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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Hughes: Wilson will pass Big Ten test against Nebraska

In case you get lost in the mob and clutter Saturday, 1440 Monroe St. is what you’re looking for.

That’s where one of the most anticipated games in Wisconsin football history will be kicking off, a perennial powerhouse in Nebraska being welcomed to the Big Ten by the ever-rising brand of the Badgers.

ESPN’s College Gameday has its rooms booked for the weekend while, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, 20,000 Nebraska fans have been fighting to snatch the 3,000 tickets allocated to the visiting team.

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Breaking ground in the newly reformatted Big Ten with a game that will feature two top-10 ranked teams at Camp Randall for the first time since 1962 has catapulted the excitement surrounding this game into the realm of UW’s last four Rose Bowl trips and the 1999 Iowa game in which Ron Dayne became the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher.

But through all the dazzle set to take place under the lamps at Camp Randall, there’s one thing I’ll specifically be looking for Saturday night: a balanced and strong performance from quarterback Russell Wilson.

A tale that seems ready to burst any moment, all the legend of Russell Wilson needs to really take off is a huge performance against a juggernaut team in a marquee game.

Saturday’s game provides that launch pad, and I think Wilson will take advantage and lift off.

It is remarkably just three months after he announced his intention to join the Badgers and after his first four games playing in cardinal and white, Wilson has already galvanized fans and reporters with his number.

He’s already begun to chip away at the UW record books, owning the seventh- (347 yard against Northern Illinois) and eighth-highest (345 yards against South Dakota) passing yard totals in Wisconsin history. He’s also the first quarterback in school history to throw multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games and the first to throw at least three touchdowns in three-straight games.

Not impressed since they came against Mickey Mouse squads? Just remember that Wisconsin has routinely lined up against wishy-washy non-conference foes for years and past quarterbacks have only put up comparable numbers nine times since 2003. Not to mention they played in UW’s system longer and probably played all four quarters – which Wilson has not done yet.

He’s also done the seemingly impossible: make Wisconsin look like a passing team by outgaining the famed ground game, 1,136 yards to 982.

Over the last decade, several Wisconsin running backs have been mentioned in passing as a potential Heisman candidate during the preseason, but Wilson – just four weeks into the season – has already become Wisconsin’s most legitimate candidate for the bronze trophy since Dayne in ’99.

All of this from a guy who’s probably still learning how to get around Madison outside of campus.

Point being is that despite the rave reviews surrounding Wilson prior to his arrival at Wisconsin, nobody thought he would command the playbook (starter from day one), the huddle (one of four captains), or opposing defenses (nation’s second highest passer efficiency rating) as well as he has so far.

But what may be Wilson’s best attribute in a game with national appeal is his calm demeanor and work ethic.

As sports clich?s go, great players thrive in big games. In order for them to do that, their heads need to be cleared and prepared and they need to respond to a challenge well. Wilson, simply by being a team captain, has clearly shown an ability for all of the above so far this season.

I’m expecting to see his best game yet on Saturday. Maybe – or probably – some of his numbers won’t be of the caliber he’s put up the last two weeks, but I think his efficiency rating will stay afloat and I think he can be counted on to bail out the Badgers in the game’s tensest moments. Mistakes will be minimal.

Wilson seems to be on the cusp of a storybook season and all he needs to lock himself in Wisconsin lore is fine competition to push his performances to the next level, the level of fourth quarter magic.

Expect him to pick up the gauntlet Saturday.

Elliot is a senior majoring in journalism. Are you looking forward to seeing Wilson play against top-shelf competition? Think he’ll have a special game? Tell him your thoughts by sending an email to [email protected] or Tweet @BHeraldSports.

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