When Wisconsin football traveled to The Shoe to take on the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes back in September, it was pretty evident the victor would have the inside track at winning the Leaders Division in the Big Ten.
While that showdown took place so early in the season, there was little doubt that Ohio State would roll into the Big Ten Championship Game without much difficulty, as the Badgers (6-2, 4-1) still have two games to make up on the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0) with four to play.
That being said, a fourth consecutive trip to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl remains a slim-to-nil possibility.
But a fourth consecutive BCS bowl isn't out of the question just yet despite The Debacle in the Desert that took place on Sept. 14.
Wisconsin enters Week 11 of the college football season No. 24 in the BCS standings, which means it still needs to jump 10 more teams—including Arizona State—in order to become eligible for a BCS bowl game. The first 14 teams in the standings are eligible to be a BCS at-large team.
The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Allstate Sugar Bowl and Discover Orange Bowl each take at least one at-large team. The Rose Bowl Game typically involves the winners of the Big Ten and Pac-12, although Ohio State, Oregon and Stanford each still have an opportunity to play in the BCS National Championship Game.
This season, the Orange Bowl has the first crack at selecting an at-large team, followed by the Sugar Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, respectively. However, if the Rose Bowl loses a Pac-12 or Big Ten team—or both—it is allowed to pick a replacement first.
The possibilities are endless, but we'll select the three most likely bowl opponents for the Badgers and explain our rationale for each matchup.
3. LSU: Capital One Bowl
With the Badgers expected to fall short of the conference title game, many will still consider them the No. 2 team from the Big Ten.
That would land Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl rather than the winner of the Legends Division—Michigan State or Nebraska—assuming Ohio State goes to the Rose Bowl. There are also fewer fanbases that travel better than that of Wisconsin, making the Badgers an attractive selection.
Wisconsin has a fairly easy path to finishing 7-1 in conference play, and even if it is able to defeat BYU, that won't impact its standing in the Big Ten, although a loss to the Cougars would eliminate them from BCS contention.
The LSU Tigers (7-2, 3-2) are about to visit Alabama to take on the No. 1 ranked team in the country, and while they have won six of their last eight meetings in Tuscaloosa, it will likely result in the Tigers' third loss of the season.
From there, LSU will host Texas A&M and Arkansas, so it projects to finish the season 9-3. The Capital One Bowl has the privilege of inviting the SEC school of its choosing, and even with two SEC teams likely playing in BCS bowls, that still leaves several viable options, including A&M, Missouri and South Carolina.
The Tigers aren't the most likely option considering the presence of Johnny Manziel and the Aggies, but they are the next best thing, as LSU features an incredible amount of talent on both sides of the football.
2. Texas A&M: Capital One Bowl
Using the same logic from before—especially if the Spartans lose to the Cornhuskers on Nov. 16—Wisconsin appears destined for the Capital One Bowl if it falls short of a BCS bowl.
Going up against the SEC's Texas A&M, one of college football's most exciting teams, would be an intriguing matchup for the Badgers. There are still so many chips to fall in college football's top conference, but we project that Alabama and Auburn will be the two SEC schools to occupy BCS bowl games.
With the Aggies (7-2, 3-2) being one of the odd-teams out, you better believe the Capital One Bowl will select Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel as the No. 2 SEC team to come play in Orlando on New Year's Day. That's despite a difficult remaining schedule for the Aggies, but for the reasons listed above, it would be hard for the Capital One Bowl to pass on A&M.
1. Florida State: Orange Bowl
What we list as the Badgers' most likely bowl game and opponent might seem like a long shot, but if you consider what's supposed to happen over the final five weeks or so of the college football season, it's the most logical scenario.
First, from Wisconsin's perspective.
The Badgers will be favored over their final four games, meaning they should conceivably finish the season 10-2 but fall short of the B1G title game. As aforementioned, Wisconsin will need some help in order to jump into the Top 14 of the BCS standings, but look at some of the remaining challenges awaiting several teams ahead of the Badgers.
|No. 13||LSU (7-2)||@Alabama, vs. Texas A&M|
|No. 14||Oklahoma St. (7-1)||@Texas, vs. Oklahoma, vs. Baylor|
|No. 15||Texas A&M (7-2)||@LSU, @Missouri|
|No. 17||Michigan State (8-1)||@Nebraska, Potential B1G title game|
|No. 19||UCLA (6-2)||vs. ASU, @USC, Potential Pac-12 title game|
|No. 22||Arizona State (6-2)||@UCLA, Potential Pac-12 title game|
|No. 23||Notre Dame (7-2)||@Stanford|
Mike Huguenin of NFL.com also gives some sound reasoning as to why it will be Wisconsin making the trek to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3. But what about the Badgers' opponent?
Well, nobody said it was going to be easy.
College football appears to be destined to have more than two undefeated teams from BCS conferences, which will be a fitting way to end the BCS era. One of those teams will likely be Florida State, who is currently No. 2 in the BCS standings.
However, should No. 3 Oregon pull off the victory over No. 5 Stanford, the Ducks will likely leapfrog the Seminoles in the standings and march their way into the BCS National Championship Game. That leaves the Orange Bowl for the Seminoles (8-0, 6-0), which is the designated bowl game for the ACC champion.
Of course, with so much football left to be played, all of these scenarios could be thrown out the window in the coming weeks. But heading into Week 11 of the college football season, these are the three most likely bowl opponents for the Badgers.