Junior quarterback Brooks Bollinger is quick to point out that
major league baseball's infatuation with strong-armed Big Ten
passers extends beyond Ann Arbor. No, he may not be a $17-million
bonus baby like Michigan's Drew Henson, who in March signed a
six-year deal to play third base for the Yankees, but Bollinger
was a 50th-round draft choice of the Dodgers in 2000. "I don't
think they're going to offer me $17 million like Drew got,"
Bollinger, a shortstop, says. "Right now, I'm devoted to
That's good news for coach Barry Alvarez, who has good depth at
quarterback with Bollinger (17-3 as a starter) and sophomore
backup Jim Sorgi. Still, after losing 12 starters, plus two
kickers, questions dog the team at nearly every other position,
particularly running back. As if losing leading rusher Michael
Bennett to the NFL wasn't enough of a blow, Wisconsin was dealt a
big setback in the spring when sophomore Broderick Williams, who
was supposed to become the starter, suffered a season-ending torn
ACL in his left knee. Ready or not, redshirt freshmen Anthony
Davis, Tyron Griffin and Jerone Pettus will have to make
immediate contributions, which means Wisconsin's streak of eight
seasons with a 1,000-yard running back is in peril.
The days of relying solely on the rushing game may be a thing of
the past in Madison anyway. After watching Northwestern ride its
multiple-wideout formations to a share of the Big Ten title last
fall--and knowing his line is callow--Alvarez installed the
spread offense. Though the spread will add spice to Wisconsin's
game, the Badgers won't be a power in the conference unless they
plug a leaky defense that permitted too many big plays last
season. The unit will have six new starters, but considering its
performance last year, that may be a plus.
During the off-season the 54-year-old Alvarez flirted with the
vacant coaching job at Miami before taking himself out of the
running. He then vowed to finish his career at Wisconsin and
signed a new deal in the spring that extends his contract through
2006. "I was more serious about the Miami job than any job I've
talked about before," Alvarez says. "But there are still some
things I want to accomplish here."
COLOR PHOTO: HARRY HOW/ALLSPORT Bollinger, a former shortstop, was drafted by the Dodgers, but he's taking a pass on baseball.
2000 record: 9-4 (4-4, T5 in Big Ten)
Final ranking: No. 23 AP, No. 24 coaches' poll
Consecutive seasons Wisconsin has played Northwestern, a streak
that comes to an end this year.
An opposing team's coach sizes up the Badgers
"Quarterback Brooks Bollinger scares me as a runner; the guy can
really move on the perimeter. He's a good enough thrower, but
Wisconsin hasn't tried to throw much....I keep hearing they want
to spread it out. Is that four receivers? Three? I anticipate
they'll spread out to get athlete on athlete and let Bollinger
run....[Defensive coordinator] Kevin Cosgrove does a good job.
The team is very sound....Mike Echols is a good corner."
Strength: 39th of 117
Aug. 25 VIRGINIA
Sept. 1 at Oregon
8 FRESNO STATE
15 WESTERN KENTUCKY
22 at Penn State
Oct. 6 INDIANA
13 at Ohio State
20 at Illinois
27 MICHIGAN STATE
Nov. 3 IOWA
24 at Minnesota