When Wisconsin takes on Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl in a couple of weeks, it will be more than just an opportunity for the Badgers to get their first bowl win in three years.
If the Badgers can pull out a win against the "U," based on the sheer number of returning players next year, it could be the catalyst for a huge year for Wisconsin in 2010.
A return to the Champs Sports Bowl certainly wasn't what the 2009 Badgers hoped for, but if the 2010 version can play up to their talent level next year, a trip to the Rose Bowl is a definite possibility.
Wisconsin will be losing some vital players, notably TE Garrett Graham and DE O'Brien Schofield, but it will be returning the vast majority of a team that went 9-3 with the possibility of notching 10 wins with a bowl victory.
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons why Wisconsin overachieved this year was because of their surprisingly consistent quarterback play.
After a year in which starting quarterback Allen Evridge was benched in favor of Dustin Scherer only for Scherer to be benched in favor of Scott Tolzien, the Badgers seemed to be in a position in which quarterback play once again was their downfall.
However, that hasn't been the case. With a year under his belt, Tolzien should come back next year poised and ready to lead the team to a conference championship.
Not to mention all of Tolzien's top targets, other than Graham, will be back for the 2010 season. Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson have had breakout years and hopefully for Wisconsin's sake, David Gilreath will get back on track after a disappointing 2009 campaign.
Wisconsin's offensive line will also be intact next year after doing a great job protecting Tolzien this year.
Am I forgetting anything?
Oh yeah, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year John Clay, will be back and ready to make a run at the Heisman.
Defensively, the Badgers have a little more work to do for 2010.
They lose their best defensive player in Schofield along with linebacker Jaevery McFadden and safety Chris Maragos.
However, for the most part, the 2010 season is looking pretty good for Wisconsin. A bowl win to end this season would be huge.
The one big criticism that fans could have for the 2009 Badgers is that they never won the big game. Ohio State, Iowa, and Northwestern were all games that could have solidified the Badgers resume and gave them some serious swagger, yet all three times the Badgers came out on the losing end.
A win over an up-and-coming Miami team would be absolutely huge for the confidence of this team. Wisconsin is undoubtedly the underdog in this game and I believe that a victory could really carry over into next year. It would finally give this team its signature win. Virtually on Miami's home field, a win in Orlando would be Wisconsin's biggest as a program since their Capital One Bowl victory at the end of 2006-07 season.
A blowout loss, on the other hand, could lead to disaster next year. Although on paper this team should be able to compete with anyone in the Big Ten next year, their lack of a big win could undermine their confidence and, ultimately, their play.
Football, after all, is a game of momentum, and the Badgers need it to be on their side going into next year if they hope to accomplish more than just a bowl game in Florida. A win over Miami could just do the trick.