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Doc 5: Top five late-season collapses -- No. 4 Wisconsin

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday
Barry Alvarez
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Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez looks at scoreboard as the fifth-ranked Wisconsin football team suffered its first loss of the season, dropping a 49-14 decision to Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. (Photo by Leon Halip/WireImage)

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.

With the calendar turning over to May this week, we’re only four months away from the start of the 2014 college football season.

Since May Day is not really celebrated much these days, we turned our focus for this week’s Doc Five toward “mayday,” you know, the distress signal used on boats in emergency situations.

How does that apply to college football?

It doesn’t exactly, but it got us thinking about teams over the past 15 seasons who have got off to fast starts but collapsed down the stretch and needed to signal in a mayday.

TOP FIVE LATE SEASON COLLAPSES

No. 4 – 2004 Wisconsin

Wisconsin had never pulled off an undefeated season under Barry Alvarez, and 2004 looked like it could be the year. The Badgers started out the season modestly ranked at No. 21, but quickly showed that they were a team to fear.

The Badgers were rather ordinary on offense, but the team’s defense was its unquestioned strength. Five weeks into the season, Wisconsin was unbeaten and had given up just 26 total points heading into a road matchup in front of 105,000 fans at Ohio State.

After falling behind 10-0, the Badgers defense pitched a second-half shutout and stormed back behind a 39-carry, 168-yard performance from Anthony Davis to knock off the Buckeyes 24-13.

The Badgers faced another road test the following week against Kyle Orton and No. 5 Purdue. After trailing for much of the game, the Alvarez’s team scored twice in the last 5:29 to pull out another come-from-behind win, 20-17.

The Badgers had still not allowed more than 17 points in a game and had a perfect 9-0 record after two more Big Ten wins over Northwestern and Minnesota when they traveled to East Lansing to square off with a 4-5 Michigan State squad.

The dream of an undefeated season ended there in embarrassing fashion.

The stout defense that had carried the fourth-ranked Badgers all season and were allowing a nation-best 9.1 points per game crumbled, allowing a whopping 551 total yards – 430 on the ground – in a 49-14 loss that pushed the Badgers into second place in the Big Ten.

The Badgers hoped to rebound in the next week at No. 17 Iowa, the team they were tied in the conference standings with. Things picked up where they left off in East Lansing and the Badgers crumbled in another blowout loss, 30-7. The Badgers turned the ball over four times and lost a chance to play in the Rose Bowl and a shot at the Big Ten title.

The collapse came to its fitting conclusion in the Outback Bowl against Georgia. The offense couldn’t get much going for most of the game and fell behind 24-6 late in the third quarter. They made it look close with a touchdown pass and an Andy Crooks interception return for touchdown, but ultimately fell 24-21.

In the team’s nine wins, the defense gave up 82 points. In the team’s three losses, the defense gave up 103 points.

A crumbling defense coupled with a pedestrian offense resulted in our fourth-ranked collapse of the past 15 seasons.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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