The No. 6 University of Wisconsin football team (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) welcomed the Michigan State Spartans (4-3, 2-2) to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, and — similar to what the Badgers have done to most of their opponents this season — made them look like an FCS football team, sending the Spartans home with a 38–0 defeat.
One of the arguments against the Badgers coming into the week was that, aside from their dominating performance against No. 16 Michigan, they hadn’t really played anyone truly threatening yet. Well, a team can only shut out so many opponents until they’re considered legit. After Saturday, it’s time the Badgers are accepted as so.
As I did last week, here are three quick-fire stats via ESPN Stats & Info that give a historical context to how dominant this team has been:
Head Coach Paul Chryst’s team is the first FBS team since Oklahoma in 1967 to have four shutouts in its first six games.
Defensive Coordinator Jim Leonhard’s defense has surrendered only 29 points, the fewest allowed through six games since 1993 when Florida State allowed only 24.
The Badgers’ point differential during the first half of games this season is 152–3. They outscored the Spartans 17–0 in the first half on Saturday, only conceding one first down and 38 total yards to Michigan State.
The team’s dominance can be quantified in many ways, as shown above, and now they’ve finally played enough “actual teams” to finally gain recognition on a national stage.
Here are four takeaways from Saturday’s contest:
Junior running back Jonathan Taylor had a sub-par game for his standards — 26 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns —but it didn’t matter because junior quarterback Jack Coan dominated the Spartan defense all day.
It’s a wonderful — and somewhat surprising — sight to see a Badger quarterback take over a game when the running game doesn’t dominate as it usually does. Against a great Spartan defense on Saturday, this is exactly what happened, and is a great sign as the Badgers look ahead to matchups against No. 23 Iowa and No. 4 The Ohio State University in the coming weeks.
Coan finished the game 18-for-21 for 180 yards, 8.6 yards-per-attempt and one touchdown. If not for tight end Jake Ferguson tripping during his free trot to the end zone in the first quarter and another pass down to the 1-yard line, Coan would’ve had three touchdowns.
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With Coan’s stellar play, the second takeaway from Saturday is that the Badgers have legitimate weapons outside.
From junior Quintez Cephus’ 19-yard touchdown, to senior A.J. Taylor’s 10-yard catch on fourth down, to junior Danny Davis III’s ability to run after the catch, to junior Kendric Pryor’s crazy 66-yard rushing touchdown, this team has more artillery on the outside than it has in a long time.
The third takeaway is that, yet again, this offensive line is the best in the country.
Aside from one sack of Coan to end the first half, the line kept a clean pocket all day, opened space for Taylor and freshman Nakia Watson in the running game and seemingly haven’t lost a short-yardage battle all season.
The fourth takeaway from Saturday is that Taylor aside, senior Zack Baun might be the team’s most valuable player thus far.
Baun is the pass-rushing piece that the Badgers desperately needed coming into the season. But, Baun has also shown an ability to stop the opposing team’s run game and, on Saturday, took a Spartans’ pass back 34 yards for a touchdown.
So far this season, Baun has recorded 26 tackles, 10.5 tackles-for-loss, six sacks, seven total quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and one impressive pick-six.
The Badgers are set to face Illinois on the road this weekend before their toughest two-game stretch of the season: away at No. 4 The Ohio State State and at home against No. 23 Iowa.