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The Voice: Give these Badgers some time to shine

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgWe interrupt this off-season of investigations, scandal and free advice on how to clean up college athletics to bring you -- at long last -- a football game. The Badgers and UNLV ring in the new season Thursday night at 7 p.m. It is one of 15 games on the schedule as fans can get a jumpstart on another season.

The Rebels are hoping to build some momentum under second-year coach Bobby Hauck, who no doubt will look to re-create the magic of John Robinson's UNLV team eight years ago, when it came to Camp Randall Stadium and shut down the Badgers 23-5. That represents the last regular season non-conference loss. Since that setback on Sept. 13, 2003, the Badgers have rolled to 28 straight non-league victories.

To keep that streak alive, and to have a shot at another memorable season, here is one observer's list of things to watch in 2011:

Protect your quarterback.
Russell Wilson is many things, including mobile. Just when a defense seemingly has him lined up, Wilson's quick feet can get him out of trouble. That said, given the fact his backups have taken exactly zero snaps in a college game, Captain Obvious here just wants to point out that this man really needs to stay healthy. In a perfect world, Joe Brennan can get some work in certain situations. The coaches have been very encouraged with his improvement in training camp. The same can be said of Joel Stave. The hope is that those two can continue to grow at a steady pace, and not be forced to play because of injury.

Better luck for Borland and Taylor.
Keeping with the theme of healthy players, the Badgers clearly are a better defense when linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor are on the field together. If his shoulders cooperate, Borland can be a playmaker along the lines of what J.J. Watt did a year ago. With healthy knees, Taylor moves very well. Together, they can help make this a very good defense.

Do not expect a finished product in September.  

Nearly every year, it happens. The Badgers play a game that is closer than most fans expect. Then the worrying begins. Last year they looked choppy at times against San Jose State. The following week they needed a blocked PAT to hold off Arizona State. In 2007, The Citadel gave Wisconsin trouble.

Going back to a couple of Barry Alvarez's Rose Bowl teams, in 1998 the Badgers needed a big play from quarterback Mike Samuel to help them get past San Diego State. A year later they lost to a not-very-good Cincinnati team. My point is the Badgers will not always be the smoothest bunch early in the season, but the better Wisconsin teams tend to hit their stride in October and November.

Looking pretty early is always welcomed, but don't panic Thursday night if they look a little rough around the edges.

Don't worry, they will be hungry.
A rather predictable question players and coaches have heard     regards how they will avoid complacency following a Big Ten championship season. Center Peter Konz has a pretty good answer.  

"As much as I hate to say it," says Konz, "losing the Rose Bowl gives you the sense that you have not fulfilled everything that you wanted. This group of guys, especially the seniors, still feels like we've got something to prove."

"There is something essentially Wisconsin that says, OK, we are still unproven.  None of us is a '5-Star' (recruit), we know that. There should be no question with anybody that the fire is still there."

As long as the Wisconsin Badgers keep that mindset, I believe they always will have a chance to do something special.

Let the games begin.

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Good luck Kenzel from your Reidsville fans.