Quite literally, Wisconsin was the third-best team in the Big Ten’s Leaders division in 2012, finishing off an up-and-down regular season with three overtime losses in the last four games. Just as literally, the only reason the Badgers tripped into a spot in the conference championship game was because the two teams that finished ahead of them in the standings — Ohio State and Penn State — are ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.
That was the dominant storyline woven into the run-up to the league’s title game, a fact that, with each passing day, dug further under the skin of the defending B1G champions.
Unfortunately for Nebraska, the Cornhuskers felt the full force of UW’s pent-up frustrations over the talk.
There are woodsheddings, then there are eviscerations that take place inside a woodshed, the latter of which aptly applies to the 70-31 beating Wisconsin laid on No. 14 Nebraska. The beating avenged the Badgers’ 30-27 loss to the Cornhuskers earlier in the season.
The one-sided nature of the game was never more evident than with a quick glance at the rushing side of the statistical ledger.
On 50 carries, a staggering 10.9 yards per carry. Three times UW scored on runs of 56 yards or more — by three different players. Two of those players — Melvin Gordon (216) and Montee Ball (202) — topped 200 yards, while the other — James White (109) — went over 100 and scored a title-game record four touchdowns on the ground. Gordon, incidentally, carried the ball just nine times in busting through the 200-yard ceiling.
The 539 yards allowed by the Cornhuskers was a school record.
Add it all up, and UW won its second consecutive Big Ten title game and earned its third-straight berth in the Rose Bowl. After back-to-back losses in those trips to Pasadena, the Badgers, who will face Pac-12 champion Stanford, will again be looking for their first win in the Grandaddy of Them All since the 1999 season.
The most newsworthy changes in the latest AP poll come at the bottom. Michigan is out after falling 42-13 at No. 2 Penn State. Taking their place? The twisting Cyclones of Iowa State. Following a 31-13 win at Texas Tech and riding the crest of a 3-game winning streak that began at then-No. 3 Oklahoma, Matt Campbell‘s crew is off to its best start since 2002 and in the AP poll for the first time since Sept. 25, 2005. The Cyclones will have to earn their keep, though. Their next three games: No. 4 TCU, at No. 22 West Virginia and No. 11 Oklahoma State.
Elsewhere, Notre Dame jumped four spots to No. 9 after a 49-14 destruction of USC, a loss that pushed the Trojans down 10 spots to No. 21.
After a 31-21 win at Navy, Central Florida continues to track down I-4 rival South Florida as the top-ranked Group of 5 team; the Knights are up two spots to No. 18, while South Florida dropped a spot to No. 17.
The full poll:
1. Alabama — 1,525 total points (61 first-place votes)
2. Penn State — 1,444
3. Georgia — 1,409
4. TCU — 1,327
5. Wisconsin — 1,241
6. Ohio State — 1,165
7. Clemson — 1,113
8. Miami — 1,101
9. Notre Dame — 1,066
10. Oklahoma — 1,040
11. Oklahoma State — 894
12. Washington — 836
13. Virginia Tech — 791
14. NC State — 666
15. Washington State — 648
16. Michigan State — 615
17. South Florida — 604
18. Central Florida — 500
19. Auburn — 397
20. Stanford — 344
21. USC — 319
22. West Virginia — 196
23. LSU — 182
24. Memphis — 111
25. Iowa State — 98
The top five remained the same in the latest edition of the Coaches’ Poll, released Sunday. Notre Dame’s 49-14 whipping of then-No. 11 USC allowed the Irish to move into the top 10, while the Trojans plummeted all the way to No. 21.
Michigan was the other big loser this week, falling 10 spots to No. 25 after falling 42-13 at No. 2 Penn State.
And in our weekly reminder why the Coaches’ Poll is the lesser of the two irrelevant polls, voters moved Clemson ahead of Miami after the Hurricanes beat Syracuse, the team the idle Tigers lost to just one week ago.
The full poll:
1. Alabama — 1,600 total points (64 first-place votes)
2. Penn State — 1,520
3. Georgia — 1,463
4. TCU — 1,385
5. Wisconsin — 1,343
6. Ohio State — 1,244
7. Clemson — 1,173
8. Miami — 1,172
9. Oklahoma — 1,084
10. Notre Dame — 951
11. Washington — 931
12. Oklahoma State — 926
13. Virginia Tech — 818
14. South Florida — 730
15. NC State — 683
16. Washington State — 636
17. Central Florida — 561
18. Michigan State — 560
19. Auburn — 455
20. Stanford — 367
21. USC — 321
22. West Virginia — 211
23. LSU — 178
24. Texas A&M — 151
25. Michigan — 121
An already lost Ole Miss season just drove deeper into the woods with no way out.
Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson tore the PCL in his right knee during the first half of Ole Miss’s 40-24 loss to No. 24 LSU on Saturday night. OM Spirit broke the news, citing confirmation from Patterson’s father and head coach Matt Luke, and the program later confirmed it.
Patterson was examined in the medical tent during the first half of Saturday night’s game. He was given a brace around the knee and remained in the game until the final series of the loss. He finished the night 10-of-23 for 116 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions, easily the worst night of the sophomore’s brief but stellar career. He’ll finish the season hitting 166-of-260 throws (63.8 percent) for 2,259 yards (8.7 per attempt) with 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions. His 151.49 efficiency rating ranks fifth in the SEC.
The loss dropped Ole Miss to 3-4 on the year and 1-3 in SEC play. Though the schedule does lighten from here, the Rebels will still be underdogs in at least three of their five remaining games. The program announced a self-imposed bowl ban in February, but it seems the rest of the SEC and Patterson’s injury will likely conspire to make that bit of penance unnecessary.
Ole Miss will now turn to junior Jordan Ta’amu, and their fortunes may have been better on Saturday had they done that earlier. He finished the LSU loss hitting 7-of-11 throws for 78 yards with three carries for 20 yards. It was the first action of the New Mexico Military Institution transfer’s career.
It was not the most rousing of responses, but No. 15 Washington State bounced back from their first loss of the year last week and thumped Colorado 28-0 on Saturday night.
Many of the struggles could be explained by the conditions, which were rainy and windy for most of the night in a not so lovely bit of fall/winter weather out on the Palouse. Nevertheless, it was an impressive outing by the Cougars defense as they controlled the game throughout and held the Buffs to just one third down conversion all night while recording three sacks and making life miserable for last year’s Pac-12 South champs.
Luke Falk was not the most efficient quarterback running WSU’s Air Raid, but did enough to get the victory in a game that never was as close as the scoreboard indicated. He set another Pac-12 career record, this time for completions on a night where he threw just 17 total for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jamal Morrow was part of a more balanced approach on offense, rushing for 73 yards and a score that was part of a season-high 194 on the ground.
If there was any Pac-12 After Dark element to this game, a Mike Leach team coming close to rushing for more yards than they had through the air would be it.
As for the Buffs, there will not be much to enjoy when they go back and watch the game film. Running back Phillip Lindsay was bottled up fairly successfully and needed nearly 30 carries to run for 98 yards on the night. QB Steven Montez had just four completions and was benched in the second half for Sam Noyer after a rough, rough outing. The defense had their moments in recovering two fumbles but were continually put in bad spots given how lackluster the offense was.
The victory by Wazzu moves them to 7-1 on the year for the team’s best start in over a decade and keeps them atop the Pac-12 North standings — while also keeping them within control of their own destiny when it comes to the conference title. It also sets up a very interesting road trip next week, as they go to Tucson to play an Arizona team that also finds themselves suddenly in the mix for a division title as well.
Strange times indeed out West, even if things aren’t always pretty.