For all the flaws that college football and the BCS system seem to have, one constant remains—the teams that are winning at the end are usually rewarded. With just one week left in the regular season, count the Wisconsin Badgers among the teams being rewarded for winning football.
Heading into Week 14 of the season, the Badgers sit just outside a BCS at-large qualification spot at No. 15, according to the latest BCS rankings released on Sunday.
The formula for Wisconsin making its way to a BCS Bowl Game is now pretty simple—win against Penn State and have Ohio State win the Big Ten Championship game.
Should that scenario play out, the Badgers are likely headed to South Beach and the Orange Bowl. ESPN is predicting just that (subscription required), and Phil Steele has been on top of the Badgers to the Orange Bowl for a number of weeks.
Michigan State winning the Big Ten title would put a major wrench into those plans, though; Ohio State and the Spartans currently sit above the Badgers at No. 11 and No. 3 respectively.
With a Spartans win, both of the participants in the Big Ten Championship Game would still rank ahead of Wisconsin, eliminating the Badgers from consideration.
However, the fact that Wisconsin is sitting in a position even to be considered for a spot in a BCS bowl game is amazing.
Five weeks ago, the Badgers were an afterthought in college football. They had lost two close games to the biggest names on their schedule by a combined nine points.
When the first BCS rankings were released following Week 8 of action, the Badgers were absent from the Top 25. Names like Michigan and Nebraska were included, but with two losses Wisconsin wasn't good enough for the rankings.
Yet since a Sept. 28 loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin has gone on a six-game win streak, including a win over BCS No. 25 Minnesota this past weekend.
Ever since the original BCS rankings came out and the Badgers were excluded it's been a slow but steady climb to BCS at-large consideration.
The Badgers now sit in a prime position to put a second team in to the BCS from the Big Ten and earn themselves a chance at a rarity in college football—redemption for a season nearly stolen from them.
*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.