Two months ago, Wisconsin was dead, metaphorically speaking. Each game was worse than the last, culminating in an ugly 21-point loss to Michigan at home. The Badgers looked more likely to finish last in the Big Ten West Division than first.

At 1-3, the Badgers were running out of options to salvage this season. The unlikely solution, as it turns out, was to turn the offense over to a 17-year-old true freshman who should still be in high school and didn’t know if he was a safety, a linebacker, a running back or a wide receiver.

But that 17-year-old is special, even when he’s playing against 23- and 24-year-olds. Call him whatever you want; a monster, an alien, a freak. Or just a teenager. He’s all of those things. One thing everyone can agree on is that the future is bright for Allen, and so too, is the present.

That’s been obvious for a while, now, but it was especially apparent in No. 15 Wisconsin’s 35-28 nail-biter against Nebraska. Allen was once again sensational with 228 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 carries, including a 53-yard scamper for the go-ahead score with 3:50 left.

It begs the question: Where would Wisconsin be without Allen? Surely, the Badgers (8-3, 6-2) wouldn’t be one victory away from winning the West and playing in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Wisconsin’s offensive issues were well-documented, as quarterback Graham Mertz struggled out of the gate, as did the run game. The Badgers’ turnaround has coincided with Allen’s emergence.

Allen began the season as the fourth-string running back, behind Chez Mellusi, Isaac Guerendo and Jalen Berger. Hard to fault Chryst for that one, considering he was so young and no one knew what position he would play. At 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, he looks like a safety. Here’s 247 national analyst Allen Trieu’s scouting report from May 2021 on Allen:

Very physically strong, hard hitting prospect. One of the more physical, violent hitters in the country. Has played safety and running back, but at 235-240 pounds as a senior, can now project into the box as a linebacker as well. Offensive production shows athleticism as did what he does in coverage from the safety spot. Takes on blocks with power and leverage. Runs through ball carriers and is a very sure tackler. Main question is exactly where will he play in college, but given his size, strength, weight room work ethic and general athletic ability, he projects as an impact guy no matter where he ends up.

I mean, Trieu isn’t wrong. He probably would get drafted at safety, too. But dang, if he isn’t a special running back.

Allen had just 12 total carries through the first 4 games of the season, but since then, he’s taken over. He’s had 104 yards or more in 7 straight games (all wins), and with Mellusi and Guerendo out for the season and Berger no longer on the team, Allen is the focal point of this offense that underachieved the first month of the season. Not that his success is the product of these injuries. Allen has 1,062 yards this season; that’s 247 more than Mellusi on 33 fewer carries. In the 2 games with the backfield all too himself, he’s averaging over 200 yards and 3 TDs per game.

Putting up these sorts of numbers against Nebraska is no small feat, too. The Huskers held Heisman candidate Kenneth Walker III and TreVeyon Henderson to their season-lows in terms of yards per carry. He’s going against guys like Ben Stille, a sixth-year senior who is 24 years old. Allen doesn’t turn 18 until January. Do you know how much of a stud you have to be to do this against guys 7 years older than you?

Without Allen, Wisconsin doesn’t beat Nebraska. I’m sorry, Wisconsin fans, but Nebraska looked like the better team for most of Saturday’s game and would’ve won if not for 2 plays: Allen’s 71-yard TD and the aforementioned 53-yard game-winner.

But because of Allen, the Badgers offense finally looks like it has a pulse. And really, that’s all you need to win a division that is as offensively challenged as any in the country. Wisconsin will need a lot more than Allen to beat either Ohio State or Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game (assuming Wisconsin beats Minnesota next week), but it sure is a luxury to have a back like this.

Wisconsin would know, huh?

It would’ve been hard to fathom 8 weeks ago that Wisconsin would be sitting here just a win away from taking the West, but here it is. And they have the 17-year-old monster to thank.