The Day After ...

The cure to your hangover is here. An assortment of day-later, knee-jerk, quick-hit observations in the aftermath of No. 18 Wisconsin 31, No. 1 Ohio State 18.

MADISON - Ah, yes, now the Badgers are ranked higher (10) than the Buckeyes (11) in Sunday's Associated Press poll. Flip-flop the two teams in the ESPN/USA Today poll, but either way, voters are tabbing Ohio State and Wisconsin as close seconds to No. 8 Michigan State.

- And don't forget about No. 13 Iowa. (Much more on them in a moment.) Heck, let's throw in No. 14 Nebraska. That's five teams that will call themselves Big Ten members in 2011 that are ranked in this morning's top 15.

- Wasn't the Big Ten stuck in a down cycle, like, 20 minutes ago? Amazing how quickly these things change.

- Loved Michael Bleach's lead, a worthy observation of all things Saturday: "The game exceeded the hype. With ESPN's Gameday, the nighttime setting and The No. 1 team in the country across the field — that is saying something."

- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema was asked afterward, when the Badgers were clinging to a 3-point lead with all the momentum on Ohio State's side of the field, and Wisconsin simply needed to run some clock out, why he chose to keep James White in there. Bielema just wanted to go with the hot hand. That hand's got to be scorching, to keep John Clay, the King of Clock-Munching, off the field.

- Now with all that in mind - and White deserves all the praise he's getting - Clay's still the man. I felt like I didn't recognize his presence that greatly last night; it almost seemed like he was held down. Well, he only ran 21 times for only 104 yards and only two touchdowns. Against a team who hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 29 games. I wish my bad days looked like that.

- Plus, Clay's 5.0 yards per rush was six-tenths of a yard better than White's. So when it doubt, still ride the Clay Express.

- But that is one thunder-and-lightning combination no team wants to face the rest of the season. What a great problem to have for running backs coach John Settle and the Wisconsin staff.

- Once the Badgers took a 21-point lead in the first quarter, I assume the coaching staff went over a simple rule to live by with quarterback Scott Tolzien: "Whatever you do, take care of the football." I'm not sure which part of that law was confusing to Tolzien, when he threw into double coverage for the easiest interception of Andrew Sweat's life.

- However, the UW defense stood up and forced a three-and-out, including J.J. Watt's 3rd-down sack of Terrelle Pryor. Devin Barclay promptly missed a field goal. Tolzien owes Watt a Chipotle burrito or something.

- Speaking of Pryor, I came away very impressed. I've never seen anybody scramble away from pressure, buy time and find open receivers to convert third-and-longs the way Pryor did last night. Plus, he is just as imposing a physical figure as opposing defenders make him out to be.

- My award for unsung hero of the game unequivocally goes to Nick Toon. He's made some critical drops early this year, possibly setting himself up for a bust season after all the hype. He made some huge second-half catches to help Wisconsin withstand OSU's flurry, finishing with six catches for 72 yards. No other Badgers had more than a pair of receptions.

- Folks, I've watched a lot of football. I don't believe I've ever seen a scoring drive last 20 plays or more. And while that's no different this morning, we nearly saw it twice last night.

- Wisconsin's scoring drive on its third touchdown: 19 plays, 89 yards, 10:04 elapsed.

- Ohio State's scoring drive on its second touchdown: 19 plays, 94 yards, 9:56 elapsed.

Two of the best offensive drives I've ever witnessed. The nation was privileged to watch some great offenses at work.

- Only five penalties COMBINED in the game. Good for the refs not taking over at any juncture. Just let ‘em play.

- Of course, the discipline under Bielema and Jim Tressel has something to do with that. These are two teams extremely worthy of top-12 status, and don't be surprised to see both teams bowling in the BCS, especially if Michigan State stumbles.

- So I'm an resident and sportswriter in Iowa now. I saw Iowa beat up on Ball State, plus I've seen plenty of their games on television this year. That defense is legitimate - much better than Ohio State's.

- The fact is, Wisconsin played its A-plus game last night. Going on the road to Kinnick Stadium, it will require another A-plus game. Just an A game might not be enough to get by a very, very balanced Iowa squad.

- Lastly, I received a text about five minutes after the end of last night's game from a friend of mine who happens to be a diehard Iowa fan. It said simply, "Act like you've been there before Wisco".

Well, this was the first time Wisconsin beat a No. 1 team since September 1981. Bielema was 11. No current Badger was born. Pretty much every student or recent student in sections J through P hadn't been born yet. So ... no, Iowa fan, they will not act like they've been there before. Because they hadn't. I loved that the students christened the victory that way; even if the Badgers played like they expected to win, there's absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating a mighty win over a big-time rival.

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