Grimyser: Badgers Struggle to be Elite

Despite playing the Buckeyes tough through three quarters, Wisconsin's loss in Columbus shows the disparity between the two teams.

The main question the Wisconsin Badgers were going to answer when they traveled to Columbus to play the number one ranked Ohio State Buckeyes was if the Badgers were themselves an elite team?

The game against the Buckeyes would determine whether the Badgers were over-hyped and never deserved such a high ranking during the first half of the year or they proved they belonged in the upper class of teams by beating an upper class team.

After a close game for three quarters, a devastating fourth quarter loss eliminated the Badgers from being considered elite.

Clearly the toughest assignment for the Badgers during the regular season, the Badgers got beat when it mattered most. When Wisconsin needed to stop the run and get its offense back on the field, they couldn't, as Buckeye running back Chris Wells averaged eight yards per carry and three second half touchdowns.

Even when Wisconsin had the ball, quarterback Tyler Donovan consistently overthrew passes. Not to say that he didn't make some incredible throws to make the game interesting for three quarters, but at the most important position on the football field, lacking an elite quarterback almost eliminates a team from the upper echelon. Replacing last year's starter John Stocco has proved that crunch time matters more than glitzy scrambles and a confident attitude.

Even his scrambles didn't work against the disciplined Buckeye defense, as Donovan was sacked nine times.

What killed the Badgers most was defensive mistakes that lead to huge plays for the Buckeyes. The defense couldn't stop big plays, whether it was missed tackles, bad coverage by safeties and cornerbacks or big runs in the third and fourth quarter by Wells.

Because the Badgers overachieved this year – playing with injuries and suspensions to grab an early number five ranking – this loss is much easier to swallow.

In this year of mediocrity of college football, the Buckeyes are one of the best. They have took on ever challenge this year and played well defensively and offensively. When it was needed most, they proved the game was in their hands.

Yet, the Badgers certainly can play competitively against top teams, but they just don't belong in that same grouping. There are just too many flaws in crucial positions to make them unable to become an elite team.

With a diminished offensive line, Donovan's lack of arm strength and every offensive playmaker not named Travis Beckum hurt or suspended for much of the year – the offense could be much better.

On defense, the Badgers inexperience at both safety positions and middle linebacker and periodic moments where Fat Albert could gain five yards a carry mean the defense has work to do.

Add these flaws together and there was little hope for Wisconsin to beat Ohio State.

The Badgers may have been able to match the Buckeyes for three quarters, but one could forgot Wisconsin's weaknesses. The two losses earlier in the year showed just that. Even in their win against The Citadel, a clearly less-talented team, Wisconsin proved they are not elite.

What makes this year especially hard to swallow is how much parity exists in college football. With some improvements, Wisconsin might have been able to steal a Big Ten championship away from Ohio State. Instead, Wisconsin fans are left to wonder what happened from last year.

The answer – Wisconsin lost talented playmakers that provided leadership and replaced some of them with inexperienced. Any hope was crushed by Ohio State in the fourth quarter. When they wanted to show which team was elite, they did, as Wisconsin was helpless to stop them.

Certainly doesn't sound like an elite team does it.

Badger Nation Top Stories