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Badger Bits: Downtrodden Big Ten Inspires Hope For Wisconsin

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You're probably sick of having to find silver lining in everything Wisconsin does, but Saturday's game really did feel like a step forward even if the score wasn't sufficiently lopsided against a team like UTEP. Chris Borland was an animal and the offense looked like its old bulldozing self with help from a well-called game from Matt Canada. Yeah, a 1-3 team is 1-3 for a reason, but UTEP had played Oklahoma and Ole Miss tough in the first two weeks of the season.

More silver lining: A downright awful Big Ten puts Wisconsin in the thick of the conference title race. The league's death knell is being sounded all across the internet. As usual, I like Matt Hinton's take, who pays special focus to Iowa as the saddest sack in the pile of gnawed burlap that is the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes lost in spectacular fashion to Central Michigan, drawing attention away from the fact that three preseason conference powers (Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State) all took too long to choke out patsy opponents. A fourth dropped the conference to 0-3 against Notre Dame under a hail storm of Denard Robinson turnovers.

The fifth plays Wisconsin this weekend. Nebraska drubbed Idaho State 73-7 on Saturday. The fact that the Cornhuskers were able to blow out anybody arguably makes them the tentative favorite to go to Pasadena. Wisconsin will have a difficult time winning based on what they've shown, but after that? The Oct. 13 bout in West Lafayette may determine the Leaders Division representative in November's conference championship game.

It's obvious and annoying, but it's true: Wisconsin's Rose Bowl dreams are alive and well with the conference season set to begin this week. The Badgers are struggling, but so is everyone else, and at least our guys are moving in the right direction.

Links after the jump:

David Gilbert and Tyler Dippel are expected to play against Nebraska. Brendan Kelly is less likely.

Badgers Roundtable once again breaks down the positives and negatives. Consensus seems to be death in Lincoln.

James White and Melvin Gordon impressed after Montee Ball left Saturday's game. The State Journal's take.

Barry Sanders picks up Montee Ball after the tough outing.

The defense did a lot of good Saturday. It also gave up several argh plays once again.

Dave Heller with post-game notes and numbers from Saturday.

Bowl projections: OTE still has Wisconsin in the Gator Bowl against Tennessee. ESPN's Big Ten blog drops them to the Car Care Bowl.

Oregon State may be for real after knocking off UCLA on Saturday.

Mike Dantonio continues the season of jerk-y college coaching press conferences.