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Dr. Saturday

Wisconsin breaks out all the tricks to clinch a third straight Rose Bowl berth

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(US Presswire)

Wisconsin has a reputation for being conservative, and it's not entirely unfair.

The Badgers' program is built on running the football well. The past few years, Wisconsin has had a pretty good passing game, but it was still mostly a meat and potatoes team. A very successful team, but not a very flashy one.

The team that beat Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game couldn't have been Wisconsin. The players and uniforms looked the same, but this wasn't the Badgers.

There was a throwback pass to the quarterback. Wildcat formations. Direct snaps to running backs. End-around runs. A halfback pass near the goal line for a touchdown.

It started with a 56-yard touchdown run by Melvin Gordon and the avalanche didn't stop until Wisconsin had bludgeoned Nebraska 70-31 to win the Big Ten and lock up its third straight trip to the Rose Bowl. The Badgers led 42-10 after the first half.

Apparently, after Wisconsin locked up its spot in the Big Ten Championship Game with a win against Indiana on Nov. 10, it started drawing up an entirely new playbook. Wisconsin didn't use any of its new looks before it played Nebraska, which looked shell shocked the entire game. The Wisconsin coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for its creative game plan, which was totally out of character for the Badgers. Stanford should be much better prepared for some of those new gadget looks for the Rose Bowl, but Wisconsin has a few weeks to come up with new wrinkles.

There will be plenty of criticism over Wisconsin's inclusion in a BCS bowl over the next month. The Badgers were just 7-5 in the regular season. They were 4-4 in Big Ten play and represented the Leaders Division in the conference championship game because Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible. As @HS_BHGP pointed out on Twitter, Wisconsin has the lowest winning percentage of any Rose Bowl participant since 1922.

But, the Wisconsin team that showed up Saturday night didn't look anything like the one from the first 12 games this season.

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