By Scott Crumbly
SEC Digital Network
Newly named Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema brings with him a proven record of winning from his days at Wisconsin, and the new “Boss Hogg” should fit in well in the Southeastern Conference.
Since taking the reins in Madison in 2006, Bielema has compiled a 68-24 record and led the Badgers to three consecutive Big Ten championships since 2010. Wisconsin is currently set to play in its third straight Rose Bowl in January after dominating Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game last Saturday in blowout fashion, 70-31.
During the SEC’s current streak of six consecutive national titles, the ground game has been paramount. Dating back to the 2006 Florida Gators, the last six national champions have finished among the SEC’s top three rushing offenses and all but one has finished in the top 16 nationally.
Much like many of the championship teams from the SEC in recent years, Bielema’s Wisconsin teams were known for playing a physical style of football. Under the guidance of Bielema and offensive coordinators Paul Chryst (2006-2011) and Matt Canada (2012), the Badgers have finished in the top three in the Big Ten Conference in rushing offense for six consecutive years.
In each of those six seasons the Badgers have averaged 203 yards per game or better on the ground while also producing a 1,000-yard rusher. Since 2007, Wisconsin has averaged the 14th-best rushing offense nationally.
Wisconsin has become renowned for pounding the football behind top rate offensive linemen such as Joe Thomas (third overall pick in 2007 NFL Draft), Kraig Urbik (third round selection in 2009 and Gabe Carimi (29th overall pick in 2011). Bruising running backs such as P.J. Hill (2,373 yards and 27 TDs from 2007-2008) and John Clay (3,413 yards and 41 scores from ’08-’10) gained national acclaim for UW, and Montee Ball has been arguably the best back in college football in the last two seasons with 3,653 yards and 54 touchdowns.
In addition to a powerful run game, Bielema’s Badgers have also ranked among the Big Ten’s three best defensive units in the last three seasons. Bielema played nose guard for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the early 1990s and served as linebackers coach for five years before serving as defensive coordinator at Kansas State and Wisconsin prior to becoming a head coach.
Bielema has led Wisconsin to four 10-plus wins seasons in seven years at the helm, including two 11-win seasons and a 12-win year in 2006. The 42-year-old coach won 21 games in his first two seasons in Madison, joining Michigan’s Fielding Yost and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel as the only three coaches to record at least 21 victories in their first two seasons in the Big Ten.