Giants vs. Packers: Who is Scott Tolzien?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace have forced the Packers to turn to Scott Tolzien. What should the Giants expect from the third-year quarterback?

Between attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 2008-12, contributing to BBV in various forms over those latter two years and manning SB Nation's Badgers site, Bucky's 5th Quarter, I felt compelled to make a long-awaited return here to help answer a question on many of your minds this week: Who the heck is Scott Tolzien?

The answer doesn't lead to an incredibly interesting story, nor one that you probably haven't already gathered yourself. Tolzien will be starting at quarterback for the Packers Sunday afternoon vs. the Giants, though only because of injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace. After the former broke his collarbone, Wallace started Green Bay's game against the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend, but lasted just one drive before exiting with a groin injury. In came Tolzien, who set forth a surprisingly decent performance considering he was only elevated to the active roster a few days prior.

The third-year quarterback out of Wisconsin went 24-of-39 for 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, enough to keep the Packers close, but not close enough in a 27-13 loss.

"It's not just a cliché when someone says to prepare every week when you're a starter," Tolzien told reporters after the game. "You have to take that to heart and on your shoulders to make sure you're doing that, so if you get moved up into an opportunity, it's not a surprise to you."

Prior to that performance, Tolzien was buried on the Packers practice squad since early September. Previously, he spent 2011 and '12 on the 49ers' active roster but never saw regular-season action.

The scouting report on Tolzien is straightforward. At 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, he's an average-sized quarterback well regarded for his accuracy and decision-making. Dating back to his college days at Wisconsin, he was the sort of quarterback who all-too-easily was branded "good, but not great." The fact that he also came just before the brilliant Russell Wilson season of 2011 only enhanced the validity of that label to outsiders.

But the fact is Wisconsin might not currently be a Big Ten power without him. Perhaps that's uninteresting to Giants fans, but it speaks to how Tolzien got this far, and how he very well could surprise more than a few people this weekend.

The Badgers' string of three consecutive Rose Bowls from 2010-12 began in Tolzien's senior season, when he was named the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner as the nation's top fourth-year quarterback. His 72.9 completion percentage and 165.8 efficiency rating were both school records before Wilson came along the following year, and he was quite simply the glue connecting an offense that had eventual NFL talent -- namely the entire offensive line, wide receiver Nick Toon, tight end Lance Kendricks and running backs John Clay and Montee Ball -- but just barely reached the Rose Bowl via a three-way tiebreaker over Ohio State and Michigan State.


*Us college bloggers love these corny highlight packages.

All that, and everything that's happened since, is especially interesting now considering Tolzien's early years at Wisconsin. Prior to his stellar senior year, the Rolling Meadows, Ill., native was solid as a junior, setting another school-record-before-Wilson-broke-it with 211 completions (against 328 attempts, 64.3 percent). He won that starting job in 2009, emerging from seemingly nowhere to beat out a groan-worthy duo of Allan Evridge and Dustin Sherer. Before that, he came to Wisconsin as a two-star recruit and redshirted his freshman year.

So that's that. Tolzien certainly won't unseat Rodgers, though it does seem Packers head coach Mike McCarthy might like Tolzien over a healthy Wallace.

"I thought he played an outstanding football game (Sunday) based on the amount of preparation, because no offense is ever the same," McCarthy said. "I saw a young man get better during the course of the game - running plays he hasn't played yet and doing things that I thought was exceptional for a young quarterback."

With room to grow and the Packers desperately treading water until Rodgers returns, Tolzien figures to have the starting job until he cedes it. That said, the Giants' 11th-ranked passing defense surrenders about 80 yards fewer per game than the Eagles' 31st-ranked unit. Knowing a win Sunday could somehow bring them a half-game away from the NFC East lead, the Giants won't afford Tolzien the opportunity of being overlooked.

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