Numbers Revealing About Wisconsin

LITTLE ROCK — None of us privy to Jim Elder's remarkably detailed, handcrafted statistics would ever tell him how much we admired his work.

Instead, there would be potshots, picking at this or that, and twisting his numbers to undermine the point. We'd have to dig deep to do the same with the black and white of Wisconsin football. Before word of "The Meeting" got out and prior to the Bobby Knight sighting, I needed a primer on the Badgers. Easy to find on the Internet — a conduit to be cursed for the lack of accountability and cheered for information availability — there were the numbers on running back P.J. Hill Jr. and quarterback John Stocco. Hill was of interest from the moment ESPN's Jimmy Dykes offered a description during a basketball game. Hill, Dykes said, is built like a defensive back from the waist up and a lineman from the waist down. That paints a certain picture and fits nicely with the official 5-foot-11 and 242. A freshman, Hill ran for 1,533 yards during the Badgers' 11-1 season. Arkansas sophomore Darren McFadden made 1,558 yards in one more game and he finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Elder would have reveled in the game-by-game breakout on Hill and the cement-tight relationship between Hill's production and the Badgers' bottom line. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry or more in nine of the games and the Badgers won each of those by 10 or more. In fact, 13-3 over Penn State was the closest. Take a gander at his numbers in the other three games: • 4.2 yards per try vs. Illinois, 30-24 victory. • 2.8 yards per try vs. Iowa, 24-21 victory. • 2.7 yards per try vs. Michigan, 27-13 loss. So, when Arkansas coach Houston Nutt says the Razorbacks must stop the run in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, he's way past cliches and espousing truths. For the Arkansas defense, the catch is that Hill's offensive line is filled with oak tree clones. From tackle to tackle, they are 6-8, 6-6, 6-6, 6-6, 6-7, and they are listed at 313, 316, 317, 326, and 324. If Wisconsin decided to station Hill up close to the line of scrimmage, the Badgers could have an every-down version of the "Woody" play that Arkansas ran against Auburn with Reggie Fish. Before Reggie Herring commits all 11 to Hill, a note or two about Stocco. The only time that he threw more than 26 passes this year was against Michigan and that day he was 22-of-42. Despite barely cracking .500 at Ann Arbor, he completed 61.5 percent for the year and his pass efficiency rating is No. 17 in the country. Below him are quarterbacks more familiar to the masses, including Chris Leak at Florida, Chad Henne at Michigan, and John David Booty at USC, and it's noteworthy that his completion percentage and efficiency rating were almost identical in 2005. In a 24-10 victory over Auburn in Orlando a year ago, Stocco completed 15-of-27 for 301 yards and two touchdowns. Stocco's 2006 totals would have been better, but he missed the final two games with a separated shoulder and his absence is another reason that the Badgers struggled against Iowa. He had started 35 straight prior to Iowa and his most impressive statistic is his 28-7 record. Five times, he has been the quarterback when the Badgers rallied in the fourth-quarter for a victory. Hill, Stocco and the granite blocks in front of them will be a formidable task for Arkansas. The Big Ten is more than Ohio State and Michigan. ---- Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is hking@arkansasnews.com.

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