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Analytics: Can Mordecai Bring the Heisman Back to Wisconsin Football?

Can Tanner Mordecai win the Heisman for Wisconsin football?



Wisconsin football; Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai
Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) runs through a drill during fall training camp at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023.

I’m back with Part Six of my Pre-Season Series: TOP 10 Wisconsin Football Stats you need to know for the 2023 Season!

For Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3  | Part 4 | Part 5

Sorry Folks, I know you might THINK Braelon can bring one back to Wisconsin Football, but if Melvin Gordon and Jonathan Taylor couldn’t win a Heisman. And We’ve only seen 3 RBs win it in the last 23 years. Plus, this isn’t the 90s where we saw 4 RBs in the decade win, capped with our own Ron Dayne!! In the Modern Era of College Football, it’s simply not in the cards for a RB to win this award.

So…I’ll follow up this piece to analyze what Braelon needs to accomplish to be in the Doak Walker Award conversation.

But I think our only hope for a Heisman is to have Tanner Mordecai bring it home again. And what type of year does he need to have to do that?

Well, lets dive in!!

What Level of QB is the Heisman STANDARD:

I’m going to start this off by giving you a lot of charts, so bear with me. But I’ll try to explain what they’ll be and why they matter!

First, we’ll look at Yards/ATT. Which is the single best measure of a QB and how efficient they are at throwing the football!

If you remember Part 4 of my series, I called out that Rushing YPA can actually skew how good a RB & the Running-Game is.

This all has to do with the negative plays that show up. With incompletions, the only negative play would be an incompletion and, therefore, zero yards. So even when you look at Completion %, which you would think would be an equal statistic to STUFF RATE. It isn’t, and YPA is still the best overall measure to judge a QB’s PASSING ability.

And I’ve got some data to prove it…

First COMP% & EPA/ATT:

  • A positive correlation is definitely evident here!
    • But there is certainly some variance in the regression model with Kyler & Mordecai

But check out how YPA & EPA/ATT Correlate:

  • A Much, MUCH stronger correlation here!!!

So it goes to show that the more Yards/ATT you can get passing the football, the more expected points you’ll add to your team. Which makes all the sense in the world, unless you’re getting sacked or throwing INTs passing the ball and the efficiency you contribute through passing the ball can be found in a QBs YPA!

What Other “Key Metrics” do we need to look at?:

Well, you can make those game-breaking throws much more often. That will definitely help your chances!


And on the flip side, don’t EVER put the ball in danger.


These are insanely low INT Rates across the board! But you’ll notice that two QBs don’t really fit the Sub 1.75% INT Rate mold (WHO’VE WON HEISMANS). That would be Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. Murray obviously had one of the best YPA & TD Rates among these Heisman QBs, but they both brought a certain dynamism to the position that really set them apart!

Those two were so much more dynamic with their feet that although they weren’t as polished across the board as passers as the other Heisman QBs.

  • Lamar with Poor YPA/INT Rate
  • Kyler with a Poor INT RATE

They still impacted the game from their position at a Heisman level by using their feet!!

So Mordecai, as we can see from the data, hasn’t been up to that level on YPA & INT Rate; he was really solid in terms of TD Rate in his 2021 Campaign. Right in line with the two reigning Heisman Trophy Winners (Bryce Young & Caleb Williams).  But especially looking at Rush YPG compared to this ELITE cohort, he seemed to lack some dynamism with his feet to make up for his poor YPA & INT RATE.

Now a number of factors that I called out in Part 5 could play a part in this. Like his supporting cast at SMU potentially having some influence on his YPA numbers. Or small number of high INT games is the cause for a HIGHER INT Rate compared to Heisman WINNERS. But let’s take a step back and see how this compare to other UW QBs, specifically those in the Paul Chryst Era.

Mordecai vs. Other Wisconsin Football QBs:

In prior analyses on Mordecai, I’ve talked extensively about how he compares very favorably to past UW QBs in YPA, INT RATE, and in other key metrics. But I’m interested in how he’ll be able to use his feet more to extend plays and limit drive-killing sacks! And also how his ability to do that compares to Paul Chryst Era QBs.

Let’s take a look:

  • ABOVE we can see each QBs Sack Rate (Sacks Taken / Drobacks) & Drobbacks
    • We see Tanner Mordecai well below all other UW QBs in the PC Era
    • I even threw Russell Wilson in there to compare & Mordecai takes on about 2% less Sacks!!!

This tells me that Tanner has an extremely good feel in the pocket and can use that feel to avoid drive-killing sacks. Something most QBs in the PC Era did at about a 6% Rate. Mordecai is well below 4%!! That has massive implications!

But how about using his feet to extend plays and pick up big yards?


