The Badgers, ranked No. 18 in the final Bowl Championship Series rankings, finished in a four-way tie for third place in the Big Ten with a 5-3 conference record, and are 9-3 overall. After beating Hawaii last week to close out the regular season, Wisconsin was offered a spot in the Capital One Bowl, contingent on Big Ten co-champion Ohio State receiving an at-large bid to a BCS bowl.
The Buckeyes (9-2, 7-1) ended up receiving their bid automatically after finishing No. 4 in the final BCS standings. Ohio State will face No. 6 Notre Dame (9-2) in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 2.
Big Ten co-champion No. 3 Penn State (10-1, 7-1), which earned the conference's automatic berth into the BCS with its win over Ohio State, will face No. 22 Florida State (8-4, 5-3 ACC) in the Orange Bowl Jan. 3.
After the BCS makes its selections, the Capital One Bowl owns the first choice among the remaining Big Ten schools. This will be the Badgers' first appearance in the Capital One Bowl (formally the Citrus Bowl), which is celebrating its 60th annual game this season.
"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to play in the Capital One Bowl," UW coach Barry Alvarez said. "I know that our fans are looking forward to not only the game but taking advantage of all that the Orlando area has to offer."
"We've been trying to get Wisconsin here for about 20 years and finally Barry won exactly the right number of games," Florida Citrus Sports executive director Tom Mickle said.
No. 9 Auburn finished 7-1 in the SEC and is 9-2 overall. The Tigers finished tied with LSU atop the SEC's West Division, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to LSU. Auburn's only other loss came in its season-opener with Georgia Tech.
For its SEC choice, Mickle said that the Capital One Bowl selection committee had also looked at Georgia (10-2), LSU (10-2) and Alabama (9-2). Georgia's win over LSU in the SEC Championship game, though, sent the Bulldogs to the Sugar Bowl. And LSU's margin of defeat in that game, 34-14, helped sway the selection committee in Auburn's favor.
"It really came down today to probably Auburn and LSU," Mickle said. "Auburn's win over Alabama earlier in November probably eliminated Alabama…
"It just turned out with the game last night we felt Auburn was the better selection. And particularly that LSU was here last year probably influenced that a little bit."
Auburn and Wisconsin faced each other two seasons ago in the Music City Bowl, a game the Tigers won 28-14.
"We are looking forward to the challenge," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We've had an opportunity to look at a little bit of film on what they've done and how they've done it. Every year they are one of the most physical teams that we see and so we're looking forward to bringing our team in."
Auburn will be playing in the Capital One Bowl for the third time under Tuberville, having lost the event in 2001, 31-28 to Michigan, while beating Penn State 13-9 three years ago.
"I've been to most of the bowls across the country in my coaching tenure and this is by far one of the best times that our players have," Tuberville said, "because it's so many things that the people there in the Orlando area offer and the hospitality which they bring forth, it's just a fun time.
"We're looking forward to it and to play against Coach Alvarez again."
In what will be the final game of Alvarez's career at Wisconsin, the Badgers will play in a January bowl game for the seventh time in his 16 seasons. Alvarez will retain his athletic director duties after the season.
"Coach Alvarez, I know, is probably looking forward to watching from the stands or from the press box the next few years," Tuberville said. "This is his last challenge…
"We're going to miss what he's brought to college football. He's brought a lot to our sport and it's going to be fun for us to challenge him in his last college game."
Wisconsin will look to break a two-game losing streak in bowl games, having lost 24-21 to Georgia in last season's Outback Bowl. The Badgers are 7-3 under Alvarez in bowl games.
Wisconsin has played once before on Jan. 2, a 34-20 win over Duke in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl (since renamed the Outback Bowl).
Final polls: Wisconsin is No. 21 in the final regular-season Associated Press poll and No. 20 in both the USA Today coaches' poll and the Harris Interactive poll. The Badgers are tied for No. 14 in the composite computer rankings.
Auburn is ranked No. 7 in all three human polls and No. 12 according to the computers.
Among Big Ten teams:
Penn State is No. 3 across the board and Ohio State is a consensus No. 4.
Michigan is No. 20 in the BCS and the AP, No. 21 according to the coaches and Harris and No. 16 in the computer rankings.
Northwestern is No. 25 in the BCS, with a No. 19 computer rank. The Wildcats received votes in the human polls.
Iowa is No. 25 in all three human polls.