott Bells, Sportsday: Ohio State
Chuck Carlton, Sportsday: Ohio State
Adam Grosbard, Sportsday: Ohio State
Ric Renner, Sportsday: Ohio State
Newy Scruggs, Sportsday: Ohio State
Kevin Sherrington, Sportsday: Ohio State
Brett Vito, Sportsday: Ohio State
Ralph Russo, Associated Press: Ohio State
Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: Ohio State
Bryan Bischer, Athlon Sports: Ohio State

Big Ten Championship; Three keys to Wisconsin winning

INDIANAPOLIS – Wisconsin heads into Saturday’s matchup with Ohio State searching for their first Big Ten Championship since 2012. The Badgers enter the game perfect on the season at 12-0, but haven’t faced a team quite as talented as the Buckeyes to date.

The Buckeyes come into the contest at 10-2 on the season. At times, they’ve looked like one of the best teams in the country, but on other occasions they’ve looked rather pedestrian.

Here are three keys to a Badger win on Saturday night:

1. Ohio State defensive lineman Nick Bosa was awarded as the Big Ten Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the year earlier this week. The matchup between Bosa and the Wisconsin offensive line will be a very interesting one to watch on Saturday. So far, this season Bosa has 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks and both of those marks pace the Buckeyes.

“I think [Ohio State] and Michigan had some of the best edge rushers I’ve seen this year,” offensive lineman Michael Deiter said earlier this week. “One-hundred percent it will be my biggest challenge, especially on this stage, out there at tackle.”

Not only was Deiter speaking about Bosa, but also defensive end Sam Hubbard. Hubbard was a consensus second-team All-Big Ten this year and has 10 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks on the year. Things don’t end there for the Buckeye defensive line, Tyquan Lewis was also a consensus first-team selection, and Dre’mont Jones was named to the third-team by the media.

Wisconsin likely has the best offensive line that Ohio State has faced this season, but this will be a true battle of strengths. The Badgers must be able to open holes for freshman running back Jonathan Taylor to help keep quarterback Alex Hornibrook out of obvious passing situations. When the Badgers do fall into obvious throwing situations, the offensive line must keep Hornibrook upright.

2. Hornibrook’s favorite target this year has been senior tight end Troy Fumagalli. He leads the Badgers with 38 grabs on the season for 471 yards and four touchdowns despite missing some time due to injury. On the contrary, Ohio State has struggled defending tight ends in the play-action passing game at times this season.

Against Iowa, the Buckeyes allowed a combined nine catches for 125 yards and four touchdowns to tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant of the Hawkeyes. Those two aren’t necessarily mirror images of Fumagalli, but the area of weakness remains on the Buckeye defense. As recent as last week there were multiple instances of intermediate routes being open for Michigan’s offense. Wolverines’ quarterback John O’Korn was unable to find his teammates, however.

Hornibrook should be able to find Fumagalli in key situations, just as he has often attempted to do this year. That’s an area of weakness that the Badgers should look to exploit.

3. When Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett was removed from the game against Michigan last week immediate uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position for the Buckeyes emerged. Backup Dwayne Haskins entered the game for Ohio State and helped them to win the game.

News broke during the week that Barrett had surgery on his knee on Sunday following the Michigan game but is expected to play against Wisconsin. His effectiveness is yet to be seen. Ohio State head coach told the media that Barrett had practiced throughout the week and is cleared to play, but never declared Barrett the starter.

Barrett is a quarterback that’s able to extend plays and escape the pocket when things break down around him. If his knee isn’t right and his running ability suffers because of that, Wisconsin’s already stout defense could be in even better position. The Badgers would be able to key on running backs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins in running situations and presumably be able to get to Barrett easier when the pocket collapses.

Barrett has been inconsistent throwing the ball, even when he’s been healthy. Wisconsin’s defense could take control of the game and force Barrett into mistakes and make things much more difficult than they normally do. Wisconsin’s chance at winning improves exponentially if those things happen.

