Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Don't Hate, Celebrate

So as I noted the other day, some folks out there are disappointed that the football Badgers are 11-1, and not going to a BCS game. Whatever. Lets revel in the fact that they finished 11-1, and all the various forms of glory that resulted. Today is a perfect day to do so, as the All-Big Ten teams were announced.
According to the coaches, the awards were as follows:
First Team--Joe Thomas, OL; Jack Ikegwuonu, DB
Second Team--P.J. Hill, RB; Taylor Mehlhaff, K; Roderick Rodgers, DB; Matt Shaughnessy, DL
Honorable Mention-- Beckum, TE; Casillas, LB; Coleman, OL; Langford, DB; Stellmacher, DB; Stocco, QB; Vanden Heuvel, OL
The Media:
First Team-- Hill and Joe Thomas
Second Team-- Beckum, Shaughnessy, Ikegwuonu, Rodgers
Honorable Mention: Casillas; Jason Chapman, DL; Coleman; Ken Debauche, P; Stellmacher; Stocco; and Zalewski
Bielema was voted coach of the year (not surprising given our record and the fact that it's his first season. Hill was voted freshman of the year in both polls (is this unfair given that he redshirted?).
Interesting, Bielema just noted (at halftime of the UW/Delaware State basketball game) that he was disappointed that Thomas wasn't voted OL of the year by the coaches. Though I'm no expert evaluator of offensive line play, that does seem a bit weird. Jake Long of Michigan won the award. Suspect. He also said that Zalewski was All-Big Ten in his opinion. Zalewski only made honorable mention in the media awards, and got stiffed in the coaches'. There were a lot of good linebackers in the league this year-- all three Penn State players, all three Michigan players, Lauringitis (the OSU middle linebacker), so it's somewhat understandable, and Zalewski was a little inconsistent-- sometimes awesome, sometimes MIA. The mohawk colors were great, in a totally terrifying way.
The big thing to me is Beckum not being all-Big Ten first team in either poll. He was an absolutely dominant receiver this year. The only possible reason for the snub is likely some belief that he's not a great blocker. Fair enough. But no way Chandler (the large, white Iowa tight end), is better than him. Chandler won second team in the coaches' poll, and Beckum was honorable mention. Ridiculous.
As proof, I offer the following comparison. Beckum said at some point earlier in the season that he wanted to be like (Sergant) Kellen Winslow for Miami a few seasons ago.
Here are Winslow's stats:
2002: 57 receptions, 726 receiving yards, 8 TDs (13 games)
2003: 60 receptions, 605 receiving yards, 1 TD (13 games)
For further comparison, here are Jeremy Shockey's stats from his best season:
2001: 45 receptions, 604 yards, 8 TDs (12 games)
Here are Beckum's stats so far this season:
56 receptions, 821 receiving yards, 4 TDs (12 games)
So Travis gained nearly 100 more receiving yards this season than Winslow gained in his best season. Since he did it in fewer receptions, his average yards per catch are significantly higher. He didn't have as many TDs as Winslow had in his best season, but that year Winslow had Andre Johnson, first round draft pick of the Houston Texans, at wide receiver. Johnson had more than a thousand yards receiving that season. Winslow also had Willis McGahee in the backfield, in one of the more talent loaded offenses in recent history (all three of those guys were first round draft picks). During Shockey's best season, Andre Johnson had 800 yards receiving and Clinton Portis was at running back.
Also, Travis has a game left. He could crack 900 yards receiving, dwarfing the best accomplishments of Winslow or Shockey. Now, I'm sure he's not as great a blocker as Winslow or Shockey were. They were both significantly larger than Travis, who I'm guessing is still below 230 pounds. Travis has two more years of eligibility, and should get a bit more muscled, and improve his blocking with experience. I expect him to become a solid, not great blocker, level off around 240 pounds or so, and be a first round draft pick. He is a great, game-changing player.
P.J. gained 1533 yards and scored 15 TDs on 292 carries, and had 197 yards and 1 TD on 18 receptions, toting the ball 310 times in total. That rushing total eclipses the freshman yardage totals of players like Marshall Faulk, Jamal Lewis, and Michael Hart. These are remarkable accomplishments for a lightly recruited 19 year-old who had never played a college game. What's exciting is that four of our five linemen are returning (except for JT, who will be missed obviously), and that everyone seems to believe that Hill can get better. Settle, our running backs coach, went on record saying that Hill should fill out more with a full offseason in the weight room. They've said that he has the lower body of a lineman and the upper body of a wideout, and I used to think that was overstated. But if you look at his arms, that's pretty much right on-- they're quite thin for a D-I football player, especially for a running back. If he gets stronger, the fumbling and assorted upper body injuries should be reduced, and if he can work off some of the jiggle in the middle, he should get a bit quicker. Fantastic accomplishments this season, and more good things ahead for P.J.
Finally, how about the defense overall? In comparison to other Big Ten teams, we were number one in total yards, in passing yards allowed, and pass efficiency defense, and number two in scoring defense (behind OSU). Nationally, we had the Third Ranked Defense in the Nation. We had the Number One pass efficiency defense in the country, and were number two in passing yards allowed. To top that off, we had the number four scoring defense in the country. Yeow! And we're that high up in those defensive stats even though we were 48th in sacks, 75th in tackles for loss, and just 41st in turnovers forced. Certainly, our defensive stats were improved because we led the nation in time of possession! Whoop. That must have given a boost to our general yardage stats on defense (other teams couldn't get yards because we had the ball the whole time), but it doesn't explain our pass efficiency stats. All this, despite the fact that our back seven included four sophmores and one former walk-on. And don't forget that our fantastic time of possession stats are influenced by our defense constantly forcing other teams to punt. An amazing year from our defense, and we return seven starters for next season.
So all over the place, this was a remarkable year. Enjoy the accomplishments to date, and lets plan to kick the pants off of an SEC team in exotic Orlando.


Sal said...

We just need Bielema to avoid the Barry Alvarez lose to the SEC every other time we play them. I remember the whole Georgia debacle when Ron Dayne said that the Bulldog defense was calling out the play Bucky was going to run as they were lining up. That was bad news.

Bielema seems to have avoided the "one bad loss" and "late season collapse" that had plagued Barry in recent years, so hopefully we will lay the wood down on the SEC.

Oh, and if ND ends up in the title game because they beat USC, I'm going to vomit. They are a crappy football team. Gans, you forgot to mention Sparty as another crappy team that ND beat.

Sal said...

Gansner, you need to address the insanity of Robert Ferguson rubbing himself down with oil blessed by his father, who is a pastor, because he believes that it will protect him from harm.

What kind of crazy voodoo shit is that?

Anonymous said...

I think Beckum decided 1-2 games for us this year. He was a game breaker that put up yards early in games and early in the 2nd half. These awards usually have a lot to do with career achievement and the voters probably figured Beckum would get his next year.