Wisconsin may be without RB John Clay
MILWAUKEE -- After saying Monday that running back John Clay is questionable for Saturday's game against Indiana with a sprained right knee even though tests came back negative following Wisconsin's 34-13 win over Purdue, Wisconsin coach coach Bret Bielema seemed to back off those comments Tuesday.
Bielema ran into Clay in the training room Tuesday and said the running back should be close to a return by the end of the week. Bielema said it looks like Wisconsin will have all three running backs -- Clay, James White and Montee Ball -- available Saturday, with Ball as a possible starter.
The Badgers (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) were missing freshman running back White vs. Purdue and relied on third-stringer Ball to help awaken them from a first-half stumble against the Boilermakers.
Wisconsin (No. 7 BCS, No. 6 AP) trailed 10-6 at halftime and Clay was hurt early in the second half. Ball finished with 127 yards and two second-half touchdowns. Bielema said Clay wanted to return.
"He was actually trying to get back in the ball game there late, but [we] just didn't feel where he was at that we needed to do that," Bielema said Monday.
White was out after hurting his left knee against Iowa two weeks earlier, giving Ball the spotlight again. Bielema said White should be back before the game against the Hoosiers (4-5, 0-5), but Clay's status was uncertain.
"We'll see exactly where he's at as the week moves through," Bielema said. "He did have a slight MCL sprain, so he just basically, the MRIs came back and didn't even look as bad as possibly James' from a week ago, so there is a chance for him this week."
While Wisconsin keeps moving up in the polls, the Badgers aren't faring as well with the computer rankings.
Wisconsin piled up wins over UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State and FCS-member Austin Peay.
That group of schools has gone a combined 8-28 this season and it's a big reason none of the computer polls has Wisconsin higher than eighth, while none of the human polls put the Badgers lower than sixth.
If Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin all finished with identical 11-1 marks, the automatic qualifier from the conference would be the team ranked highest in the BCS standings because the Spartans and Buckeyes didn't play each other, according to Big Ten officials. Wisconsin is currently seventh in those rankings, ahead of Ohio State (ninth) and Michigan State (11th).
Bielema said he believes the human element emphasizes the fact that the Badgers have back-to-back wins against then-No. 1 Ohio State and No. 13 Iowa.
Only Wisconsin and No. 2 Auburn have two wins over teams currently ranked 15th or higher in the BCS poll.
"I realize other teams have had good, signature wins, but for Auburn to do what that did to [Arkansas] and LSU and for us to beat No. 1 and come back on one week and beat Iowa there ... I think they really respect [us], which is why we've probably stayed where we are," Bielema said.
Bielema said while the scenarios are something to talk about and write about, his team isn't thinking about the school's first Rose Bowl appearance since 2000 -- or past the Hoosiers.
"None of that matters," Bielema said. "Our kids know the way they played the first half last week, if they repeat that in the second half, we wouldn't even be having these discussions."
Wisconsin's depth on offense is a big reason why they remain on track.
Clay has run for 929 yards and 13 touchdowns this season after winning last year's Big Ten offensive player of the year award, while the emergence of White has taken some of the carries away from the bruising back. Ball has been effective, too, in his recent work.
Wisconsin may also have its first significant shuffle on the offensive line if center Peter Konz is unavailable. Konz aggravated a right ankle injury against Purdue and Bielema said backup right guard Bill Nagy will take his place.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.