Now that the new rankings are in, Wisconsin sits only one spot out of being an at-large candidate for the BCS. What a difference a few weeks can make.
The Badgers sit at 14th in the AP and Coaches Polls, but more importantly 15th in the BCS.
With a win against Penn State on Saturday, the Badgers are guaranteed to move into the top 14, which is necessary to be a BCS at-large team. The reason they will move up is the fact that enough teams above the Badgers play each other, prominently in conference championship games. Those championship games can be a huge boost, but they can hurt you as well.
With the scenarios down to just a few, let’s look at what early January could look like for the Badgers.
These are in order of how I see them happening.
Badgers win, Ohio State wins B1G (but not in National Championship). I’d be stunned if this doesn’t end with the Badgers playing in the Orange Bowl. I’ve documented my interest in the Badgers playing a post January 1st game, and there’s a light at the end of that tunnel now.
Badgers win, Michigan State wins B1G. This puts Michigan State in the Rose Bowl, after they’ve been on the brink for quite a while. Unless Ohio State also loses to Michigan this weekend, the Buckeyes will beat the odds and be a championship game loser that makes a BCS game.
Badgers win, Ohio State goes to National Championship game. This is where it could get a little tricky. As long as Michigan State beats Minnesota (which is no gimmie) a close loss to Ohio State probably wouldn’t bump them out of the top 14 in the BCS. The Rose Bowl would then have a choice at a replacement, and even with the loss, the Spartans could look more enticing than a Wisconsin squad that has been there the last three years. An interesting tweak in this would be if Arizona State wins the Pac 12, as a rematch between the Sun Devils and the Badgers would write itself.
Badgers lose. This firmly knocks them out of the BCS picture and in either the Capital One or Outback Bowl, depending on how the rest of the games shake out. Selfishly, I’d root for the Capital One as the Outback starts the earliest and that’s not a fun game to wake up to on New Year’s Day.
This could all change with a Michigan State or Ohio State loss this weekend, but otherwise Wisconsin travels much better than the other potential BCS at-large teams and that weighs strongly in the minds of bowl hosts, regardless of the team’s skill level.