After stewing on it for eight days, the Badgers can finally put it behind them and focus on a challenge task ahead.
Playing in a bowl game for the 12th straight season, continuing its program record, Wisconsin will head to Orlando, FL, to take on South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan.1. The game will be at noon central on ABC.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen called the BCS games the "elite of the elite," but the Capital One Bowl has featured two ranked teams in every year but one since 1987 and has a $4 million-plus payout that is largest of any non-BCS bowl. And for Wisconsin, it's going to provide a really tough test.
South Carolina – ranked eighth in the AP poll and ninth in the BCS – went 10-2 in the regular season and finished in second place in the SEC East Division behind Missouri. The Gamecocks beat the Tigers, 27-24, in double overtime on the road and ended the season beating in-state rival Clemson, 31-17.
South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw rushed 22 times for 94 yards and a touchdown and passed for 152 yards and another TD in the finale, moving his record to 26-5 all-time as a starter.
"Connor Shaw, ah man, the best quarterback in school history," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said after. "He's probably the difference maker completely for us."
South Carolina averages 248.3 passing yards and 205.3 rushing yards per game, but the strength of South Carolina is its defense. Led by a trio of talented juniors in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, cornerback Victor Hampton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, the Gamecocks are giving up only 20 points per game, good for 14th in the nation, and have held their last four opponents to 17 points or less.
Against the Tigers, South Carolina held one-time Heisman contender Tajh Boyd to 19 of 27 for 225 yards with two interceptions. They also sacked him five times.
South Carolina is shooting for its third straight 11-win season and enters the bowl on a five game win streak.
"We've been achieving things no one at South Carolina's done before," Hampton said following the Clemson win. "I told the boys, `Don't stop at five.' Keep going."
Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) – which moved up two spots to No.19 in the AP poll and the BCS despite being idle - won at least nine games for the eighth times in 10 years, knocking off a pair of ranked teams in No.19 Northwestern and No.23 Minnesota in Andersen's first year in the program.
"I love this group of kids; unbelievably proud of them," said Andersen. "To get nine wins again is very tough to do. Their ability to walk in and allow us to be involved in their lives, there are a lot of great memories for me and their always will be."
Wisconsin is 11-13 in bowl games, but the Badgers are 3-1 at the Citrus Bowl Stadium and 2-0 in the Capital One Bowl, beating Auburn 24-10 in 2006 and Arkansas 17-14 in 2007. The Badgers haven't won a bowl game since beating No.14 Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 29, 2009, losing the Rose Bowl the past three seasons to TCU (21-19 in the 2011), Oregon (45-38; in the 2012) and Stanford (20-14,last season).
"We have another great opportunity in front of us with the bowl game," said senior James White. "We haven't won a bowl game since I've been here, so we have to go out and try to win that game … We want to go out with a win for the senior class."
The Badgers were on pace for a BCS bowl berth heading into their regular season finale, likely shooting for the Orange Bowl after losing only to Pac-12 South champion Arizona State and Big Ten Leaders division champion Ohio State, but an uneven, sloppy performance in a 31-24 loss to Penn State.
"It's tough to swallow now," said senior lineman Ryan Groy. "It's rough. It's something we have got to get over and focus on bowl prep. Focus on the bowl game."
Senior Dezmen Southward added that Wisconsin's veteran team is well conditioned to move past a big time win or a heartbreaking loss to be able to focus on the next opponent.
"There's nothing we can do about this game or anything before this game," said Southward. "I think the way that you get better is you learn; you learn and you go out and apply that to the next time. We need to be a lot shaper and come out with the intensity from snap one."
The Big Ten finished 2-5 in bowl games last season and hasn't finished above the .500 mark in postseason play since 2002. The Big Ten hasn't officially won the Capital One Bowl since 2007, when Michigan sent Lloyd Carr into retirement with a 41-35 win over No.14 Florida (Penn State's 19-17 victory over LSU in 2009 was vacated by NCAA sanctions).
South Carolina last appeared in the Capital One Bowl in 2012, beating Nebraska 30-12.
Regardless of what the rest of the conference does, Andersen wants to make sure that a group of seniors who were instrumental in his transition into the Wisconsin coaching role get sent out on the right note.
"They have a legacy, it's a special legacy, but they have unfinished business," he said. "We're going to come back, we're going to go to work, we're going to prepare and every person on this football team better understand we're going to prepare for a bowl game. We're going to go in and we're going to expect to win.
"We're going to have a good time, but we are going to expect to win the bowl game."