Prediction: Early in the week I was leaning towards taking the Buckeyes, and I did go on record picking them before news of Barrett’s knee procedure broke. His health is my deciding factor, it takes an incredibly special athlete to be able to play in a football game six days after having surgery. While I commend Barrett for having the guts to try and suit up with his teammates, I don’t think he’ll play well enough for the Buckeyes to win.

Wisconsin 24-21

Jonathan Taylor named Big Ten Freshman of the Year

MADISON – Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor has been named the Big Ten Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, the conference announced. This is the first time a Badger has won the award since linebacker Chris Borland and running back James White won back-to-back awards in 2009 and 2010. In total, Taylor is the sixth Badger to take home this honor since the award was instituted in 1986.

This season Taylor set a new Big Ten record for the most Freshman of the Week honors given out by the conference. He earned the award eight times, breaking the previous record of seven set by Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett in 2014.

Taylor, a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, has accumulated 1,806 yards to date and 13 touchdowns. He has an opportunity to become the FBS leader in rushing yards by a freshman, needing 303 yards to pass Ron Dayne’s mark of 2,106 from 1996. Taylor currently sits in third place on the freshman list, Adrian Peterson had 1,925 in 2004 at Oklahoma.

He’s eclipsed the 100-yard mark in nine of Wisconsin’s 12 games, including going over the 150-yard mark five times, including three games of over 200 yards.

Taylor did not win the Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year, nor the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year. Those awards went to Saquon Barkley of Penn State. This is the second consecutive year that Barkley has taken home each honor.

Paul Chryst named Big Ten Coach of the Year

MADISON – Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst was named the Big Ten Dave McClain / Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year, the conference announced.

Chryst led Wisconsin to the program’s first ever 12-0 regular season en route to a Big Ten West Championship and a berth in the Big Ten Championship on December 2 in Indianapolis.

Chryst is a repeat winner, having win the award as voted on by the coaches in 2016. Penn State’s James Franklin won the media vote that season. This is the fifth time Wisconsin’s head coach has won the award.

Since taking over the program prior to the 2015 season, Chryst has a record of 33-6. Chryst has a career record of 52-25 as a head coach including his three-year run at Pitt.

Chryst joins Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez as the only coaches to win the award multiple times in Wisconsin history. Bret Bielema won the award in the 2006 season.

Troy Fumagalli named Big Ten Tight End of the Year

MADISONWisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli has been named the Big Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year, the conference announced.

Fumagalli has played in 11 games this season, accumulating 38 receptions for 471 yards and four touchdowns. In his career, he’s caught 127 passes for 1,551 yards and seven touchdowns.

Fumagalli, an Aurora, Ill. native was also named as an All-Big Ten honoree this week as well. He was named to the first-team by the coaches and the second-team by the media. Fumagalli started his career at Wisconsin as a walk-on and was placed on scholarship prior to the beginning of the 2015 season.

Fumagalli is the second Badger to win the award, joining Jacob Pedersen in 2012.

Wisconsin’s defense can prove its legit against Ohio State

MADISON – Wisconsin’s defense has put up absolutely gaudy numbers this season. Statistically, it’s got a claim on being the best in the country.

But the numbers haven’t quieted the critics, largely because of the lack of high powered offenses Wisconsin has seen in its historic run to 12-0. Oddly enough, Wisconsin’s biggest challenge as a defense came in its second game of the season, against Florida Atlantic. The Owls’ number might be a bit inflated due to their schedule, but they’ve averaged 39.8 points per game and 6.6 yards per play, ranking 16th in total offense.

Outside of FAU, Wisconsin has only faced one other offense in the top 80 of the FBS and that was Purdue. The Boilermakers are ranked 76th in total offense, and were held to just nine points on 221 yards of offense on a chilly, rainy day at Camp Randall Stadium in October.

