Wisconsin Football: Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for Badgers' Final 5 Games

Dave RadcliffeContributor IIIOctober 31, 2013

Wisconsin Football: Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for Badgers' Final 5 Games

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    Once thought to be a rather lackadaisical path to a 10-2 record, the Wisconsin football schedule suddenly grew rather treacherous following last weekend's batch of games.

    The Badgers' upcoming opponent, the Iowa Hawkeyes, improved to 5-3 with a victory over the skydiving Northwestern Wildcats. Brigham Young continues to win, grabbing its fifth straight victory by defeating Boise State. And Minnesota protected home field by upsetting Nebraska to become bowl eligible just eight games into the season.

    Wisconsin can still expect to be the favorite in its remaining five games, but its outside shot at reaching a BCS bowl game will be no walk in the park, especially with the opponents lurking on its schedule.

    One more loss, and the Badgers can kiss away any shot at not only joining the BCS party but at having a chance to defend the Big Ten title. Let's break down the best and worst-case scenario for Wisconsin over its final five regular season games. 

Nov. 2: At Iowa

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    The first of Wisconsin's remaining five games could be the biggest challenge, as the Badgers will have to travel to Iowa City for the second consecutive time to face the Iowa Hawkeyes.

    With this being a rivalry game and the battle for the Heartland Trophy, nothing can be taken for granted. Entering this season, it was believed Iowa would be a potential trap game for the Badgers, but with the Hawkeyes performing better than expected in 2013, it's more than that—this will be a true challenge for Wisconsin.

    Iowa has the No. 12 defense nationally, the highest-ranked defense the Badgers have faced all season. But the Hawkeyes are offensively challenged, and the Badgers have the No. 7 defense in the FBS. They also possess a more potent running attack led by Melvin Gordon, which would help explain why Wisconsin is nearly a double-digit favorite heading into Week 10.

    The big storyline is Gordon making his first appearance at Iowa, the school he shunned back in high school so he could play closer to home. The Hawkeyes' ability to keep games close means this will be far from a cakewalk for the Badgers, but they can still expect to come away with a victory.

     

    Best-case scenario: Two-possession win

    Worst-case scenario: One-possession loss

Nov. 9: Vs. Brigham Young

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    A rare midseason non-conference matchup, the Badgers will host the BYU Cougars on Nov. 9, an Independent from the FBS. 

    The Cougars have a bye week upcoming, so they will have an extra week to prepare for Wisconsin and enter Week 11 as a 6-2 team that has knocked off the likes of Texas, Boise State and Houston. It is also a team familiar with Badgers' head coach Gary Andersen, who used to coach at Utah State, an annual opponent of BYU.

    In Andersen's final season with the Aggies, the Cougars were able to squeak by with a 6-3 victory. What does that mean heading into this game? Little to nothing, as Utah State didn't have a power running game under Andersen, and the Badgers are a completely different team.

    However, the Cougars have shown they can go on the road and defeat quality teams, and they won't be awestruck from playing in Madison. They have an above-average offense and defense, and few teams run the ball better than BYU thanks to dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill.

    Once again, it has the makings of a tight game for the Badgers, but the home-field advantage at Camp Randall should be enough for Wisconsin to knock off the Cougars.

     

    Best-case scenario: Two-possession win

    Worst-case scenario: One-possession loss

     

Nov. 16: Vs. Indiana

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    We won't spend much time on this one, because we all know what happens when Indiana travels to Madison to take on the Badgers. But the Hoosiers are a better team than in years past and can light up the scoreboard—they are No. 8 in scoring nationally.

    The problem with Indiana? It can't stop anybody on defense.

    What the Hoosiers do have going for them is that they have one of the best passing games in the FBS, and Wisconsin has had its issues on the back end of the defense. For Indiana to have any chance at winning this game, it will need to light it up through the air and attempt to make this game a shootout. 

    But the Badgers are going to be doing most of the scoring in this one.

     

    Best-case scenario: Lopsided win

    Worst-case scenario: Two-possession win

Nov. 23: At Minnesota

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    The most impressive victory in the Big Ten from Week 9 play took place in Minnesota, where the Golden Gophers stunned Nebraska 34-23 and became bowl eligible by improving to 6-2 on the season.

    That's right—Minnesota is 6-2, and it could conceivably be an 8-2 team by the time Wisconsin comes to town. Its next two games come against Indiana on the road and Penn State at home.

    Yes, this game will receive a little more national attention than usual if that winds up being the case, especially if the Badgers enter at 8-2 as well. After all, this is the battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe, and the Golden Gophers haven't possessed the axe for roughly a decade now.

    The issue here is that Minnesota can't throw the football, and the secondary would be the easiest part for it to attack on offense. Wisconsin runs the ball better, throws the ball better, defends the run better and defends the pass better.

    In other words, Wisconsin does everything better than Minnesota, so it should retain Paul Bunyan's Axe yet again.

     

    Best-case scenario: Lopsided win

    Worst-case scenario: One-possession win 

Nov. 30: Vs. Penn State

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    The postseason ban and scholarship reductions are beginning to take their toll on Penn State, a team that is also rolling with a true freshman quarterback this season. Fresh off an inspiring four-overtime victory over undefeated Michigan, the Nittany Lions were steamrolled by Ohio State at The Shoe.

    They also nearly lost by three touchdowns to an Indiana team that quite frankly isn't that good. The Penn State defense isn't nearly the same as the one that shut down Wisconsin in the season finale last year in Happy Valley.

    The Nittany Lions' offense has also run into trouble scoring points at times, and that's because they have had difficulty getting the running game going. They do have one of the Big Ten's best at receiver in Allen Robinson, but aside from that, Penn State doesn't have much going for it.

    Other than the passing game, Wisconsin has the Nittany Lions beat in every aspect of the game, and combining that with the fact that the game takes place in Madison, the Badgers can expect to close out the 2013 regular season with a win.

     

    Best-case scenario: Lopsided win

    Worst-case scenario: Two-possession win