Jesse Temple’s Nov. 6 Badgers mailbag

After a one-week hiatus because of the bye, the Badgers
football mailbag is back. This week, we discuss Badgers in the NFL, the play of
quarterback Joel Stave, linebacker Chris Borland’s kicking future and the
confusion that is the BCS rankings.

If you have a question and missed out this week, we’ll post
a submission link Saturday night following Wisconsin’s game against BYU.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions this week. Let’s
get to it:

Q: I’m sorry, and I’ve written about this before, but
Joel Stave just isn’t a big-time program quarterback. He is so uncomfortable
back there and there are just too many things going on for him to handle. Yes,
he does make some big plays at just the right moments, but he is by no means a
“natural.” Anderson must see something, but what the hell is it?

— Bill Gailbreath, Madison

A: Well, here are just some of the things Andersen —
and many others — are probably seeing from Stave:

• He has completed 62.9 percent of his passes this season,
which ranks as the sixth-best single-season mark in Wisconsin history.

• His 61.4 percent career completion rate ranks tied for
third with Darrell Bevell, behind only Russell Wilson and Scott Tolzien.

• He is third in program history in passing efficiency
behind only Wilson and Tolzien.

• He already ranks in the top 10 in career touchdown passes
with 21.

• He ranks fifth in the Big Ten this season in passing yards
per game (203.8) and fifth in passing efficiency.

Look, I get it that people want to criticize Stave because
he has made some errant throws this season and won’t match Wilson’s magical
33-touchdown, four-interception Rose Bowl season two years ago (who would?).
But here’s a thought: Why not just appreciate Stave for the player he is and
the player he is capable of becoming? The guy is a redshirt sophomore with two
more full seasons to be Wisconsin’s quarterback. He keeps improving, coaches
are happy with his play, and Wisconsin is 6-2 with a realistic opportunity to
make a BCS bowl game.

For decades, Wisconsin football fans would have sold their
souls for a quarterback capable of doing all these things. Keep that in mind as
you watch Stave continue to get better.

Q: How many former Badgers are in the NFL, and how does
that compare to other college teams?

— Lewis, Eau Claire 

A: Including practice squad players, there are 30
former Badgers currently on NFL rosters. A total of 18 former UW players saw
action during Week 8 of the NFL season, with 11 earning starting assignments.

Other notes to consider, courtesy of Wisconsin’s sports
information staff:

• Among its 14 NFL Draft picks over the past three years, UW
has produced nine top-75 selections, matching North Carolina as the
third-highest total of any team. Only Alabama (13) and LSU (12) have produced
more top-75 picks in that span.

• Wisconsin’s nine top-75 picks represent one-third of the
Big Ten’s total over the past three years. The Badgers have had as many top-75
picks over that span as Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State combined.

These numbers obviously are pretty good. It is worth noting
Wisconsin did not rank among the top 12 college football programs for number of
players on 2013 Week 1 NFL rosters. According to Sports Illustrated, the top 12
was as follows: USC (40), LSU (39), Miami (38), Georgia (36), Florida State
(31), Texas (31), Alabama (30), Cal (30), Tennessee (30), Ohio State (27),
Oregon (27), Florida (26).

Wisconsin was not far behind, however. The Badgers had 24
players listed on NFL teams’ 53-man rosters for Week 1.

Q: Kicking struggles continue. When Chris Borland gets
healthy, do they look to him at all? Desperate times call for desperate
measures.

— Jim H., Hoboken

A: I think the Chris Borland experiment is probably
over for Wisconsin, at least for the foreseeable future. Borland said he made
7-of-8 field goal tries in practice during the week leading up to the Illinois
game, and I believe he’d find a way to squeeze one through the uprights if
called upon. But he’s most valuable out there as a middle linebacker. And given
his hamstring issues, the last thing you want to do is have him re-injure
himself attempting field goals.

Sophomore kicker Jack Russell has had some tough sledding as
the Badgers’ go-to guy. But it was encouraging that he made his 54-yard field
goal try against Iowa, even if the attempt didn’t wind up counting. Obviously,
Russell missed short and right on a windy day after Iowa iced him by calling
three timeouts. He’s 0 for 4 in his career on field goals, but something has to
break for him soon. He has more talent than the numbers reflect.

