The word "era" is thrown around with abandon in sports. Whether it be a long celebrated player hanging it up or a dynastic team falling on hard times, the passing of an era is usually remembered more fondly than it really was. The BCS era will most likely not be thought of so kindly, and that is just fine for pretty much everyone involved in the sport.
For all its enemies, the last 15 years in college football have seen some remarkable wins, some heartbreaking losses and plenty of ammunition for critics to take aim at an imperfect system. The Wisconsin Badgers saw their share of victory and defeat, some games more important than others. It was a time when Wisconsin entered another gear as a program, building on the foundation of the mid-1990s success.
This list will undoubtedly add more fuel to the bonfire of vitriol that seems to spew whenever the Bowl Championship Series is mentioned. Many more games may be burned in the collective hearts of fans, but these wins may represent the highlights of the last decade and a half.
The 2000 Rose Bowl pitting Wisconsin versus Stanford was football history. It represented the only time a team had won back-to-back Rose Bowls and is often viewed as the pinnacle of Wisconsin football.
The Badgers found themselves in a hole early on in the game, falling behind 9-3 in the first half. The second half would be a different story entirely.
Ron Dayne finds his rhythm and rumbled for 200 total yards, including a tone setting 64-yarder that set up a 4-yard score by the Badger great. While Dayne would be crowned the MVP, the defense stifled Stanford. The Cardinal hardly saw the line of scrimmage when rushing the ball and ended up with negative five yards on the ground.
The final score was 17-9 in favor of the Badgers. The win, though, also signified an end to an era of its own.
Most people will most likely remember the catch more than the actual game. They will remember a rain-soaked slugfest that did nothing to dampen a crowd in full throat. They will remember Lee Evans streaking down the sideline, taking advantage of a rare Chris Gamble stumble, only to run under a perfect strike from backup quarterback Matt Schabert.
Why was this an important game? It kept the adrenaline coursing through the veins of a team dealing with mediocrity. It ended a 19-game winning streak by Ohio State and signaled the beginning of a burgeoning rivalry with a national power. The bad blood nearly spilled over when linebacker Robert Reynolds choked Jim Sorgi, and set up one of the most amazing plays in Wisconsin history.
A Rose Bowl, this game was not. In fact, the Badgers went on to experience even more mediocrity after that magical night in Madison ending the year with a 7-6 record. But the 17-10 win over a new nemesis provided enough spark to keep hungry fans fed in the lean years to come.
Redemption. A nail-biting finish. Big hits. Trick plays. History.
The first-ever Big Ten Championship game was a doozy.
It was an epic rematch between two teams that fought so hard during the regular season, it took a Hail Mary to decide their first meeting of the season. Michigan State boasted all-everything quarterback Kirk Cousins and a pair of receivers that kept the entire defense guessing. Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Montee Ball provided an offensive one-two punch that was the envy of every team in the country.
Michigan State seized the lead before halftime and seemed to harness that momentum until Wisconsin battled back. A shuffle pass and a roughing the kicker penalty meant Wisconsin would capture the inaugural championship game trophy with a score of 42-39.