Wisconsin proved it’s for real, but it still has a massive problem

Wisconsin’s 30-6 win over Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday was impressive, comprehensive, and vindicating.

No one knew what to make of the Badgers after they beat LSU in Week 1 in a de-facto home game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Was LSU overrated? Was Wisconsin overlooked? The reaction to that upset win — LSU was No. 5 in the AP poll heading into that contest — was drastic: Wisconsin went from unranked to No. 10 in the rankings.

Were the Badgers really that good? After three weeks, we didn’t know the answer. A sluggish performance against Georgia State in Week 3 certainly didn’t help provide clarity.

Saturday’s win provided plenty of clarity, though. No one should be asking if the Badgers are for real anymore.

Wisconsin’s win over No. 8 Michigan State was an old-fashioned beat down — there wasn’t an aspect of the game in which the Badgers didn’t outclass the Spartans.

A week after Michigan State took out Notre Dame in impressive fashion, re-establishing itself as a Big Ten contender, Wisconsin stole the belt. The Badgers are the biggest threat to Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten this year.

The only problem — the Badgers will have to prove that again next week. And then again in their next game after that.

There’s no rest for the Badgers this season.

Wisconsin’s schedule is hellacious, and Saturday’s game against Michigan State was only the beginning of a three-game stretch that’s arguably the toughest any team will have to face this season.

Next week, the Badgers will travel to the Big House to take on Michigan.

They’ll get a bye week after that, but then they’ll host Ohio State.

It’s likely that both the Wolverines and Buckeyes will be in the Top 5 when those games happen. Going into Week 4, Wisconsin’s next three opponents were ranked No. 8, No. 4, and No. 2. That’s a ruthless gauntlet.

After that, it’s likely that the only Top 25 the Badgers will have to play are Iowa and Nebraska.

But they started that stretch 1-0.

No matter what happens in the next two games, Saturday’s result was unimpeachable. Wisconsin’s defense is elite — you have to be to hold Michigan State to 75 rushing yards in a contest — and its offense has a clear identity with a quarterback — redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook — that can execute the gameplan with the surprising amount of big-play talent around him.

The Badgers are the best team in the Big Ten West, and that makes them contenders in what might be the best conference in America.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll find out if they’re contenders for the College Football Playoff as well.