Midseason report: Wisconsin

Wisconsin arguably sits behind only Georgia as the best two-loss team nationally.

Probably not much solace to coach Gary Andersen’s crew, but it bodes well for the Badgers in a second half of the season that features a Nov. 2 trip to Iowa likely as the most difficult test -- and that’s by default, what with Ohio State and Northwestern already behind Wisconsin.

The Ohio State defeat, in which Wisconsin played without three key starters, still stings, as does the two-point loss to Arizona State, marred by officials’ inability to spot the football as the final seconds ticked away with the Badgers in field-goal range.

Regardless, the nonconference stumble won’t impact Wisconsin’s bid to reach a fourth straight Rose Bowl. OSU will, though. The Badgers need Leaders Division rival Ohio State to lose twice in league play, a tall order.

Through six games, Wisconsin has been dominant up front on offense, rushing for nearly 300 yards per game to rank fifth nationally and atop the Big Ten. Running back Melvin Gordon and Jared Abbrederis are difference-makers, and quarterback Joel Stave has provided stability in his first full season as the starter.

Defensively, Wisconsin is stout against the rush, ranking 10th nationally, and it’s allowing just 5.3 yards per pass attempt. It opened the season with a pair of shutouts and returned to similar form last week in an impressive, 35-6 win over Northwestern.

The Badgers have held four of six opponents under 250 total yards, and they’re solid on third down and in the red zone.

Offensive MVP: The nod goes to Gordon over Abbrederis simply because of the Badgers’ rushing prowess. Gordon’s 870 yards rank third nationally. He’s averaging 9.7 yards per rush, second to Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, with eight touchdowns, and he’s not fumbled.

Defensive MVP: No question here, it’s linebacker Chris Borland, the heart of Wisconsin’s defense. Borland leads the unit with 56 tackles while playing on a bad ankle. More than that, the senior from Kettering, Ohio, is the leader of this group on an off the field.