BYU vs. Wisconsin: Badgers Defense Proves It's BCS Worthy

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BYU vs. Wisconsin: Badgers Defense Proves It's BCS Worthy
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin came into Saturday's game with BYU ranked No. 24 in the BCS standings, a not-so lofty position for the team some have pegged as the second-best team in the Big Ten

On Saturday, in front of 80,191 fans, the Badgers answered their BCS critics with a big defensive performance, taking down the visiting Cougars, 27-17.

All while the offense continued to show it also can't be slowed down much against a similarly talented defense. 

BYU quarterback Taysom Hill came into the game averaging 252 yards a game passing and another 105.1 yards a game on the ground. BYU as a team was averaging nearly 100 plays a game on offense. 

If Wisconsin was going to prove it belonged in the BCS picture, and not the periphery, it needed to shut down Hill and the high-powered Cougars offense. 

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

"One of the things we didn't want to do was let the quarterback (Taysom Hill) get out," said Wisconsin linebacker Brendan Kelly following the game. "We didn't want him rushing for too many yards. Obviously he's a very talented guy with a lot of potential."

That's exactly the formula the Badgers worked to perfection on defense, frustrating Hill early and often, and it resulted in one of his worst overall performances of the season.

Hill ended the day going 19-of-41 for 207 yards through the air. He added two touchdowns and an interception to the mix as well. 

However, most of his damage came late with the Badgers already up comfortably, 27-10 halfway through the fourth quarter.

The Cougars signal-caller entered the fourth quarter of play a paltry 9-of-23 for 95 yards through the air. 

Something or someone was keying the effort, and the return of star linebacker Chris Borland seemed to be just that.

Borland, a Butkus Award semifinalist, marked his return to action after missing the Iowa game last week with a team-high 13 tackles and had two of the Badgers' four sacks on the day. 

Not only was Hill frustrated in the pass game, but he couldn't get anything going in the run game either, rushing for just 53 yards on 17 carries. 

BYU came in with 16 rushing touchdowns but was held out of the end zone on the ground by the Badgers. 

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Wisconsin held Jamaal Williams, BYU's unsung running back, to just 76 yards (just over 25 yards under his season average). 

Even more impressive was the effort the Badgers secondary, a group some have seen as their Achilles' heel, who shut down the two biggest weapons in the pass game—wide receivers Cody Hoffman and Mitch Matthews. 

The two big receivers combined for just three catches, 51 yards and a touchdown. 

If you take away the 34-yard touchdown that Hoffman reeled in late in the action, the Badgers held the two playmakers to just 17 yards receiving on two catches. 

All of this from a defense that ranked inside the top 20 of every major defensive category in FBS football coming into the game. 

Slowing down one of the most explosive offenses in the country to the tune of just 17 points and 370 yards of total offense should open some eyes as to just how good this Wisconsin defense really is. 

Doing it against the Illinois', Purdues or UMass' of the world is one thing, but doing it against a respected and feared offense is another.

As the saying goes—numbers never lie—and Wisconsin's numbers on Saturday told the story of exactly why this team deserves to be talked about as a legitimate BCS contender. 

 

Andy Coppens is the lead writer for the Big Ten. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.

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