Final: No. 3 Alabama 35, No. 21 Wisconsin 17

Telling stat: Bama outrushes Wisconsin 238-40

I don’t know if Wisconsin has ever lost a rushing battle by that much. If you saw a hole created by the Wisconsin line, consider yourself lucky. The Badgers were far off the 320 yards they averaged with Melvin Gordon last year. There weren’t many holes all night for Corey Clement or Dare Ogunbowale. Derrick Henry, on the other hand, got whatever he wanted against one of the better rush defenses in the country. Once the Bama defense started forcing three-and-outs in the second half, the Tide dominated the line of scrimmage.

Key play: Michael Caputo injured on third play

The Badgers lost their best defender on the third play of the game to a head injury. That was one of the few things that couldn’t happen for Wisconsin to have a shot in this one. His presence as the big-hitting safety valve was needed to disrupt an inexperienced Alabama passing game. The Badgers couldn’t afford to have their best tackler sidelined with a guy like Henry getting to the second level. Arm tackles didn’t work. The 240-pound back would’ve likely given Wisconsin fits at full strength. With Caputo out, they didn’t stand a fighting chance.

Worth noting:

-Joel Stave looked much better…for a half

Without any rushing game, the Badgers had to rely on their senior quarterback much more than usual. And in the first half, Stave delivered. Alex Erickson hauled in an impressive grab while laying on the ground for the Badgers’ first score. Stave was 14-for-16 and would’ve had the Badgers within four if not for a missed field goal at the end of the half. The second half was a different story. Stave didn’t have as much time to throw and wasn’t as precise as he was early. Still, he didn’t look like a guy with the yips, anymore. That has to be a positive.

-Clement hampered by groin strain

The Wisconsin back was having a rough go before be was sidelined. There wasn’t much of a word as to why he sat most of the second half. The Badgers did say the junior was questionable to return with a groin injury in the middle of the fourth quarter, which wasn’t a good sign for the Wisconsin back. Forget Saturday night. Groin strains linger, especially if they aren’t given proper rest. It’s Week 1. The Badgers give their feature backs a heavy workload in the regular season. If Clement really was banged up, that could be a serious issue for the Wisconsin’s best offensive weapon.

What it means: Wisconsin isn’t in elite class

That might sound unfair. But if you watched the second half of that game, you saw that the Badgers were dominated in all facets of the game. Part of that was an offensive line that didn’t practice together all fall. Part of that was three linemen getting their first collegiate start against arguably the nation’s best defensive line. Healthy or not, the Badgers have a long way to go if they want to compete with the Alabama’s, Ohio State’s and Wisconsin’s. Lucky for the Badgers, that was their toughest regular season game.

What’s next: vs. Miami (OH)

The Badgers shouldn’t have much of a problem at home in Week 2. Miami (OH) classifies as a cupcake matchup. We should see Paul Chryst’s real imprint on the improved Badger passing game, and barring some miracle, he’ll get his first win as head coach. Needn’t worry Badger fans. You’ll be jumping around before you know it.