Q: Do you think we need to see White, Gordon and Clement
in the backfield at the same time more often? That seems like it would cause
match-up nightmares.

— Greg Merz, Eau Claire

A: There’s no doubt the White-Gordon-Clement
combination would drive opposing defenses wild. Preparing for three running
backs of that caliber, coupled with UW’s stout offensive line, would be a
difficult task.

I’m not sure how much we’ll see of it, though Clement has
been used as a decoy in some of those jet sweep scenarios. We all know there
are only so many touches to go around, but it isn’t the worst idea to put them
on the field. At the very least, it makes the defense have to think and prepare
for yet another wrinkle.

Q: Wow, the computer polls in the BCS formula really
don’t like UW. How do they pick which computer algorithms make it into the
polls? It is obviously not based on performance. Oklahoma State was unranked by
all computers and crushed Texas Tech. And only half of the computers predicted
the outcome between MSU and UM.

My other question: Last year UW’s record was 3-2 vs. 4-1
at this point in Big Ten play. What would you say is the main improvement over
last year’s team?  Stabilty at QB, improved defense, or easier
schedule?  Based on points scored, it’s got to be offense/QB right?

— Jason, Florida

A: I’ll start with the BCS formula question, which is
one bunches of fans across the country probably ask themselves every year. The
BCS is comprised of three components: the Harris Interactive poll, the coaches
poll and a set of six computer rankings that use differing algorithms.

The Harris poll is divided by 2,600, which is the maximum
number of points any team can receive if all 104 voting members rank the same
team No. 1. So a first-place team earns 25 points.

A team’s score in the coaches poll is divided by 1,550,
which is the maximum number of points any team can earn if all 62 voting
members put the same team No. 1.

I’ll be honest and tell you I think the entire process is
difficult to comprehend. Of course, the idea was that adding a set of computer
polls would eliminate bias and provide the best possible matchup for the
national championship game. But what good does that do if we don’t understand
why some undefeated teams are picked and others aren’t?  

As for the six computer rankings, they come from: Peter
Wolfe, Wes Colley, Jeff Sagarin, the Seattle Times, Richard Billingsley and
Kenneth Massey.

This story from LiveScience.com explains the entire process pretty well, but I’ll do my best to sum it up.

The six computer polls do not factor in margin of victory
because the BCS doesn’t want to provide coaches reason to run up the score. But
the polls do factor in which teams played, which teams won and the date and
location of the games.

The Seattle Times poll comes from Jeff Anderson and Chris
Hester. The poll began in 1994, and it focuses on strength of a team’s
opponents to determine rankings.

Billingsley de-emphasizes game location and home-field
advantage and gives added emphasis to head-to-head results and preseason polls.

Colley’s formula heavily weighs strength of schedule and
punishes teams for playing patsies during the nonconference season.

Massey focuses on schedule strength and home-field
advantage.

Sagarin removed margin of victory and focuses on home-field
advantage, strength of schedule and win-loss record, as does Wolfe.

You can get a much fuller description of how these rankings
work from the website linked above. But yeah, the whole thing is confusing.
Wisconsin, which is No. 24 in the latest BCS rankings, is somehow unranked in
all six of these computer polls. I’d ask if any of the pollsters have actually
been watching college football, but I guess the point of the six computer polls
is that they don’t require watching the games.

Not that this matters to pollsters, but I’m fairly certain
the Badgers could beat many of the teams ranked ahead of them.

As to your second question, I touched on this in a story that ran Tuesday night.
But I think a lot of it has to do with the continuity of the offensive line and
simply having one quarterback in place for the entire season. The offensive
numbers this season speak for themselves. Wisconsin is on pace to shatter the
yards-per-game mark set by the 2011 team and will likely finish in the top five
in several other categories.

Of
course, not playing Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska — even if the
Wolverines and Cornhuskers are having down seasons — certainly helps the
conference record.

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