A week after knocking off Nebraska, No. 8 Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten) all of a sudden could be ready to regain control of the Big Ten West with a little help later tonight. After tying down a win against Northwestern (4-5, 3-3 Big Ten) with a 21-7 decision, the Badgers now are one Nebraska loss away from taking over the top spot in the division. Nebraska plays at Ohio State tonight.
Corey Clement rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown to lead Wisconsin’s ground attack, which combined for over 220 yards as a team against Northwestern’s defense. The Badgers got a quiet but adequately efficient passing effort from Alex Hornibrook and Bart Houston when called upon. The story of the game was Wisconsin’s defense, which held Northwestern to just one score, which came late in the first half. At the time, it felt like a possible momentum shift, but Northwestern was forced to punt on their first three drives of the second half, with a pair of three-and-outs. Down 13-7, Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson fumbled away the football in the fourth quarter, which led to a Wisconsin touchdown (and two-point conversion).
Wisconsin controlled the football for 37 minutes.
Wisconsin will have to wait to see what happens with Nebraska, but the Badgers have a more favorable remaining schedule in front of them regardless of what the Huskers do against the Buckeyes. Next week, Wisconsin will host Illinois. After that is a road game at Purdue before closing out the regular season at home against rival Minnesota. The Badgers are 21-0 against Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota since 2008.
Northwestern may be out of the division hunt, but the Wildcats still have work to do to reach a bowl game. Northwestern must win two of its final three games to reach the six-win minimum (without getting into 5-7 scenarios, which would appear to be highly favorable for Northwestern). Northwestern will have games at Purdue and home against Illinois as well as a road game at Minnesota. Northwestern should probably get to six wins.