With only three weeks of Big Ten football conference play remaining, the race to win the Big Ten Championship remains as jumbled as ever. It's likely the Badgers will need to win all three games left on the schedule to be at least a conference co-champion. But Wisconsin wants more than just a conference title; the Badgers also want to make it back to a BCS game for the first time in 11 seasons. Since Wisconsin's BCS ranking could determine whether or not the Badgers earn a BCS berth, it is definitely to the Badgers' advantage to win their remaining games in a stylish fashion. Matt Lepay recently discussed the topic with athletic director Barry Alvarez:
When Barry Alvarez was coaching, he never really worried about margin of victory. His idea of beauty meant leading 17-7 in the closing minutes, then watching his offense run the ball play after play, burning off the final five or six minutes of the game.
Given this current tie-breaking formula, I asked Alvarez on his radio show whether he might change his thinking. He smiled and said, "I might," adding he had a conversation with Bielema about that very topic.
Wisconsin hasn't really been a stylish team this season, and isn't trying to be one. You won't find the Badgers airing the ball out in the fourth quarter with a 24-point lead, because it's just not necessary. So while teams like Oregon keep the pedal to the medal and blow out teams, Wisconsin is perfectly fine with churning out unexciting run after run at the end of games. Although style points could potentially factor into who goes where when it comes time for bowl season, my guess is that Wisconsin's sole focus is on winning each remaining game on the schedule. If the Badgers finish 11-1, chances are that things will fall into place nicely for Wisky. And if they somehow still end up in the Capital One Bowl with only one loss (like 2006), expect the Badgers to open a can of whoop-butt in Orlando on that unfortunate SEC team.
The Tuesday Top Five: Most crucial rooting interests for Wisconsin fans this week
1. Arizona State over Stanford. This is a kill two birds with one stone type of deal. This result wipes out a Stanford team ahead of the Badgers in the BCS standings, and Wisconsin's strength of schedule benefits from a big Arizona State victory.
2. San Diego State over TCU. This is the last team that TCU could possibly lose to this season. Sad to say, the Horned Frogs are still 26.5 point favorites. This makes me cringe to think how much TCU will be favored against 1-8 New Mexico in two weeks.
3. Georgia over Auburn. A one-loss Auburn team who loses to Bama yet ends up winning the SEC Championship might stay ahead of Wisconsin in the BCS rankings, so Badger fans would be wise to root for Auburn to lose twice.
4. California over Oregon. Another team the Badgers might need to lose twice to pass in the BCS rankings. The Ducks' trip to Corvallis for the Civil War would be another possibility for a loss.
5. Ohio State, Iowa to win...or lose? The rooting interests for Badger fans when it comes to these teams depends on what you as a fan wants as the final outcome of Wisconsin's season. More interested in winning the Big Ten championship outright? Root against these teams. Still have hope for Wisconsin making the BCS championship? Probably want to root them on to keep the Badgers' strength of schedule as high as possible. If you want to see Bucky in Pasadena, root for Ohio State to keep winning. If you just want the Badgers to make any BCS game, you probably want Ohio State to lose to clear things out. Me? I'm just going to watch and enjoy the Ohio State-Penn State game. Whatever happens, happens.
Adam Rittenberg isn't quite convinced that the Big Ten two-BCS bid streak will reach six. I think he's incorrect in assuming that undefeated Boise State will get a BCS bid; though the Broncos are deserving, far greater injustices have occurred in this flawed system we call the Bowl Championship Series.
Bret Bielema has been bullish this season when it comes to going for it on 4th-and-short situations. Bielema says it best: "I don't have much doubt when I run John Clay behind Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt. To me, that's pretty good decision-making."
The Badgers defense passed part one of the four-part exam on spread offenses, but defensive coordinator Dave Doeren cautions that each one of these spread offenses is distinct from the others.
Wisconsin picked up its first Pick Six since 2005 on Saturday. First-year secondary coach Chris Ash says he emphasizes turning turnovers into points. Ash also noted the Indiana Pistol attack is similar to what he saw at Iowa State, his last coaching stop.
Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says that this Wisconsin team is talented and disciplined enough to avoid the dreaded "one of those days" experience.
Blogger EoDS from Sixty Minutes. No Alibis. No Regrets. has a detailed post on why the Big Ten Hockey Conference is inevitable. We're advised to cherish the games against WCHA rivals while we still can.
Injury updates for Saturday's game: Peter Konz is probably out, John Clay could be held out, James White and Lance Kendricks should be ready for full-time duty. Bill Nagy is slated to fill in for Konz at center.
Congratulations to the Wisconsin women's soccer team on earning an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers face Milwaukee in their first round matchup, which will take place Friday at Marquette University.