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BIG TEN REPORT: Wisconsin worthy of top-10 AP ranking

Wisconsteammates celebrate with MelvGord(25) after Gordon's touchdown during first half an NCAA college football game against IndianSaturday Nov. 16 2013

Wisconsin teammates celebrate with Melvin Gordon (25) after Gordon's touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 51-3. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

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Updated: December 18, 2013 6:53AM



Whatever cockamamie computer determines the BCS can’t see. It’s statistically driven, hung up on technicality, wins and losses.

But Associated Press voters, they have eyes. And it would behoove those voters to open them when Wisconsin is on television. They’ll realize the Badgers deserve to be in the top 10 and are very attractive to bowl representatives.

Throw away that sham of a loss to Arizona State. That’s the officiating gaffe of the year that prevented Wisconsin from being a one-loss team. And that one loss — the real one, anyway — came at No. 3 Ohio State, where the Badgers had the ball with a chance to send the game to overtime.

Use your eyes, voters, and you’ll see Wisconsin passes the “eye test.”

Six times Wisconsin’s defense has held teams to 10 points or fewer. The Badgers have three shutouts. On Saturday, Wisconsin held a talented Indiana offense to three points. Michigan State’s defense, which is perceived as one of the country’s best, gave up 28 against the Hoosiers.

That’s not to diminish the Spartans’ defense. But the Badgers are in the same conversation.

Wisconsin, ranked three spots behind the Spartans in the AP poll, has a better offense. The Badgers have the most exciting running-back duo since Reggie Bush and LenDale White shared snaps at USC. Badgers sophomore Melvin Gordon and senior James White will play on Sundays.

Add freshman Corey Clement, and Wisconsin has three running backs who can snap any crowd out of a New Year’s Day hangover. The trio totaled 554 yards and four touchdowns Saturday.

Remember, bowl selection is as much about wins and losses as it is marketability.

Then there’s speedy receiver Jared Abbrederis, who actually scored twice on three carries that totaled 86 yards Saturday. A rib injury prevented him from going off even more.

But that was after a 10-catch, 207-yard performance in Columbus, with Buckeyes All-America cornerback Bradley Roby manning him up throughout the game.

OK, so now do you see?

WEEK 12 STARS

RB Zach Zwinak, Penn State:

Carried the ball 26 times for 149 yards and three touchdowns. It was the senior’s third three-touchdown game of the season.

RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan State:

Was the Spartans’ offense Saturday, carrying the ball 32 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns. It was the junior’s fifth consecutive 100-yard rushing game.

RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State:

Had his best game of the year, carrying the ball 24 times for 246 yards and four touchdowns. He caught two passes for 26 yards and a touchdown.

TABLE SET FOR TITLE GAME

After winning Saturday, Ohio State and Michigan State almost have secured a date to play each other in the Big Ten title game Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.

If both teams win next week, the Buckeyes and Spartans will clinch the Leaders and Legends divisions, respectively.

An offensively driven Ohio State team faces an Indiana team that has given up an average of 47.8 points in its last four games. Defensive-minded Michigan State faces a Northwestern offense in disarray.

Both teams would have to lose their remaining two games to miss out on the title game.

BLIND FAITH

Winning might be a cure-all for most ailing teams, but it’s difficult to believe the victory Michigan fell into Saturday at Northwestern will do anything to remedy its offensive woes.

Michigan made as many mistakes offensively as it had all season. The Wolverines were lucky their opponent made more.

Five-star freshman running back Derrick Green has yet to live up to the hype. Athletic quarterback Devin Gardner looks lost. And left tackle Taylor Lewan, a projected top-10 NFL draft pick to start the season, is worse than he was last year.

DEFENSIVE COVER-UP

Other conferences might epitomize the offensive revolution that is engulfing college football, but Ohio State might be the best example of how defense is losing its relevance. An uncharacteristically bad Buckeyes unit is being camouflaged by an offense that is among the best in the country. Ohio State can score with anyone and, as a result, beat anyone. The Buckeyes have scored at least 40 points in six of their eight games. They’ve averaged nearly 60 points in their last three games.

BY THE NUMBERS

501 — Yards of offense for Penn State, including 289 rushing yards.

11.1 — Yards per rush for Wisconsin, helping the Badgers keep the ball for 37:45 in their win over Indiana.

2 — Indiana possessions that went into Wisconsin territory. The first, on the game’s first drive, ended in an interception.

THEY SAID IT

“James is playing phenomenal. He’s upping my game, too, as a competitor. You see a guy playing that well, you want to match that. You have to. That’s just the nature of our position. The way he’s going out there and playing is really helping me out.” — Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, on fellow running back James White

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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