Badgers confident about chances in opener vs. Bama


CHICAGO -- Wisconsin running back Corey Clement is not a math major. So maybe his formula could use some work.

But the way Clement sees it, the Badgers beat Auburn in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day; Auburn has gone toe to toe with its main rival, Alabama; and, of course, reigning Big Ten and national champion Ohio State beat the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.

So add it all up, Clement says, and Wisconsin should have a great shot at pulling the upset over Alabama in the season opener Sept. 5 in Arlington, Texas.

"It's Pythagorean Theorem, right?" he asked an assembled media crowd at Big Ten media days in Chicago on Thursday.

Pythagoras could not be reached for comment. But it is clear that the Badgers aren't going to be intimidated by the powerful Crimson Tide, who were ranked No. 3 in the initial coaches' poll earlier on Thursday.

"There's no better way to start a season than to beat a team like Alabama, though it won't be easy," senior quarterback Joel Stave said. "We have a lot of confidence in ourselves, based on what we did the past calendar year."

If you need a refresher course, Wisconsin held its own against the supposedly superior SEC West in the 2014 season. It opened against LSU in Houston and led 24-7 in the third quarter before Melvin Gordon mysteriously disappeared. The Badgers' lead did, too, as the Tigers eventually prevailed 28-24 -- a game in which Stave didn't play because of a case of the yips.

Then on Jan. 1, Wisconsin turned the tide by mounting a 34-31 comeback victory in overtime over Auburn, whom many have pegged as a darkhorse 2015 national title contender. New year, new teams, but there's no fear of Nick Saban's juggernaut in Madison.

"Who's to say we can't beat Alabama?" Clement said. "They proved they can be beat. This conference can play with the best of them. I think [Ohio State's Sugar Bowl win] kind of gave Alabama a wake-up call."

You have to wonder how new Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst reacted when he found out his debut would come against the Crimson Tide. The Badgers open against LSU again next year, at Lambeau Field.

"I think our guys are confident," Chryst said. "And what a great opportunity. I think your older kids love playing those games, and the younger guys, they'll grow up."

If Wisconsin can manage the upset at Jerry World, its prospects -- and playoff hopes -- would grow quickly. The Badgers also would be able to claim back-to-back victories over Auburn and Alabama.

"That would be a great thing to talk about, wouldn't it?" Clement said.

It certainly would add up to something special.