For Badgers, might makes right;College football

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A quick look at the
college
football rankings shows an evolution
toward speed and ingenuity. No. 2 Oregon is best known for its blur
of tempo, No. 3 Boise State for its mischievous creativity and No.
4 Texas Christian for its defensive versatility.

But in an era of zone reads, pistol formations and hybrid
defenders, No. 19 Wisconsin issued a reminder Saturday night of the
value of smash-mouth
football played between the
tackles.

The Badgers bullied No. 1 Ohio State from the opening kickoff,
and their 31-18 upset offered a referendum of the value of
physical, conservative play-calling and quintessentially old-school

football.

On a campus where the popular watering hole Wando’s gives out
free bacon on Tuesday nights and the most famous eatery is State
Street Brats, there is still a premium placed on fat content. And
that showed Saturday as the Badgers’ offensive line, which averages
318 pounds, or 144 kilograms, threw its weight around. Ohio State’s
no-show will weigh heavily on the national title race; the Buckeyes
would need a flurry of improbable results to re-enter. They joined
Nebraska in essentially bowing out of the national title race
Saturday, as the No. 4 Cornhuskers put forth a wire-to-wire clunker
in a 20-13 home loss to unranked Texas.

Ohio State’s loss left the door open for Oregon to become No. 1
for the first time in the Associated Press poll and perhaps the top
team when the Bowl Championship Series rankings were released
Sunday.

The loss also continues to open the door for nontraditional
powers like No. 3 Boise State and No. 4 T.C.U. Every loss by a
major program appears to increase their long odds at securing a
spot in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Ohio State entered the game Saturday night as the country’s
top-ranked team but with a hollow r?sum?. Its biggest victory came
at home against a then-No. 12 Miami team that is no longer
ranked.

Ohio State gave the skeptics plenty of fodder by allowing
Wisconsin’s David Gilreath to return the opening kickoff 97 yards
for a touchdown.

While Wisconsin’s first touchdown came on an explosive play, the
rest of its first-half domination came from its age-old
playbook.

John Clay, a Wisconsin tailback straight out of the bruising
mold of the former Badgers Ron Dayne and P.J. Hill, scored the
Badgers’ two other touchdowns in the first half.

The first came on a 14-yard run that capped a six-play drive,
five of which were runs by Clay.

Wisconsin’s next scoring drive could be put in a time capsule to
epitomize this era of Badgers
football. Wisconsin scored on a
19-play, 89-yard drive that gobbled up 10 minutes 4 seconds.
Somewhere, the former Badgers coach Barry Alvarez smiled.

So did Clay, who bowled in from 1 yard out and showed why he had
carved the numbers of his starting offensive linemen in his hair.
But after that touchdown put Wisconsin up, 21-0, it became a
nervous night for the Badgers and their red-clad fans.

Ohio State clawed back into the game thanks to some inventive
offensive schemes and a riveting third quarter by quarterback
Terrelle Pryor, who was just 4 for 11 in the first half.

The game’s defining touchdown put the game away for the Badgers
after Pryor had helped Ohio State cut the lead to 21-18.

Wisconsin answered immediately with its final bruising drive of
the night. James White capped with a shifty 12-yard run, dancing
into the end zone