Barring a loss by either No. 1 USC or No. 2 Texas prior to the Bowl Championship Series selection day, Big Ten co-champion Ohio State is a virtual lock to receive one of two BCS at-large bids. Penn State owns the conference's automatic bid by virtue of its win over Ohio State.
The Buckeyes' potential reward would open a path to Orlando for the Badger football team (8-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten).
"(Saturday) everyone won that needed to win for us," said UW strong safety Joe Stellmacher, referring to Ohio State's win over Michigan and Penn State's win over Michigan State. "It's on a platter for us. We just got to go out to Hawaii, take care of business out there."
After the BCS makes its choices, the Capital One Bowl has the first pick of bowl-eligible Big Ten teams. Wisconsin, which had a bye Saturday, finished the conference season in a four-way tie for third place with Michigan, Iowa and Northwestern.
The Badgers beat the Wolverines this season, but lost to the Hawkeyes and Wildcats. Still, among that quartet Capital One officials are expected to find Wisconsin the most appealing — if the Badgers can escape Hawaii with a win — for several reasons:
- Wisconsin could head into the game with a 9-3 overall record, the best mark among the four schools. UW is currently the only school in that group that does not have a non-conference loss.
- The Badgers have never played in the Capital One Bowl.
- It will be Barry Alvarez's last game as UW's head coach.
"It's looking like we are going to play for a great bowl game," linebacker Mark Zalewski said. "This game has so much at stake."
If the Badgers lost to Hawaii Friday night, however, UW would be riding a three-game losing streak into bowl season. The Capital One Bowl would still be free to select Wisconsin if it so desired, but would likely choose Michigan instead. That scenario would likely place Iowa in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, and the Badgers in either the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio or the Sun Bowl in El Paso.
On the off chance that Ohio State does not receive a BCS at-large berth, the Buckeyes would end up in Orlando.
All the Badgers can worry about, however, is beating Hawaii (4-6 overall, 4-4 Western Athletic Conference) Friday evening. The words "Capital One Bowl" have not been buzzing in UW's locker room.
"I think everyone's pretty aware what's at stake and what we want to do and what bowl game we'd like to go to do," Zalewski said. "But it all comes down to how we play next (Friday)."
Badgers move up in polls
Idle Wisconsin rose in the polls Sunday. The Badgers moved up from No. 25 to No. 24 in the Associated Press poll, No. 24 to No. 22 in the USA Today coaches poll, and No. 24 to No. 23 in the Harris Interactive poll.
Among other Big Ten programs, Penn State and Ohio State are No. 4 and No. 7, respectively, in all three polls, while Michigan is No. 22 in the AP, 23 according to the coaches and 24 in the Harris rankings.