MADISON, Wis. – For as much as they want to play in short sleeves, Wisconsin's offensive linemen might need to make an exception this weekend at Minnesota with the forecast calling for highs in the upper teens and winds at about 15 mph.
As long as the 16th-ranked Badgers keep pushing defenses around, things should be just fine.
"Yeah, as offensive lineman, I don't think we're allowed to wear full sleeves. I think it's kind of frowned upon," guard Ryan Groy, wearing short sleeves, said after a chilly outdoor practice this week at Camp Randall Stadium. "I'm not sure what this dress is going to be this coming Saturday ... Pretty cold."
This is what run-game devotees like to call "ground-and-pound" weather, and few teams can work their way down the field on the ground quite like Wisconsin (8-2, 5-1 Big Ten). It's the only team in the country with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in James White and Melvin Gordon.
There was apparently some question about how good the line could be after losing two starters from last season's team, center Travis Frederick and left tackle Rick Wagner.
The Badgers just kept rolling, even with a new coach in Gary Andersen and offensive coordinator in Andy Ludwig.
"Coming in, they probably weren't getting the respect they were supposed to get, with some guys leaving," Gordon said. "These guys practiced with a chip on their shoulders, and the results paid off."
And those are very wide shoulders too.
Groy, the lone senior, stands 6-foot-5, 320 pounds. Left tackle Tyler Marz, center Dallas Lewallen and right guard Kyle Costigan also have similar builds. Right tackle Rob Havenstein is listed at 6-foot-8, 327 pounds.
It's the last road game of the season for the Badgers, and a big one, against the Gophers (8-2, 4-2). Wisconsin is trying to hold on to Paul Bunyan's Axe against a surging Minnesota team that's won four straight conference games. Andersen sees similarities.
"They want to be productive in the run game," Andersen said. "It's a little different version than we use. It's more of a staple of their offense, especially in the last half of the season. It's been effective for them."
Even more effective for Wisconsin. The Badgers are averaging a whopping 7 yards on each rushing attempt, and Gordon is the nation's active career leader in rushing average at 8.51 yards per carry.
According to Wisconsin, Gordon needs 62 more carries to reach 300 attempts and be eligible to break the FBS record of 8.26 set by Army's Glenn Davis (1943-46).
"I don't know if you could ever guess the first year you'd be that explosive on the offensive side of the ball," Andersen said. "I'm going to give a ton of credit now to those wide receivers that are making those extra blocks down the field."
Last week, receiver Jared Abbrederis was shut out in the passing game, but ran for touchdowns from 32 and 49 yards. Instead of blocking for Gordon or White for a long touchdown run, Abbrederis took advantage of the blocks.
"What goes around, comes around," Abbrederis said. "You do your job, they'll do theirs."
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP