Photo provided courtesy of Madison.com
The Wisconsin Badgers football team has just finished one of the tougher schedule stretches of any team in the nation outside of maybe the SEC west. There are no moral victories in college football but it is not often that a team can lose two straight and stay within the top ten. Despite those two tough losses all is not lost for this badger team as they still have an opportunity to win the Big Ten West and secure a berth in a New Year’s Day bowl (Traditional New Year’s day bowls will be played on January 2nd so as to avoid the NFL). Wisconsin plays all three of the teams ahead of them in the current Big Ten West standings. Astoundingly, when the Badgers take on Iowa they will be playing an unranked power 5 opponent for the first time this season. Traveling to Iowa City could pose a challenge for the Badgers but after playing the #2 and #3 ranked teams in the nation this matchup should offer some relief. In fact, the Badgers have won on their last three trips to Iowa City. It will also offer Badger fans the opportunity to watch freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook take on a significantly less talented defense. It’s important to remember that Hornibrook faced the #1 and #6 ranked teams in terms of total defense in back to back games. If the offense can raise its level of play near to where the defense is currently at the Badgers should finish strong. After taking on Iowa the Badgers will again face a top ten opponent when the Big Ten West leading Nebraska Cornhuskers come to Madison. The game against the Cornhuskers is really going to be a make or break one for the Badgers in terms of success for this season. A win against the Huskers and the Badgers will be in a good position to possibly win the West with one more Cornhuskers loss. Nebraska is currently 8th in the AP top 25 but has not played a ranked opponent since they faced #22 Oregon in week 3 (Oregon has since fallen out of the rankings). Nebraska’s conference opponents so far have been fairly awful to say the least as they were able to pile up wins against Northwestern, Illinois and Indiana. They take on a Purdue team this Saturday whose one conference win was in overtime against Illinois. The Badgers will almost certainly be favored when they take the field against the Cornhuskers at Camp Randall on October 29th. If the Badgers are able to hand Nebraska its first loss of the season Badger fans will suddenly become backers of the Ohio State Buckeyes for at least one week. The Huskers will travel to Columbus on November 5th to take on the same tough buckeyes squad that the Badgers lost to in overtime. The Badgers final four opponents are Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. This is by no means a murderer’s row of opponents and at this point the four of those teams combined only have five conference wins. Baring a late season collapse the odds makers will most likely have Bucky favored in every one of their last six games. As long as the Badgers don’t play down to their competition I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t run the table the rest of the way. If everything were to break right for the Badgers they would likely have to face either Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten conference championship. As tough as the Badgers played these two teams in their regular season match-ups it is not out of the realm of possibility that Wisconsin could pull an upset. One of the strengths of the college football season is that every big game has championship and playoff implications, however, the flip side to that is fans have a tendency to lose enthusiasm after one or two losses from their favorite team. Sports talk radio was filled with callers lamenting that the Badgers season was “over” after the loss to Ohio State. This is simply not true. I predict these Badgers will be playing in the Rose or Sugar bowl come January 2nd.
Total defense stats provided by NCAA.COM