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Michigan showed it is a pretender, while Wisconsin joined the College Football Playoff contenders  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

In the wake of Wisconsin’s 35-14 asphyxiation of Michigan – and that’s exactly what it was – we could expend all sorts of energy discussing how the Wolverines’ revamped offense looks even less effective than its staid, conventional predecessor. We’ll get there, but let’s start instead with this larger takeaway:

Michigan is a pretender. Wisconsin is a contender.

The biggest development in what was supposed to be a Big Ten showdown came when Michigan scored with 2:08 left in the third quarter. The touchdown marked the first points Wisconsin had given up this season. It only took opponents 162 minutes and 52 seconds to take zero off the scoreboard.

And if the first two opponents (South Florida and Central Michigan) weren’t exactly formidable, well, Michigan at least was supposed to be. The Wolverines are ranked No. 10 in the Amway Coaches Poll (though they should be headed for a steep fall). But after a fumble near the goal line on their first possession, they didn’t even threaten to score – never mind to win – until that possession late in the third quarter, on a drive that was aided by two targeting fouls.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, should vault from No. 14 into the Top 10, with legitimately higher aspirations. Circle Oct. 26, against Ohio State in Columbus. It might be the first of two meetings between the Badgers and the Buckeyes. And the results in both could have huge implications for the College Football Playoff.

Whatever happens, it’s clear these Badgers are headed back to double-digit wins, like we’re all used to seeing. But they look different than their predecessors.

Oh, they’re still beefy, and they still line up in power formations and bash defenses. But Jonathan Taylor is the best running back in a long line of very good running backs. Jack Coan’s passing provides a second dimension. The combination produces a brutal efficiency – and probably reminds Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh of the days when his offenses did similar things with similar results.

We mean Harbaugh’s offenses when he was at Stanford, mostly. Not at Michigan, even though until this year, the Wolverines have tried.

This Michigan offense does not much resemble either the wide-open new look that was promised or the conventional scheme we’re used to, but instead some odd amalgamation. Maybe it will grow through the season. If not, the Wolverines are faced with the prospect of yet another successful and yet highly disappointing season. (Does anything we’ve seen so far provide confidence Michigan could play with Ohio State?)

Regardless, after clunking along in victories against Middle Tennessee and Army, Michigan’s offense wasn’t about to lurch to life against Wisconsin.

Yeah, the Badgers finally lost their season-long shutout. They’re no doubt unhappy to have given up a second touchdown in garbage time, long after victory was assured. And it’s worth noting the celebrations after they forced a fumble to end yet another late threat and an interception a few minutes after that.

Even though the shutout streak is over, the statistics are still dominant. But this isn’t just a stat monster. The Badgers’ defense is fast and extremely ferocious – which is why after a demolition of Michigan, it’s time we consider whether this version of Wisconsin is something different than we’ve seen.

The Badgers look better than simply the best in the Big Ten West. They resemble a legitimate Playoff contender.

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