Yes, you read that right. The trench “warfare” specializing, ground and pound Wisconsin Badgers have a quarterback. And for once, he’s more than an afterthought.

I will be the first to admit I am not a true Badgers fan. I follow the team when they’re really good, like last year. Yet for the first time in over ten years, I am greatly anticipating the first game of the Badgers season (7 PM Thursday night vs. UNLV, ESPN), and there’s only one reason why: Russell Wilson.

The idea of a Badgers quarterback potentially putting up Heisman-esque numbers is as exciting as it is foreign. As good as the Brooks Bollingers and Scott Tolziens were, they were still Badgers quarterbacks. That is, not the focal points of the offenses they ran.

Frankly, the expectations are probably too high for Russell Wilson. This is still the Wisconsin Badgers football program we’re talking about, and they’re going to run it down people’s throats like they do every year. The difference is, they just might have a quarterback who presents an equal threat to defenses, and that’s a scary thought.

Plus, that’s just it. There are great expectations for a Badgers quarterback. Expectations beyond “hand off to that guy” and “throw it to your All-American tight end on third down.”

As a relatively objective observer, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would not pick the Badgers as their preseason favorite. This is essentially the same high powered offense of last year, with Scott Tolzien being switched out for a dual threat quarterback capable of amassing 4,000 all purpose yards. Again, Wilson probably will not do that this year for Wisconsin. Not with a running game as good as the Badgers have. But he is capable of those numbers, and defensive coordinators know that.

There’s no guarantee that the Badgers are going to accomplish much of anything with Wilson. Who knows if Bret Bielema or any Badger coaches know how to handle a quarterback like Wilson? They’ve never done it before. But if nothing else, it would be important to see a quarterback flourish in this system, to prove to potential recruits that it can happen. Regardless of the results, Bielema deserves tremendous credit for bringing the first big-time quarterback to Wisconsin that we have seen in many years, something not even Barry Alvarez was able to accomplish.

Speaking only for casual fans like myself, this is the most exciting start to a Badgers season since Ron Dayne was chasing Ricky Williams in the record books. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype.