The then-No. 8 and now No. 10 University of Wisconsin football team fell to No. 2 Ohio State University on Saturday in one of the most heart-wrenching defeats in school history. The energy and electricity around the game, including a Badger lead for most of the game, made the loss sting just that extra amount.

Ohio State marked the end of one of the toughest stretches for any team in college football this season, but might have set the standard for Wisconsin football at a whole new level. The devastating defeat at home was a hard one to stomach, but proved to Badger players and the nation that this team is one of the best one at UW in recent memory.

Here are four takeaways from the overtime loss:

1. Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the country

In the national eye, there was still a lingering doubt before the game that Wisconsin wasn’t a top tier team and still lived in the shadow of University of Michigan and Ohio State in the Big Ten. That doubt was more than eliminated Saturday even halfway through the game as the Badgers led the Buckeyes 16-6 going into the locker room and followed up a four point deficit in the 4th quarter to take a 23-20 lead with less than ten minutes to go.

The disciplined Paul Chryst-coached team put forth their most balanced performance of the year against arguably the nation’s best team in their fourth top ten matchup of the season. Despite the 10.5 point spread going into the game, the Badgers flipped the script, controlling possession 32:09 to 27:51 and beating the Buckeyes in running and total yards, 450-411 and 236-185 respectively.

Jason Chan/The Badger Herald

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While two straight losses have possibly pushed Wisconsin out of the College Football Playoff picture, their dominant and gutsy play against Michigan and Ohio State eliminated all doubt that this team is good enough to be in that top four. 

2. Jazz Peavy is one of the most explosive players on the team

Excluding the rebirth of senior running back Corey Clement and senior tight end Troy Fumagali, junior wide receiver Jazz Peavy would have led the Badgers in both rushing and receiving on Saturday. The first-year starter had a career game, going 6-70 on the ground, 4-76 and a 24-yard touchdown in the air and proving to be unstoppable against the 6th ranked team in total defense that is tied for the least touchdowns allowed all season.

In an attempt to use Peavy’s athleticism and prevent Ohio State from stacking the box against the run, Chryst called six jets sweeps to Peavy throughout the first half and was able to open up the middle of the field. Peavy averaged 11.7 yards per carry and gashed the center of the defense to allow Clement to run for his biggest game of the year.

Peavy was an unforeseen X-factor that stepped up on a day when number-one receiver Robert Wheelwright had only two catches. If the Badgers want their offense to perform like they did on Saturday, Peavy will be an integral part of the play-calling going forward.

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3. Corey Clement is healthy once again

For any Badger fan that was around when Wisconsin took down No. 1 Ohio State in 2010 with the likes of running backs John Clay and Monte Ball, Clement has been somewhat of an afterthought in comparison to those UW legends. In his second year as a starter after playing second behind Melvin Gordon, Clement has been plagued by injuries, off-the-field issues and nagging limitations.

In seemingly one afternoon, the New Jersey native flashed the talent and athleticism that Wisconsin fans have been waiting to see in a career-defining performance, going 25-166 and recording the longest play from scrimmage for the Badgers this season of 68 yards. While he didn’t deliver a Heisman-worthy game, he added an element to the Wisconsin offense that has been missing in his absence.

Above all else, Clement was able to make the cuts and spins that are what makes him special as a back, and will need to continue if the Badgers want to run the table and compete for a Big Ten championship.

Jason Chan/The Badger Herald

4. Hornibrook is the X-factor in pulling out close games going forward

Redshirt-freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook has certainly surprised doubters this season by stepping into the starting job going into one of the most brutal five game stretches imaginable, and staying poised under center. While the Badgers have murdered expectations over their five games, the offense has struggled to produce overall and, more specifically, down-the-stretch in game winning opportunities.

Even though Hornibrook certainly improved from his start over Michigan, his inability to step through his throws confidently cost Wisconsin in some key stretches of both games. The Badgers not only failed on a chance to drive down the field with less than two minutes to go in regulation in win, Hornibrook threw an interception off his back foot late in the third quarter to continue the momentum for Ohio State.

Riley Steinbrenner/The Badger Herald

If Wisconsin is going to want to get to the Big Ten championship with even a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl, Hornibrook will have to not just play it safe, but be confident in late game situations.

Despite any individual performance by any one player, the game against Ohio State was played as a complete team and is a defining moment for a team on a mission. Wisconsin is back in national relevance and is looking to continue it with two tough games against the University of Iowa and No. 8 University of Nebraska over the next two weeks.