It was another amazing, dramatic year for college football. Amidst the fallout of scandals and the clamoring for a playoff system, the 2012 college football season was still defined by awesome moments on the field.
It’s hard to pick a single greatest moment for the year.
Was it when the Ohio State Buckeyes beat Michigan in The Game to close out an undefeated season, making a statement that they deserve to be the national champions in the AP poll? Or was it when Oregon and Kansas State rose to the top of the rankings, and they both got upset in the same weekend?
Maybe it was when Rutgers and Maryland announced they were leaving the Big East for the Big Ten, perhaps killing the Big East for good. Or was it when Notre Dame emerged as the lone undefeated team eligible for a bowl, and will compete for a national championship for the first time in decades?
While these are all compelling stories, my top moment in college football in 2012 was the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin needed to prove something, and they sure did when they dominated Nebraska and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl for the third consecutive year.
Wisconsin. Weak On Paper.
Going into the game, no one thought Wisconsin had a chance. A lot of people argued they didn’t even deserve to be there.
Here was a team with a mediocre record. They racked up 5 loses throughout the season, and they were only 4 – 4 in the Big Ten. Two of those conference losses came at the hands of fellow Leaders division teams, Ohio State and Penn State.
Yet the undefeated Ohio State was serving a ban on postseason play. Likewise, the second place Penn State was ineligible for any postseason games.
Heck, they even lost to Nebraska in the regular season – the very team they would show up to play in the conference championship.
Wisconsin got a bid to the Big Ten Championship game almost by default, and Nebraska was a clear, if slight, favorite.
Wiscon. Strong On the Field.
The numbers only tell half the story, though. Take a closer look at how Wisconsin ended up with those five losses.
Lost to Oregon State by 3 points. Lost to Nebraska by 3 points. Michigan State, overtime. Ohio State, overtime. Penn State, overtime.
Here was a team that played tough, Big Ten football every week. Here was a team that had the newly crowned touchdown record holder. Here was a team that didn’t deserve to be 7 and 5.
When they showed up in Indianapolis to play Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship on December 1, Wisconsin had something to prove. And prove it, they did.
Wisconsin exploded in the first quarter, taking an early 21 to 10 lead. Drive after drive, the Badgers broke huge plays. They didn’t let up on the gas, and they were leading by an astounding 42 to 10 at half time.
Nebraska put a few points in the board in the second half. 21 points, to be exact, and it was all in vain. Because Wisconsin kept running up the score. The final score, 70 to 31, just seemed surreal. This wasn’t Oregon running up the score on some unsuspecting, second rate team. This was the Big Ten Championship game.
When the dust settled, Wisconsin had three running backs who put up over 100 yards. Both Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon rushed for 200 yards a piece. They and James White combined for eight rushing touchdowns, and Montee Ball improved his NCAA touchdown record to 82.
Wisconsin Earned Their Bid to the Rose Bowl
People doubted Wisconsin. They said they didn’t belong.
But if they didn’t earn their way to the championship game, then they certainly earned their way to the Rose Bowl. It’s going to be a good game, and this time people are favoring Wisconsin to win. I guess the pundits got a wake up call.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you can’t always judge a team by its record. Wisconsin’s domineering win over Nebraska is a reminder that anything can happen in college football, on any given Saturday.