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Today is Monday, Nov. 7, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
In their hands
Now it’s on them. In the wake of Wisconsin’s win at Northwestern Saturday and Nebraska’s ugly loss to Ohio State, the Badgers are back in control of their season. The events of the weekend left Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota tied atop the Big Ten West at 4-2 with three games to go, including matchups between the Huskers and Gophers this Saturday, and then a battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe on the final day of the regular season in Madison for Wisconsin and Minnesota.
It's official: #Badgers control their own destiny in the Big Ten West.
— Jason Galloway (@Jason_Galloway) November 6, 2016
After Wisconsin lost back-to-back games to Michigan and Ohio State, the team continued to say all of its goals were still out there. And that was true. But not until the Buckeyes hammered Nebraska 62-3 were all those goals back in the Badgers hands. It’s pretty simple. If Wisconsin wins its next three games — all against teams that aren’t on the Badgers’ level — coach Paul Chryst will claim the division crown in his second year and head to the Big Ten title game.
That opportunity seemed improbable when the season began. An unranked Wisconsin team faced with the toughest schedule in school history was expected by many to struggle to even get to the .500 mark for the season. But then Wisconsin opened the season with an upset win over then-No. 5 LSU and followed it up with a road win at defending Big Ten champ Michigan State. Two close losses to top-5 teams Michigan and Ohio State hurt a little, but now three straight wins have the Badgers back in prime position to make it to Indianapolis for the fourth time in the six years the title game has been around.
Entered the season unranked.
— Wisconsin Football (@BadgerFootball) November 6, 2016
It’s difficult to understand how Chryst has gotten his team to this point. Obviously, the defense is among the best in the nation, but that was the case a year ago, and the Badgers still lost three games against an inferior schedule.
Unsteadiness at quarterback, an absent running game for the first half of the year and significant kicking issues all should have had a bigger impact than they have. Chryst and his staff, along with a lot of underrated players, deserve credit for putting themselves in position to do something few outside of the football offices thought was possible.
Peavy is the playmaker Wisconsin needs
Wide receiver Jazz Peavy had some unfinished business with Northwestern. In the game last year, Peavy thought he had caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minutes, but it was overturned on replay.
On Saturday, the junior was fantastic in all aspects. He grabbed four passes for 73 yards, forced one defensive holding penalty, scored on a 46-yard reverse and added a 24-yard punt return, his longest of the season. For the game, Peavy accounted for 144 yards of total offense.
Jazz Peavy on his big day against Northwestern in the wake of what happened last year:
— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) November 5, 2016
The Badgers have been looking for a weapon on offense to help take the pressure of Corey Clement and the running game, and the coaches appear to have found that someone in Peavy.
Whether it’s on the jet sweeps he was used on against Ohio State, the shots down the field Wisconsin took against Northwestern or his skills as a punt returner, the Kenosha product has become that guy for Chryst’s offense.
ICYMI: Yes, @JazzPeavy knows what to do with the ball in his hands.
— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) November 5, 2016
This was always something Peavy could be. The fastest player on Wisconsin’s roster, it took a little bit for him to get acclimated to the college game. Sitting back and learning from guys like Jared Abbrederis and Alex Erickson in recent years helped.
But that Northwestern game last year was the turning point. His inability to finish sat in the back of his mind all offseason and has remained there. It’s pushed him, and it’s led to what we’ve seen this season.
Concerns remain at kicker
Saturday was another up-and-down day for Wisconsin kicker Andrew Endicott. Coming off a game against Nebraska where he missed a potential game-winning kick in the final seconds, and then an extra point in overtime, the senior sent his first kick against Northwestern — a 35-yard field goal attempt — wide right.
He was able to come back and get his next two through the uprights before his 51-yard field goal in the third quarter was just right.
Good comeback by #Badgers K Andrew Endicott. Guessing Paul Chryst was one miss away from going for it on fourth down every time.
— Tom Oates (@TomOatesWSJ) November 5, 2016
Obviously losing Rafael Gaglianone to back surgery after three games has left Chryst in a tough spot. Endicott started strong, but he’s just 4 of 9 in the last three games, and has missed a pair of extra points.
Still, Chryst stands by him. After saying he liked the way the kicker bounced back following the Nebraska game and the first kick against Northwestern, Chryst was asked if he thought of going with someone else and his answer was a quick, “No.”
The response isn’t surprising. Chryst isn’t a guy that’s going to call out a player through the media. But his loyalty to Endicott is a bit of mystery when you consider the fact the coach is more than happy to alternate quarterbacks, have multiple different offensive line combinations in a single game and throw freshmen into the mix at will.
At some point, if Endicott’s struggles continue, can Chryst really afford not to look at redshirt freshman Zach Hintze?
The Fond du Lac, Wis., native was an All-American in high school, kicked a state-record 61-yard field goal in the state playoffs and was named the MVP of the Division 6 title game as a senior.
Hintze got some work with the No. 1 field goal unit in practice last week, so there is at least the thought that he could see his first game action. With a team that is not as explosive as it would like to be, it can’t afford to leave the three-to-six points on the field like it did against Northwestern.
It didn’t cost Wisconsin the game, but that doesn’t mean it won’t at some point.
Melvin Gordon proving them wrong
When you’re a first-round pick and don’t score a touchdown in your rookie season, the critics will hammer you. It’s what happened to former Wisconsin star Melvin Gordon following a disappointing first year with the San Diego Chargers, and the criticism bled into this year.
Melvin Gordon’s not a premier back. Doesn’t fight hard enough for yards.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) October 14, 2016
No one is taking shots these days. Not after Gordon’s latest exploits on the field that saw him gain a career-high 259 total yards in a 43-35 win at Tennessee on Sunday. That included a 48-yard run on third-and-7 to seal the deal for the Chargers.
— NFL (@NFL) November 7, 2016
Gordon is showing what everyone in Madison saw for his three years there. The speed, power and will he exhibited on that run is what makes him special. He’s got it all and is showing it all to the critics.
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- Penalties adding up to disaster for Michigan State
- Ohio State’s pick-six was perfection that jump-started the Buckeyes domination