Goin' Bowling: Where Are the Badgers Headed?

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Goin' Bowling: Where Are the Badgers Headed?
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

With the Big Ten season ending on Saturday, most teams are looking ahead to possible bowl match-ups.

Wisconsin still has to travel to Hawaii in two weeks, but they too can start to scout for their bowl game because their game against the Warriors shouldn't make a difference in what invitation they receive.

With their loss to Northwestern on Saturday, Hawaii is pretty much a meaningless game.

If they had beaten Northwestern, they would have had the opportunity to go for 10 wins and an outside shot at a BCS bowl, but that all went down the drain Saturday afternoon in Evanston.

A pathetic defense and costly mistakes ended any hopes of that.

After that game, my outlook on the Badgers is pretty gloomy. Their defense hasn't improved all year and although their offense is effective, it seems as though they sputter in clutch situations.

However, at 8-3 they still have a chance to get a good bowl game, and a win against Hawaii would definitely help their confidence going into bowl season.

With Ohio State's win against Michigan on Saturday, the Buckeyes locked up a bid to the Rose Bowl.

What the Badgers need is for either Penn State or Iowa to get an at-large bid to a BCS game.

If one of those two teams doesn't get a bid, Wisconsin will again be relegated to playing in the Champs Sports Bowl for the second consecutive year, despite a 9-3 record (assuming a victory over Hawaii.)

Although the Capital One Bowl is out of the question (either Penn State or Iowa will get that bid), the Outback Bowl certainly isn't. In fact, that would likely be the bowl the Badgers are invited to if one of those teams gets a BCS bid.

Now, some of you may be wondering: Why is Northwestern not in the discussion for some of these bowls?

After all, the Wildcats did just defeat the Badgers 33-31.

Well, for one, they both have the same record in the Big Ten (5-3.) Northwestern does own the head-to-head match-up, but assuming the Badgers can beat Hawaii, Wisconsin will have a 9-3 record compared to Northwestern's 8-4 record.

Also, Wisconsin will be ranked higher than Northwestern, in both the BCS standings and the various polls.

Now, assuming Wisconsin loses to Hawaii, I still believe the Badgers would get the bid over Northwestern.

Why?

Wisconsin has a stronger strength of schedule than Northwestern and probably most importantly, has a much larger fan base than the Wildcats.

Wisconsin is known to have well-traveling fans, while Northwestern can't even fill up 50,000-seat Ryan Field.

So if either Penn State or Iowa is invited to a BCS bowl, Wisconsin will likely play in the Outback Bowl in Tampa.

Typically, they would play either the SEC's third or fourth-best team in that game. Officially, the Outback Bowl gets to pick the best team from the SEC East not going to the Capital One or BCS bowl. Luckily for the Badgers, this year that team may not be the third or fourth-best team in the conference.

Georgia, Tennessee, and Kentucky are all fighting for that spot and all of them are experiencing average years at best. However, an average team in the SEC would probably be a good team in the Big Ten.

If neither Penn State or Iowa is invited, the Badgers would probably play in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando.

That would pit the Wisconsin against the ACC's fourth-best team.

This year, that could be numerous teams. The ACC is so jumbled together right now that five teams could be possible opponents for the Badgers.

Virginia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Boston College, and Florida State are all sitting around the No. 4 spot in the ACC.

In case anyone forgot last year's game, Wisconsin was absolutely demolished 42-13 by Florida State in this game.

So pretty much anyway you look at it, Wisconsin will definitely have their hands full in whatever bowl game they get.

By the looks of their possible opponents, I'm really hoping that it isn't a repeat of last year's game. Watching their game against Northwestern on Saturday certainly didn't help my confidence.

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