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