The Wisconsin Badgers finished their regular season with a perfect record. They have no time to celebrate.
Ranked No. 5 in the College Football Playoff standings, the Badgers likely will secure a spot in the tournament by defeating No. 9 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game next week.
Their case was strengthened when No. 2 Miami lost to Pittsburgh on Friday. The selection committee has kept Wisconsin out of the top four in its preliminary rankings despite the Badgers being undefeated.
But it seems highly unlikely that the committee would snub an undefeated Big Ten champion from the four-team field, if Wisconsin wins the conference title game.
“I think we are a great football team,” tight end Troy Fumagalli said. “I can’t convince any people [to put Badgers in playoff]. We are just going to keep going out there and do our best.”
Their best is pretty darn good. The Badgers went 12-0 for the first time in school history and finished the regular season perfect for the first time since going 7-0 in 1912.
Their formula is impressive. They own the nation’s No. 2 defense and a Heisman Trophy candidate running back in freshman Jonathan Taylor.
The Badgers leaned on both of those strengths to overwhelm the Gophers to reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the 14th consecutive year.
The defense held the Gophers to only 133 yards, while Taylor rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown. They also burned the Gophers with their passing game.
The Gophers committed extra defenders near the line hoping to slow Taylor. Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook took advantage by completing 15 of 19 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns.
“I thought Alex was really good,” coach Paul Chryst said. “He was seeing the field well. He gave guys a chance to make plays.”
Speaking of making plays, Eden Prairie product Ryan Connelly was everywhere for the Badgers defense. The junior linebacker collected six tackles, a career-high two sacks and one tackle for loss.
Now the Badgers have their sights on a Big Ten title. And more.
“We’re not done,” Chryst said. “But it’s not easy to win. And for them to do that [perfect regular season] in the way that they did, I appreciate being a part of it.”