MADISON, Wis. (AP) -Wisconsin center Marcus Coleman was flattered to be compared to heavy machinery.
Washington State coach Bill Doba called Wisconsin's offensive linemen road graders after they flatten his defense earlier in the season. Even with the loss of All-American tackle Joe Thomas to the NFL, the Badgers' offensive line is still paving the way to success.
``Wisconsin has a history, tradition of having good offensive lines,'' Coleman said. ``We like to run the ball, push people and be physical. That's what we do, that's what we work for, that's what we take pride in. I'd say the term 'road graders' ... is probably the biggest compliment you can give us.''
Road graders, steamrollers or any other piece of earth moving equipment aside, the offensive line that also includes Gabe Carimi, Kraig Urbik, Andy Kemp and Eric Vanden Heuvel is massive - the biggest in the state in fact. Even bigger than the one protecting Brett Favre in Green Bay.
All five Wisconsin's starters are at least an inch taller than 6-foot-5, 320-pound Packers left tackle Chad Clifton, and the Badgers are a combined 33 pounds heavier than their pro counterparts.
``It's great,'' said Coleman, the runt of the litter at 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds. ``Andy Kemp (324) and Kraig Urbik (332) to my left and to my right, we're all big guys. Anytime you have a double team, you know you're going to move them. That's definitely a great feeling.''
The group faces its biggest challenge of the season so far when the Badgers play Iowa (2-1) in the Big Ten opener Saturday night. Wisconsin is 19-1 in its last 20 night games, but the Hawkeyes boast a defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown.
The defensive front of ends Kenny Iwebema and Bryan Mattison and tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul have seven of Iowa's nine sacks. While King has two sacks and five tackles for loss, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz wasn't even sure if fans would be able to spot the 6-foot-4, 267-pound tackle.
``These guys are gigantic,'' Ferentz said. ``You better stand behind Mitch if you want to see (him).''
The Badgers also have a big name line coach in Bob Palcic. Besides coaching Thomas, Palcic, a 34-year coaching veteran, has worked with former first-round picks Tony Boselli and Jonathan Ogden in college and has 12 years of NFL coaching experience.
Wisconsin (3-0) has been just fine on offense to start the year, scoring 107 points and eight rushing touchdowns.
With such a beefy line, it's little wonder running back P.J. Hill has been so successful.
Hill already has 10 100-yard efforts in 15 career regular season games.
``I always tell them, 'If you do your job, you'll just let me go to work.' Those guys, they take it into consideration,'' Hill said. ``They open up big holes for me.''
The guys up front don't mind when Hill gets the accolades.
``He's a punisher. He's a guy that's going to take hit,'' Coleman said. ``That's the kind of guy you like to block for. We don't need the credit, if he has a great day, most people know we had a pretty good day as well.''
Last Saturday, The Citadel sacked Tyler Donovan three times in Wisconsin's 45-31 victory. But the Bulldogs blitzed constantly at the risk of being burned on big passing plays.
``They were bringing eight, it was definitely a challenge,'' said the 6-foot-8 Carimi, a redshirt freshman who moved into Thomas' left tackle spot. ``We still did well. We got 45 points on the board, any time you're over 40, it's good.''
Iowa won't take that approach, but Badgers coach Bret Bielema, who was a captain of the Hawkeyes as a player and an assistant coach there from 1994-2001, said the defense is fundamentally sound.
``I've lived in that program,'' Bielema said. ``Maybe there isn't a lot of variation off of what they've done, but the coaches that they have are tremendous technicians, and that's why they've been able to be so consistent over the years.''
Just like Wisconsin's line, which has churned out eight current and 59 former NFL players.
``It's not really anything we think about,'' Coleman said. ``If we take care of our business on the field and have great success here, that opens up your future for the NFL, but it all starts here.''

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