  • In that respect, Mordecai isn’t  quite on Russell’s Level
    • However, he is head and shoulders above almost every other UW QB in the PC Era
    • And was very close in his 2021 Campaign

We will finally have someone a little bit more mobile and dynamic as the signal caller for Wisconsin Football!! Someone who will keep things alive when the pocket isn’t absolutely perfect and will not give up too many sacks. And although Mordecai hasn’t shown Kyler Murray/Lamar Jackson level ability to pick up huge yards with his feet. He does so at a level close to Russell Wilson’s, which we saw a little bit in the latest (WI)red featuring Mordecai. And we all know how dynamic that was for the 2011 Wisconsin Offense!!!

What should our expectations be that Mordecai brings the Heisman to Wisconsin Football?:

I think Wisconsin Football fans should expect that if Mordecai has a Russ-type year.

  1. 10.3 YPA
  2. 10.6% TD Rate
  3. 1.29% INT Rate
  4. ~25 Rush Yards/Game

He will have a DAMN good shot at winning the Heisman Trophy.

But ask yourself, why DIDN’T RUSS? Well, it comes down to one thing.

Just Win, Baby Win!:

What killed Russ was that team went 11-2. In no world should that Offense vs. that schedule have gone 11-2 in the Regular Season. This was back in an 8-Game B1G schedule. Also, in those 2 Losses before Heisman Voting, UW scored 30 PPG. That was enough to get the job done on his part. And if you include the Rose Bowl loss, that would be 33 PPG in his 3 Losses.

Final Thoughts:

If Mordecai plays to that level, I’m more confident than I’ve ever been about a UW Defense to be able to back him up with an Undefeated/One-Loss Season. From the personnel (Wohler, Njongmeta/Turner/Chaney, Latu, Peterson, Smith). To the Coaching Staff (Tressel, Hitschler, Scruggs) and the overall swagger the group seems to carry. They know that they are STILL one of the best defensive teams in the country, regardless of who we may have lost as our defensive coordinator!

I believe that ability is within Tanner Mordecai, especially given the situation he’s coming into. On Paper, this is one of the most talented Offensive Lines in the Country. Jack Nelson and Riley Mahlman are both 4-Star guys holding down both Tackle Spots. Bortolini, Renfro, and Huber all have proven their Star Rankings didn’t matter, as they were all very early starters in their career. And the depth behind them is LOADED. Brunner, Rucci, Benzschawel, B. Nelson all being 4 & 5-Star guys. Mordecai has some big guys up-front protecting him!

Take the pressure off with six really good Wideouts & a Two-Headed MONSTER RB duo in Braelon & Chez. This will put defenses in a massive pickle…load the box to stop the run or contain Mordecai. We’ll see who they take their chances with. Either way, the defenses go. I like our odds!! And maybe, just maybe, if they load the box a time or two too often. Mordecai can take advantage and find himself flying out of New York with a Heisman Trophy!

On Wisconsin!

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow me on Twitter @GardYourFickell

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Wisconsin Football Week 5 Stock Report: Bye Week Blues



Wisconsin Badgers football
Sep 10, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers logo on a flag prior to the game against the Washington State Cougars at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers football team enters their bye week with a 3-1 overall record. I’m sure many fans hoped and expected the Badgers to be 4-0 heading into the bye, but 3-1 is still a pretty good start. With a victory over Purdue last Friday, the Badgers are already 1/5 of the way to being bowl-eligible, so there’s that too.

Here is the Week 5 BadgerNotes Stock Report.

Wisconsin Football Stock Report: Stock Up

Wisconsin’s Standing in the Big Ten West

We are just getting into conference play and the Wisconsin football team is already at the top of the standings. They are currently the only team in the west division that doesn’t have a conference loss.

The Gophers lost an embarrassing game to the Northwestern Wildcats in overtime after being up 31-10 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.

Nebraska lost to Minnesota in Week 1.

Iowa just got destroyed by Penn State last week, 31-0.

Purdue lost to Wisconsin last week, dropping their conference record to 0-1.

Now, with the Badgers having a bye this week, there’s a situation where the rest of the West will continue to cannibalize and lose games that will give the Wisconsin football team an even larger lead without even playing a game. Right now, the Badgers are sitting pretty well in the division.

Wisconsin Football Stock Report: Stock Down

Bye Weeks

Boo! Bye weeks suck. Having to wait more than two weeks between Wisconsin football games sucks, especially now that their offense started to get rolling. Now there’s a chance the team could lose the rhythm they worked to get into the past few weeks.

On the positive side, if there are any Wisconsin football players who are banged up, this bye week will give them some time to heal up before they play another game.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers football news, notes, opinions, and analysis. You can also follow Christian Borman on Twitter @christianborman.

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Join the Badger Notes watch party and stream Wisconsin Badgers games by following this link.

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Special Teams: The Unsung Heroes of Wisconsin Football



Wisconsin Badgers football punter Atticus Bertrams
Wisconsin punter Atticus Bertrams (49) punts for 42 yds during the second quarter of the game against Buffalo on Saturday September 2, 2023 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis.

The Wisconsin Badgers football program is headed into the bye week on a high note following a 38-17 win over Purdue. The Badgers had some very apparent struggles throughout the first four games of the season, but there was a lot to like about UW’s performance against the Boilermakers.

It doesn’t get talked about nearly enough, but Wisconsin has had some excellent play from the special teams unit thus far. The excitement around the program was at an all-time high for some of the other phases — and I’m certainly not here to blame anyone for that — but we must give credit where it’s due. Wisconsin has some real promise with its special teams, and they deserve some praise.

Special Teams: The Unsung Heroes of Wisconsin Football

Nathanial Vakos

We need to talk about Nathanial Vakos. The former Ohio transfer has undoubtedly been one of the biggest bright spots for Wisconsin through the first four games of the 2023 season. 

So far, Vakos has nailed all seven field goal attempts and been perfect on extra-point tries. After his performance against Purdue, where he went 3-for-3 on field goal opportunities and hit three extra point attempts, Vakos earned Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Against Washington State, Vakos also hit all three of his field goal attempts, with his longest coming in at 49 yards, which remains his longest field goal of the season.

Having a kicker of Vakos’ caliber is a blessing that can’t be understated. While he may not get the most attention due to his role on the special teams, he certainly deserves his flowers for how he has fared through the first four weeks of the 2023 season.

Atticus Bertrams

Another player who doesn’t get enough recognition is Atticus Bertrams. The freshman has quietly put together a solid 2023 season thus far. Through four games, the Australia native has punted 16 times for an average of 42.5 yards per punt. On top of that, Bertrams has only had one punt returned. Last week against Purdue, Bertrams had just two punts, but his longest boot came in at 60 yards, his longest of the season. 

Although he is an unheralded member of the special teams, the freshman has been impressive, considering he never punted in a game before the 2023 season. His marks aren’t the most impressive, but there is a solid foundation for the Australian native. 

Wisconsin Football WR/Returner Chimere Dike

Though Vakos has been the most impressive player on the special teams — in my opinion — Chimere Dike has done an excellent job on return opportunities. 

Dike was impressive during his performance against Purdue, logging returns for 39 and 34 yards. With those marks, Dike is now second in the Big Ten on punt returns, with an average of 9.6 yards per return. On top of that, he’s fourth in the conference on kickoff returns, logging an average of 32 yards per return. 

The senior receiver has undoubtedly been one of the biggest bright spots for the Wisconsin football program early in their 2023 campaign. You’d love to see him break off one of his returns for six, and that certainly isn’t out of the question with his skillset. 

The special teams unit has played a big role to start the season, and their contributions will continue to be crucial as the season chugs along. 

As it stands, the Wisconsin Badgers football team is 3-1 heading into the bye week. UW will take on Rutgers on October 7th in Madison as both teams look to improve to 4-1.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here. Also, like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers football news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Jake Maier on Twitter @JakeJMaier.

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FB Recruiting

Wisconsin Football Named a Recruiting Finalist for NFL Pro Bowler’s Son



Wisconsin Badgers Football head coach Luke Fickell
Sep 16, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell prior to the game against the Georgia Southern Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin Badgers football team received some good news on the recruiting front Tuesday evening. The coveted Eugene Hilton Jr., a promising 2025 wide receiver hailing from Zionsville, Indiana, made a significant move by narrowing his list of potential schools to six, and the Badgers proudly found their place among them.

As Hilton Jr. looks ahead to his collegiate journey, he’ll weigh his options between a few notable programs. The final six schools in his consideration are Ole Miss, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida International University (FIU), Miami, and our very own University of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Football Recruiting Still in the Mix for Son of an NFL Pro Bowler

According to the industry-generated composite recruiting rankings, Eugene Hilton Jr. is the No. 393 player in the 2025 cycle, the No. 55 WR, and the No. 4 recruit to hail from Indiana.

Currently, Hilton is considered a three-star recruit and one of the top 2025 pass-catching prospects in the Midwest — and the Badgers would be happy to add him to a verbal commits list that already includes quarterback Landyn Locke and defensive back Remington Moss.

Now, if the name Hilton sounds a tad familiar to Wisconsin football fans, you’re spot on. This dynamic young talent happens to be the offspring of none other than former NFL pro-bowler T.Y. Hilton. During his illustrious NFL career, the elder Hilton made a name for himself with the Indianapolis Colts and the Dallas Cowboys.

With the Badgers making the cut in Hilton Jr.’s selection process, it’s a testament to the allure and potential of Wisconsin football & its ability to attract new talent because of their air raid offense.

As the recruiting process unfolds, all eyes will be on Eugene Hilton Jr. as he evaluates his options. While the path to securing his commitment may be winding, one thing is clear: Wisconsin Badgers football is very much in the running for the talented young wideout.

Contact/Follow us @Badger_Notes on Twitter, Subscribe to the BadgerNotes Newsletter here, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Wisconsin Badgers news, notes, opinion, and analysis. You can also follow Dillon Graff on Twitter @DillonGraff.

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Join the Badger Notes watch party and stream Wisconsin Badgers games by following this link.

*Subscribe to BadgerNotes After Dark on Youtube and wherever you find podcasts, the official Wisconsin Badgers podcast of the Big Banter Sports Network.

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