Wisconsin's quest to win Big Ten title in reach

Wisconsin's quest to win Big Ten title in reach

Published Nov. 22, 2010 6:13 a.m. ET

Wisconsin was devastated by a loss at Michigan State in the Big Ten opener, fearing the setback stunted its chances of winning the conference championship.

The Badgers bounced back mentally and physically to win six straight games - including a 48-28 win Saturday at Michigan - and have a chance to for at least a share of their first Big Ten title since 1999.

If the Badgers beat Northwestern on Saturday at home, they'll do it.

''I did share with those guys that it's in your hands and there's very few times in your life that everything you want is in your hands,'' coach Bret Bielema recalled. ''We just have to handle our business.''


With a win, Wisconsin likely will win the conference's three-way tiebreaker - via the BCS standings - and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl if Ohio State beats Michigan at home and Michigan State wins at Penn State to also finish with one Big Ten loss.

The Badgers moved up one spot to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, but that isn't a factor in the BCS standings.

Bielema said he's proud of his players, who figured out how special this season could be after losing to the Spartans.

''They're a special group,'' he said. ''They believe in something bigger than themselves.''

Wisconsin's offense is so big and talented it doesn't seem to matter who is running the ball.

Montee Ball and James White combined for 354 yards rushing and six touchdowns against the Wolverines, easily making up for the loss of injured star John Clay for the second straight week.

''It's a pretty good feeling when you're All-Big Ten player is sitting on the bench,'' Bielema said.

While the running game justifiably was lauded for an impressive performance at the Big House, quarterback Scott Tolzien did his part.

Tolzien completed his first 13 passes - 24 straight, including the end of last week's 83-20 win against Indiana - and finished 14 of 15 for 201 yards with an interception.

''If there is anyone playing better than him right now, I'd like to know who it is,'' Bielema said. ''He had unbelievable composure.''

The entire Badgers team has, too, since losing Oct. 2 to the Spartans.

''They took the bad of that day and turned it to good,'' Bielema said.