Admidst all of the complicated scenarios and computer formulas that will sort themselves out over the next seven days, the Badger football team will return to practice this week unsure of its destination.
The Badgers are unlikely to know where they are headed and who they will play until next Sunday, following the final weekend of college football action.
All eyes will be on the BCS standings that will be released later today, so see if USC has bypassed Iowa in the latest standings. If that is the case, the Badgers might have taken a step closer to the Sun Bowl.
But most experts believe Iowa will still land in the Rose Bowl, earning an at-large bid to the BCS and Wisconsin will be selected for the Alamo Bowl.
It's hard to imagine Notre Dame squeezing into the BCS Standings even after getting pounded by 31 points Saturday night. But that is still a real possibility.
Here is how ESPN college football researcher Brad Edwards described the at-large situation in an article today at ESPN.COM:
"It's funny to imagine there being huge BCS controversy in a season with exactly two major unbeaten teams, but that could possibly be the case if Washington State wins the Pac-10 title on Saturday.
That result would leave three teams heavily in the mix for the BCS' two at-large berths. One of those is 11-1 Iowa, which is the preferred choice of the Rose Bowl because of its high ranking and perfect Big Ten record. The other two options are Southern California and Notre Dame, which just played over the weekend. In case you missed it, the Trojans beat the Irish by 31 points, while outgaining them by 500 yards.
The foundation for this drama is a BCS rule that automatically gives one at-large spot to any team finishing in the Top 3 of the BCS Standings without winning its conference title. If the teams ranked 1, 2 and 3 all won their respective conferences, then the team ranked No. 4 gets an at-large spot if it is not a champion.
If Miami and Georgia win on Saturday, the top-three teams in the final BCS should be Miami, Ohio State and Georgia -- all conference champions. The No. 4 team would be either USC or Iowa, so that team would also be guaranteed inclusion to a BCS game through this rule.
But whichever team ranks fifth overall is guaranteed nothing, so either the Trojans or Hawkeyes would then be left at the mercy of the BCS selection process. That process begins with a choice by whichever bowl would have normally had the rights to BCS No. 1. If that team is Miami, then the FedEx Orange Bowl gets to make the first pick.
Provided Notre Dame is ranked in the Top 12 of the BCS, the Irish would still be an option -- even if they are ranked lower than both USC and Iowa and were destroyed by the Trojans in a head-to-head meeting.
The BCS only assures that the Top-2 teams will meet for the national title. The other three games each year are, to some extent, left to their own discretion to create the matchups that work best for their own needs. . .and the biggest need for any bowl game is a sold-out stadium.
Therefore, Notre Dame's national fan base makes the Irish a very attractive option, even if they aren't the most deserving team available. The big issue now is whether the strength of Iowa and USC might make it a public relations disaster to pass over them.
The majority of fans would be outraged if the Irish are included at the expense of either the Trojans or the Hawkeyes, but that might not be as important to the Orange Bowl as the bottom line. If Washington State beats UCLA on Saturday, we'll find out which is the greater priority."
Badger fans, along with fans around the nation, are now playing a game of hurry up and wait. Unfortunately, the fans are the ones that will be hurt as they try to make trip plans at the last minute during holiday travel.
We'll keep you posted throughout the week on what we're hearing, and will have coverage of the Badgers' return to the gridiron later this week as they prepare for the final game of the season.
The Waiting Game Continues
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