After last Saturday’s win against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship, the Badgers quieted all that questioned their ability. Many conference enthusiasts questioned whether the team deserved to be in the big game since Ohio State and Penn State were banned. But Wisconsin’s 70 point explosion against the Cornhuskers proved those people wrong.
Wisconsin dominated the twelfth-ranked Nebraska team mainly with their ground game. Of the crazy 70 points scored, 56 were earned by the Badgers’ running backs. Montee Ball finished the night with 202 yards and an impressive four touchdowns. Melvin Gordon and James White also contributed 325 yards and another five touchdowns combined. Curt Phillips only threw eight times but completed six for 71 yards, including a score.
Nebraska relied heavily on quarterback Taylor Martinez. He threw for 184 yards and two interceptions while running for an additional 140 yards and two touchdowns. Rex Burkhead added 61 yards on the ground as well.
With the win, Wisconsin heads to the Rose Bowl for the third consecutive year. They will be facing sixth-ranked Stanford. Just as I said before the Big Ten Championship, the team needs to rely heavily on the run game. The core put up 56 points last game, that’s a ridiculous number! Although, I think Phillips needs a few more opportunities to throw. When facing a good Stanford defense, the passing game should at least get 10 attempts.
Stanford, currently 11-2 on the season, are undefeated in their last seven games. Of those seven, the last four were against 20 teams. If Wisconsin is smart, they will make a game plan for Stepfan Taylor. The Cardinals’ running back has over 1,400 yards on the season along with 12 touchdowns recorded. He’s no Ball but Taylor could still pose as a potential problem for the Wisconsin defense.
Seeing the team succeed thus far after a mediocre year is fantastic, but I fear their future is now more unclear than ever. Announced early Tuesday afternoon, Head Coach Bret Bielema accepted the top spot at Arkansas for next season. It was determined that former coach and current athletics director Barry Alvarez will coach Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl this year. This means the Badgers have lost their head coach and will lose their star running back after this game.
While I think Wisconsin will be okay with two very talented backs returning in White and Gorgon, I’m not so sure that Bielema can be replaced as easily. The head coach is currently 68-24 overall during his seven seasons with the team. Since the Badgers have run the same offense for so long, it’ll be interesting to see who they elects as their next leader.
With much uncertainty in their future, I hope the team just handles one thing at a time. For now, focus on the game against Stanford. Rely on the run game until their defense finds a way to stop it. If it’s anything like their outburst against Nebraska, the team should find success.