The test against Ohio State will be by far the biggest for Wisconsin this season. The Buckeyes enter the Big Ten Championship ranked fourth in total offense, averaging 43.8 points per game and 529.8 yards per game.

“People always talk about how we haven’t played great offenses,” defensive back Derrick Tindal said. “I’ve turned on the film and watched these same offenses that we’ve played destroy some people.”

That quote from Tindal could be taken a few different ways, with one of them alluding to the fact that Iowa’s offense rolled up 487 yards and was responsible for 48 of the Hawkeyes’ 55 points in a whipping of the Buckeyes just a week before they managed 66 yards and no offensive touchdowns in a loss to the Badgers. To Iowa’s credit, it did score a defensive touchdown against the Buckeyes and two against the Badgers as well.

Ohio State could be entering the game with a rather significant question mark at the quarterback position. Starter J.T. Barrett had to leave last week’s 31-20 win at Michigan with a knee injury sustained before the game. Barrett did play the first half before being removed after re-aggravating the injury in the third quarter. The senior then underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee on Sunday, but coach Urban Meyer said in a radio interview he expects Barrett to play.

However, if Barrett is unable to go, backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins would be the guy under center for Ohio State. He’s not as mobile as Barrett, but is praised for his arm strength that he put on display in relief against Michigan. He was 6 of 7 passing for 94 yards through the air.

In the backfield, Ohio State has the Big Ten’s second-best freshman running back in J.K. Dobbins. While he hasn’t put up the numbers that Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor has, he’s been impressive to watch as a young piece of the Buckeyes’ offense.

“Very explosive, he’s a guy that can cut on a dime at full-speed. Definitely need to get multiple hats to the ball with him. If you put yourself in too many one-on-one situations, then he’s going to make guys miss,” Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard said of Dobbins.

Just as much is made of Wisconsin’s weak schedule and lack of opponents with explosive offenses, there’s another side to that coin. Ohio State hasn’t faced a defense as good as the unit Wisconsin has. Michigan State and Penn State have the ones that are most comparable, but both allow nearly a full yard per play more than Wisconsin does.

In this matchup, something will have to give, as it always does. The old adage states that “defense wins championships.” If Wisconsin is going to win the Big Ten, that’s how it is going to have to be done. If the Badgers are able to hold Ohio State’s offense in check, the defense will no longer have a reason to be doubted.

Wisconsin Badgers land eight to All-Big Ten Offense

MADISON — The Wisconsin Badgers have three consensus All-Big Ten offensive players on their roster. Running back Jonathan Taylor, tackle Michael Deiter, and guard Beau Benzschawel were all named to the first-team by both the coaches and media, the conference announced.

Tight end Troy Fumagalli was named to the first-team by the coaches and to the second-team by the media. Tackle David Edwards has been named to the second-team by both the coaches and the media. Center Tyler Biadsz was named to the consensus third-team.

The Badgers also had two players named as consensus honorable mentions in quarterback Alex Hornibrook and wide receiver Quintez Cephus.

The Big Ten will announce the individual awards on Thursday.

Below are the full 2017 All-Big Ten Football Offensive Teams:

College Football Playoff rankings; Week 5

MADISON — The College Football Playoff Committee released their fifth set of rankings on Tuesday night. The Wisconsin Badgers moved up to No. 4. This is the first time the Badgers have been inside the top four this season.

Wisconsin’s opponent in the Big Ten Championship this weekend, Ohio State, came in at No. 8. A Wisconsin win Saturday night would most likely give them a berth in the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history.

The rest of the top 25 is as follows:
1. Clemson
2. Auburn
3. Oklahoma
4. Wisconsin
5. Alabama
6. Georgia
7. Miami
8. Ohio State
9. Penn State
10. USC
11. TCU
12. Stanford
13. Washington
14. Central Florida
15. Notre Dame
16. Michigan State
17. LSU
18. Washington State
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Northwestern
22. Virginia Tech
23. Mississippi State
24. NC State
25. Fresno State