UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: They're not Big Ten, but BYU is big time


There are times when a non-conference football game in November can be a difficult sell. In recent years, the Badgers have had a couple. In 2006, Wisconsin closed its regular season against Buffalo. Two years later, Cal Poly came to town and very nearly ruined Senior Day. 

Cal Poly was a very good FCS team that year, but it simply is not the type of opponent fans expect to see during the final month of the regular season.

Which brings us to this week's opponent. Forget that BYU does not play in the Big Ten, or any conference for that matter. The Cougars are very good, and this game is huge for both programs.

After losing two of its first three games, BYU has won five straight, including a convincing 37-20 victory against Boise State on Oct. 25. The Cougars had a bye last weekend, so they come to town rested.

They also will arrive in Madison with at least some hope of getting into the BCS picture. 

Sound familiar?

In the case of BYU, it might appear to be long shot, but in this week's coaches poll, the Cougars are ranked 29th. While not in the BCS top 25, perhaps BYU is not far removed.

The Cougars certainly can help themselves down the stretch. Two weeks after facing the Badgers, ranked 24th in the BCS, BYU will play at 23rd-rated Notre Dame.

The Cougars already have punched their ticket to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but should they stay hot, who knows what could happen? Much like Wisconsin, BYU wants to keep winning and at least give the voters something to think about. Both have work to do to get into the top 14, but it never hurts to roll through November.

All the possible scenarios can be fun to talk or write about, but Saturday's game will feature two teams that are playing good football, and it will feature some of the nation's best players.

Badgers fans know all about the home team's stars. You might not know as much about some of BYU's top players, but you will by this weekend.

Chris Borland says he expects to be good to go this Saturday, which means we will see a couple of the nation's premier linebackers. BYU's standout is Kyle Van Noy, an All-America candidate who has 26 career sacks, second best among active FBS players.

Offensively, the Cougars play fast. Very fast. They run nearly 90 plays per game, and sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill appears to be improving by the week. After a choppy start, the dual-threat QB is rolling. In his last five games, Hill has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,455 yards and 11 touchdowns.

It is worth noting that Hill also leads the team in rushing with 841 yards and eight touchdowns.

When Hill throws the ball, there is a good chance that Cody Hoffman will be the target. He has the BYU record with 31 career touchdown catches, and he is on the brink of breaking the school mark for receiving yards.

Fans in Big Ten country might not be familiar with BYU, but Badgers coach Gary Andersen knows the Cougars well. "They seem to follow me wherever I go, so here we go again," he said with a smile.

When asked to describe BYU, Andersen called it a "Tough, mature team. Blue collar. Hard workers. Tough guys."

Sounds a lot like Wisconsin. The style of offense might differ, but these teams could be very much alike in other areas.

Both Wisconsin and BYU are 6-2. Both are good teams with aspirations of being among the elite. It will make for an interesting, and most likely, highly-entertaining afternoon at Camp Randall Stadium.

If you are lucky enough to have a ticket, I hope you use it. This is a non-conference game, but it figures to be big-boy football with two big-time programs.