MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin needed a break. After starting the season 6-0, posting 4 shutouts and outscoring their opponents by a combined 255-29, the Badgers suffered a stunning 24-23 defeat at Illinois and a lopsided 38-7 loss at then-No. 3 Ohio State.
It was time to regroup.
“After that game, that was back-to-back losses, followed by a bye,” coach Paul Chryst said. “So I think there was also that time to catch your breath for us as coaches — and even as players — to take a look at ‘OK, what have you been? Who have you been? ... What are the things we’re doing well?’”
Wisconsin (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten, No. 12 College Football Playoff) rallied for 4 straight victories after the bye to accomplish its goal of winning the Big Ten West Division.
“We took that bye week where it was a big mental break,” AP midseason All-America center Tyler Biadasz said. “It’s just that break where you can really sit down and really focus on what you did those first six games and what do you need to get better at and what’s going to be your main focus going through ... to give this team a better advantage. I think we all stepped up in a big way and I think all 11 guys, offensively specifically, and all three phases, we’ve done a better job of eliminating penalties, eliminating false starts compared to the first six games.”
In the process, the 10th-ranked Badgers also reclaimed Paul Bunyan’s Axe from Minnesota. Last season’s 37-15 loss snapped Wisconsin’s 14-game winning streak against its rival.
“I think what I’m most proud of was the response to all, kind of that self-analysis,” Chryst said. “And then I appreciate the way they, you know, to get to where you want to finish this season and maximize this season, it was going to be not even just one game at a time, but one day at a time, and I thought they did a good job of doing that.”
The Badgers now await a rematch with the 2nd-ranked Buckeyes (12-0, 9-0, No. 1 in CFP) in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Saturday. J.K. Dobbins rushed for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns against Wisconsin earlier this season, and Chase Young was nearly impossible to block with 4 sacks. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor had only 52 yards rushing against the Buckeyes after averaging almost 137/game coming in.
“They definitely haven’t gotten worse. That’s for sure,” outside linebacker Zack Baun said of Ohio State. “I think we’ve continued to grow as well. But playing a team two times in one season is such a special opportunity. You get to go back and watch what you did personally. It’s different than watching film from other teams. And then you get to re-evaluate what they’ve done since we’ve played them.”
The senior defensive tandem of Baun and inside linebacker Chris Orr has combined for 23 sacks this season. They will look to contain Justin Fields as Ohio State seeks its third straight Big Ten championship.
“For us to leave as champions, that would mean more to me, more so than saying, ‘Oh, you stopped Ohio State,’” Orr said. “To leave as a champion — that would mean the world to me.”
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• SEATTLE (AP) — Washington coach Chris Petersen has unexpectedly stepped down after six seasons at the school, with defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake promoted to over the program.
Petersen’s decision was shocking coming off a season where the Huskies went 7-5 in the regular season and are bound for a 6th straight bowl game under his leadership.
The school said Petersen, 55, will transition into a “leadership advisory role” within the athletic department. Petersen was 146-38 combined during his time as the head coach at Boise State and Washington. In a statement, Petersen says he’ll be a “Husky for life, but now is the right time for me to step away from my head coaching duties, and recharge.”
“It has been a privilege and a professional dream fulfilled to be part of this world-class institution,” Petersen said in a statement. “I will forever be grateful, honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to coach our fine young men on Montlake for these past six seasons. I thank each of them, as well as our coaches and administrative staff for the incredible commitment they’ve made to Husky football during my tenure.”
Lake, 42, has turned down several other coaching opportunities in recent years and has seemed to be the successor to Petersen whenever he did decide to step away from coaching.
AP TOp 25 Schedule
• No. 5 Utah vs. No. 13 Oregon, Pac-12 championship at Santa Clara, Calif., 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 7
• No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Georgia, SEC championship at Atlanta, 4 p.m.
• No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Wisconsin, Big Ten championship at Indianapolis, 8 p.m.
• No. 3 Clemson vs. No. 22 Virginia, ACC championship at Charlotte, N.C., 7:30 p.m.
• No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Baylor, Big 12 championship at Arlington, Texas, Noon.
• No. 16 Memphis vs. No. 21 Cincinnati, AAC championship, 3:30 p.m.
• No. 19 Boise State vs. Hawaii, MWC championship, 4 p.m.
• No. 20 Appalachian State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Sun Belt championship, Noon