It’s time.

You know what I’m talking about. For the past three months, you’ve been ripping Wisconsin’s strength of schedule.

BYU? Play a real Power 5 non-conference game. Iowa? Wow, the B1G West sure is tough. Michigan? The Wolverines are overrated anyway. Ohio State? This ain’t about quality losses.

The Badgers didn’t play anybody. They’re a bunch of overachieving, 3-star kids who play in the weakest division in college football. I don’t care what their record says.

I hear you loud and clear. Now let me hear you say something else about Wisconsin.

“I’ll admit it. Wisconsin deserves a lot of credit for what it did in 2017.”

In a true road game (yes, it was) against a top-10 team, the Badgers did what you said couldn’t be done. That is, they played like an elite team. Miami (FL) wasn’t too athletic for Wisconsin. By game’s end, it was Wisconsin’s athletes who looked like they were unstoppable.

Saturday night’s Orange Bowl victory was not an unthinkable accomplishment for Wisconsin. Yes, I’m aware that I used a double negative. For the Badgers, a double negative was fitting considering the way the college football world talked about them all year.

Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The truth is that Wisconsin’s schedule was not that of a Georgia, an Ohio State or even a Miami (FL), who got all sorts of credit for thumping Notre Dame at home. Remember that Miami (FL) was supposed to be unbeatable at home. The Hurricanes were the rise-from-the-ashes program that had the college football world rocking turnover chains and throwing up “The U.”

Thoughts and prayers with you if you drank every time that you saw either one of those things on Saturday night.

The sobering reality was that Wisconsin was the better team. Fitting it was that the takes were firing immediately after Miami (FL) took a quick 14-3 lead in the first half. The same people predicting a Miami (FL) blowout based off that start probably didn’t care about the fact that Wisconsin outscored its opponents 237-64 in the second half this year.

Of course Wisconsin outscored Miami (FL) 31-10 the rest of the way.

Turnover chains are cool and all, but third-down stops are really what win ballgames. Paul Chryst agreed with me on that.

The Badger defense didn’t allow a third-down conversion until the fourth quarter. Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard drew up a game plan that Malik Rosier just couldn’t quite figure out. Andrew Van Ginkel was everywhere, as was Derrick Tindal.

It was another classic Wisconsin defensive effort. Perhaps the only difference this time was that the unit wasn’t put in tough spots after an Alex Hornibrook interception.

What if I told you that Hornibrook would attempt 34 passes and he’d throw — wait for it — zero picks?! You would’ve probably assumed that Wisconsin was trailing all game and not leading for the entire second half.

Believe it or not, that was reality for the Wisconsin offense, which moved the ball despite the fact that it was without Jazz Peavy and Quintez Cephus. Leading receiver Troy Fumagalli wasn’t at 100 percent, either. Alex Hornibrook was already over 200 yards passing before Fumagalli even caught a pass.

OK, even I’ll admit that’s pretty unbelievable.

But more believable was that Wisconsin was going to show up ready to roll after the year that was. Coming one touchdown short of a B1G Championship for the second year in a row had to be a tough pill to swallow. The Orange Bowl was considered a consolation prize for the Badgers after their lone blemish of the year.

It certainly didn’t feel like it, though. Instead, it felt like a 13-1 team played like a 13-1 team. That shouldn’t have been surprising. Shoot, even Vegas had the Badgers as 5.5-point favorites on the road. Still the narrative was that Wisconsin couldn’t stack up against the nation’s best.

Goodness, am I sick of that. Here’s what Wisconsin has done since Chryst took over in Madison in 2015:

  • 3 double-digit win seasons
  • 34-7 overall, 22-4 in B1G
  • 3 bowl victories
  • 2 New Year’s Six victories
  • 2 top-10 finishes (assuming that happens this year)
  • 7 wins vs. top-25 teams in last 2 years

There are very few programs in America who can boast numbers like that. And trust me, I’m a believer that we shouldn’t bring history into the equation when evaluating the 2017 Badgers. But it’s just such a stale narrative to say Wisconsin isn’t one of the premier programs in college football.

Let’s also move past the narrative that Wisconsin doesn’t have athletes. Danny Davis, the guy who caught three touchdowns on Saturday night, was a 4-star recruit who had offers from Ohio State and Penn State, too. A.J. Taylor, the guy who had 108 receiving yards and a touchdown for Wisconsin, was a 4-star recruit, too.

And I don’t care how many stars Van Ginkel had as a recruit. That dude looked like J.J. Watt on Saturday night.

Maybe a performance like that will begin to change the Wisconsin stereotypes. This year, it was defined by its “weak” division. By the way, the B1G West went a perfect 4-0 in its bowl games. And thanks to Wisconsin, the B1G is a perfect 7-0 this postseason…and 3-0 in New Year’s Six bowls.

Just sayin’.

Wisconsin put the exclamation point on what’s been nothing short of a tremendous season. Those who watched this team closely and saw how it imposed its will week in, week out already knew that. Perhaps it took an Orange Bowl victory for eyes to open and for stereotypes to fade.

Wisconsin deserved your respect in 2017. It’s a shame it took so long to get it.