In the much-anticipated season opener, No. 3 Alabama rolled over No. 20 Wisconsin handily, 35-17.
The Badgers stayed close in the first half, going into the intermission trailing 14-7. Then the floodgates opened at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. The Crimson Tide rattled off 14 points to open the half and Wisconsin had no chance from there on.
Wisconsin played much of the game without safety Michael Caputo and running back Corey Clement. The senior team captain Caputo suffered a head injury on the second play of the game and was out for the remainder of the night. Clement wasn't seen in the second half after going down with a left groin injury.
Here are three things we learned:
1. The road will only get easier
If Wisconsin is looking for a positive takeaway for the rest of the season, some solace could be found in the remainder of the schedule. The Crimson Tide validated their No. 3 ranking, and it wouldn't be shocking to see them come in ahead of TCU in the next Top 25.
Alabama's front seven shut down the Wisconsin running offense in ways reminiscent to the 23-attempt, 35-yard performance at Oregon State in 2012. The Badgers picked up 40 rushing yards on 21 carries, with 25 of those coming on an Alex Erickson end-around in the fourth quarter. They were forced to play one-dimensional on offense throughout the entire second half as Alabama pulled away.
Wisconsin was, err, outmatched in just about every facet. But, dear reader, not every facet!
2. Stav-ay, Stav-ay, Stav-ay, Stav-ay
Badgers quarterback Joel Stave was needed to pass, and pass a lot on Saturday night. And he was the bright spot in the 18-point loss.
Stave was much more accurate and made better reads than we were used to seeing last season. He finished 26-of-39 for 228 yards. He completed touchdowns to Erickson in the second quarter and to Robert Wheelwright in the fourth.
He did this against a stout Alabama defense while playing without any threat of a rushing game.
Wisconsin football, just like we all predicted.
3. Trouble up front
While Wisconsin's front line struggled getting any push against the Crimson Tide on offense, the defensive front also had its struggles.
Alabama rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns on 6.4 yards per carry against the Wisconsin defense. Derrick Henry led the way, running rampant for 147 yards and three scores on 13 carries.
Inside linebackers Leon Jacobs and T.J. Edwards struggled throughout and the Badgers' safeties took a big hit with the loss of Caputo, but Alabama dominated at the line of scrimmage throughout the game. Missed tackles and over-pursuit of the ball killed the Badgers.