Season Review: No Bielema, no problem for Badgers

Bret Who? Exactly. By most measures, Gary Andersen’s debut was a rousing success in Madison, as he guided Wisconsin to the precipice of a BCS bowl after Bret Bielema unceremoniously dumped the Badgers for … Arkansas? That’s in the past. The future in Badger Town is bright.

If not for poor work by officials in a 32-30 loss at Arizona State on Sept. 14, who knows where the season would have ended up for the Badgers? Perhaps the Orange Bowl? Regardless, Andersen has put his mark on this uber-strong program, using the same formula for success others have in Madison: a physical, run-oriented offense coupled with an underrated defense. Add it all up, and this was another great season for Wisconsin.

[ MORE: Final B1G standings | Wisconsin's 2013 results | 2013 stats ]

Record: 9-3 overall; 6-2 Big Ten

Bowl: Capital One Bowl vs. South Carolina

High point: The Badgers strolled into Minnesota on Nov. 23 and muted a good Gophers team, 20-7 to move to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten. It was Wisconsin’s sixth victory in a row, and one could argue no league team was playing better at the time. The Badgers used a balanced offense (127 yards rushing/197 passing) and strong defense (185 yards allowed) to quell a white-hot Minnesota team in the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. In fact, Wisconsin didn’t allow an offensive touchdown, as the Golden Gophers’ lone score came on defense as they saw a four-game winning streak end.

[ MORE: See all of Dienhart's 2013 Big Ten season reviews ]

Low point: Beat Penn State on Senior Day in Madison, and Wisconsin could have been in the discussion for a fourth BCS bowl bid in a row. Alas, the Badgers flopped, falling 31-24 to a 24-point underdog that was coming off a home loss and had only pride on the line as it wasn’t eligible for the postseason. The usually strong Wisconsin defense was ripped for 465 yards, with 339 coming through the air by precocious Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

Offensive MVP: This has to be co-MVPs between RBs Melvin Gordon and James White. Gordon ran for 1,466 yards; White ran for 1,337. The sophomore and senior formed a dynamic duo unlike any other in the nation in helping the Badgers average 283.0 yards rushing. And this tandem did it all without benefit of a strong passing game to deflect attention. Impressive.

[ MORE: Gordon announces he will return for junior season ]

Defensive MVP: LB Chris Borland. He’s not just the heart and soul of the defense, but he’s also the lifeblood of the team. Borland earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors after finishing third in the Big Ten in tackles per game with 9.3. The senior is an emotional leader who is like a coach on the field, epitomizing the blue-collar visage of what Wisconsin football is all about with unmatched effort and passion.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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