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Nebraska vs. Wisconsin: What's next for the Badgers after huge win over Huskers?

Melvin Gordon was brilliant on Saturday, but it doesn't overshadow Wisconsin's first-place standing in the Big Ten West.

Ronald Martinez

Two hundred yards rushing makes for an incredible day. 300 is mind-blowing. So what's 408?

After Melvin Gordon put up 408 rushing yards in a 59-24 win over Nebraska on Saturday, breaking LaDainian Tomlinson's all-time FBS record, the Brent Yarina of BTN made sense of it all with this mind-blowing figure:

Trailing 17-3 to Nebraska early in the second quarter following fumbles galore threatening to turn the game sharply in the Huskers' favor, a 62-yard Gordon score jumpstarted a downpour of 56 unanswered points, resulting in a 59-24 rout.

The resounding win gives the Badgers sole possession of first place in the Big Ten West, putting them in the driver's seat as the final two games of the regular season approach.

Looking at the College Football Playoff Rankings, expect to see the Badgers, currently No. 20, move into the top 15 after defeating the No. 16 Huskers.

Nebraska also entered the game as the nation's 17th-best rushing defense. Of course, that took a drastic turn on Saturday afternoon.

Strike a (Heisman) pose

Entering Saturday's battle, it seemed as if Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah were set-up for an old-fashioned, Heisman-worthy running back showdown: the nation's leading rusher (Gordon) against the nation's all-purpose yardage leader (Abdullah). Winner shoots up the Heisman rankings. Loser drops out.

Four hundred eight yards later, it's clear who the better of the two running backs is. Abdullah finished with just 69 yards on 18 carries; on the flip side, it took just three quarters for Gordon to break Tomlinson's record, averaging 16.32 yards per carry.

Melvin Gordon's Heisman moment came Saturday, and few are doubting it.

Abdullah told back in September that the Heisman has "become a quarterback award."

If that's true, give it to Oregon's Marcus Mariota. If the trophy is for the best player on the best team, maybe Florida State's Jameis Winston should win it again. But if the Heisman truly is reserved for "the most outstanding player in college football," then voters know where to find him: he's the one about 45 yards downfield, hurdling over a diving Nebraska defender.

Yeah, that one. Melvin Gordon.

Around the Big Ten

While Gordon's record-breaking day was undoubtedly the major storyline to come out of this one, the Badgers have also placed themselves on the inside track to the Big Ten Championship Game.

Ohio State 6-0 274 140 9-1 445 220 W8
Michigan State 5-1 237 145 8-2 438 226 W1
Maryland 3-3 141 206 6-4 288 290 L1
Michigan 3-3 111 123 5-5 207 204 W2
Penn State 2-4 88 115 6-4 213 162 W2
Rutgers 2-4 122 195 6-4 263 288 W1
Indiana 0-6 101 230 3-7 251 336 L5
Wisconsin 5-1 234 95 8-2 390 153 W5
Nebraska 4-2 206 155 8-2 388 236 L1
Minnesota 4-2 192 142 7-3 300 223 L1
Iowa 4-2 192 149 7-3 281 225 W1
Northwestern 2-4 99 140 4-6 205 241 W1
Illinois 1-5 125 230 4-6 256 360 L2
Purdue 1-5 147 204 3-7 256 319 L4

With Iowa taking down Illinois and Minnesota falling to Ohio State, the Hawkeyes, Gophers and Huskers fall into a three-way tie for second place in the West, all trailing the Badgers by a game.

And with their next two games coming up against Iowa and Minnesota, Melvin Gordon & co. will need to harness the momentum built by Saturday's rout if they hope to hold on to their first-place slot in the West.

Looking forward

Next up, the Badgers will travel to Iowa City to take on the 7-3 Hawkeyes.

After holding the Huskers' potent offensive attack to 180 yards (228 fewer than Melvin Gordon rushed for), the Wisconsin defense has claimed the title of not only a top-10 defense, but as one of the nation's elite defensive units. No defense has allowed fewer yards on the season than Wisconsin's, and the 15.3 points per game the Badgers allow ranks in the top five in the country.

Dave Aranda's unit will look to continue its roll against an inconsistent Iowa offense. Led by quarterback Jake Rudock, the Hawkeyes have scored 40+ points twice this season but have also been held under 15 points twice. After the Badgers' defense shut down Abdullah, one of the nation's premier tailbacks, there is little reason to predict Iowa, a team lacking big-time playmakers, will find its way.

Defensively, the Hawkeyes are a top-10 pass defense, allowing just 180 yards per game through the air, but that's no problem for the Badgers -- Joel Stave completed seven of 11 passes for 46 yards with a QBR of 30.8 on Saturday. Iowa is a middle-of-the-pack rush defense, giving up 154 yards per game. That's the important figure.


The Wisconsin team we saw Saturday was undoubtedly a different team than the one that lost to LSU and Northwestern earlier in the season. With the offense breaking records and the defense outperforming even the vaunted Alabama and Stanford defenses, confidence is soaring in Madison. But two key games remain against Big Ten foes also in the thick of the division race. It's time to buckle up.