In the midst of its second bye week in the span of a month, Wisconsin football has something new to motivate it as it enters its final stretch of the season.
That inspiration comes from the lack of respect the initial BCS standings are giving the Badgers. The BCS released its Top 25 following Week 8, and nowhere to be found was Wisconsin, who sits at 5-2 (3-1) with five games remaining.
Since many would agree that the Badgers are the second-best team the Big Ten has to offer, you would have to believe that would mean Ohio State, who is universally considered the best in the B1G, would be the only Big Ten team that cracked the BCS standings.
You would be incorrect in that assessment.
Michigan, a team that has had serious issues holding off teams like Akron, Connecticut and Indiana, was ranked No. 22. A third B1G team managed to crack the Top 25 as well—Nebraska at No. 24, a team that has turned it around as of late but was stomped at home by UCLA in its only true challenge this season.
There's another team that has a right to be upset: Michigan State. The Spartans could make their own argument for being the No. 2 team in the Big Ten, as their only loss is on the road to a ranked opponent, Notre Dame, by just four points. Like the Wolverines and Cornhuskers, Michigan State has only lost one game this season.
Let's take a look at some other one-loss teams from major conferences. Virginia Tech comes in at No. 14, and the Hokies, who play in the ACC, haven't beat anyone of note this season. From the Big 12, there's Oklahoma (No. 15) and Oklahoma State (No. 19). Oregon State sneaks in at No. 25 from the Pac-12, and there are several more not listed above.
If the Spartans can't even break the BCS standings with one loss, how can we expect the Badgers to earn a spot with two losses?
Well, the reason we bring up all of these one-loss teams from other major conferences is because Wisconsin deserves to be treated like a one-loss team. Let's face it—the Badgers were jobbed at the end of the game against Arizona State, and while you can rarely assume anything in sports, Kyle French—yes, Kyle French—is going to knock home a 32-yard field goal more often than not.
But the computers and poll voters? All they see is another loss. If only there was an asterisk next to Wisconsin's record to provide a reminder.
It's not fair to Wisconsin, whose only loss should really be to Ohio State, a game that took place on the road against a Top Five opponent. And it's not as if the Badgers were embarrassed—they only lost by seven points.
Statistically, Wisconsin stacks up with some of the best teams in the country. There are nine teams in the FBS that rank in the Top 20 in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and the Badgers are one of them.
The other eight? Those teams each rank in the Top 20 in the BCS standings.
|#1 Alabama (7-0)||No. 16 offense||No. 1 defense|
|#2 Florida State (6-0)||No. 3 offense||No. 3 defense|
|#20 Louisville (6-1)||No. 17 offense||No. 2 defense|
|Wisconsin (5-2)||No. 18 offense||No. 6 defense|
Could Wisconsin have challenged itself more in non-conference play? Sure, but there aren't many teams playing two quality opponents out of conference like Arizona State and BYU, the second of which the Badgers have yet to face.
There isn't anything Wisconsin can do about the Big Ten, and it's no secret the conference isn't what it once was. Teamrankings.com has it as the fifth-toughest conference in the country, and the Badgers also don't have to play Michigan State, Nebraska or Michigan in 2013.
Looking ahead, there is still hope that Wisconsin can earn a BCS bowl bid, even with the slim-to-nil chance it wins the Leaders Division. In the end, it would likely require the Buckeyes to win the B1G Championship Game, as no conference can have more than two teams in a BCS bowl.
The Badgers figure to be favorites in their remaining five games, but they must be among the top-14 teams in the standings to be eligible. A 10-2 record could very well get it done, and just imagine what an 11-1 record could have done for Wisconsin.
Many teams ranked ahead of the Badgers have yet to square off against one another, so a considerable amount of leapfrogging isn't out of the question. Wisconsin just needs to take care of its own business and let the chips fall where they may.
Just then, perhaps, may the BCS, in its final year of existence, look kindly upon a team that has played in a BCS bowl three years in a row.