During the 2012 offseason, Wisconsin may have seen head coach Bret Bielema depart for Arkansas and leading rusher Montee Ball graduate, but the Badgers didn’t lose their identity as a team that will run the ball down the throats of the opposition.
The opening-week performance against UMass of 393 yards on 44 carries, averaging 8.9 yards per attempt on the way to four touchdowns and a 45-0 victory, isn’t exactly something groundbreaking. Still, it must be calming to Badgers fans that no matter what has changed, the bread and butter of Wisconsin football seems to be intact.
Wisconsin had three players gain over 100 yards, as Melvin Gordon led with 144, James White finished with 143 and Corey Clement rounded out the group with 101. Each player reached the end zone once as well.
Clement, the freshman, led the team in carries, with 16, but did most of his work in the second half with the game already decided.
This three-headed monster is reminiscent to last year’s Badgers squad.
Gordon and White played the understudy role to Ball last season; however, both still ended the 2012 campaign with more than 600 rushing yards. White finished behind Ball, rushing the ball 125 times while averaging 6.5 yards per carry and scoring 12 touchdowns.
The trio of backs finished second in the Big Ten in yards, average yards per attempt and rushing attempts. However, the group ended the season leading the conference in touchdowns.
In 2011, the Badgers' rushing attack carried Wisconsin to a Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl. That year they led the conference in yards, average yards per attempt, touchdowns and yards per game.
Those two seasons, plus every year since 2005, saw the Badgers offense finish either first or second in the Big Ten in rushing touchdowns. They went on to finish in the top two spots in total yards in every season since 2008.
During this timespan, the Badgers finished with an impressive record of 78-25 the Big Ten the last three seasons.
Week 1‘s victory may have been against one of the worst defenses in the NCAA. According to Football Outsiders, last year the Minutemen ranked 122nd overall and 124th in stopping the run.
However, if this Wisconsin team would have struggled, then Badgers fans would have been up in arms about the new coaching regime or clamoring over whether the new backs could lead this team back to Indianapolis and eventually a trip back to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
After one game, albeit against a fairly new addition to the FBS ranks, it looks like the offense will be just fine with all of its new moving pieces. After one game, it looks like the Badgers will be just fine.