Where might these fans be headed if Wisconsin doesn't return to the Rose Bowl?
At this point the Badgers know exactly what they need to do to get back to the Rose Bowl: Win two games.
But what if they don't? How will their bowl prospects look then?
Yesterday I posted my updated bowl projections for the Big Ten on CBSChicago.com and while I still have the Badgers going to the Rose Bowl, I did bring up a few scenarios that would affect Wisconsin if it doesn't win the next two games.
If Wisconsin loses to Penn State Saturday...
...the Badgers could fall all the way to the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.
As long as Nebraska beats Iowa at home Saturday, I think the Cornhuskers are going to the Capital One Bowl over the Big Ten Championship Game loser. The Spartans went to the Capital One Bowl last year, Wisconsin has been to Orlando four of the last six seasons and Penn State will take a hit because of the child sex abuse scandal. Florida Citrus Sports would love to host Nebraska's fan base in their first season in the Big Ten. It's a no-brainer.
So who does the Outback Bowl take? If Penn State loses to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game then there's still a good chance the Badgers get the nod despite losing the head-to-head matchup. The Nittany Lions went to Tampa last season and will still have the scandal hanging over their program.
But if Penn State wins the Big Ten Championship, Michigan State would likely get the Outback Bowl bid over Wisconsin.
That would drop the Badgers to the Insight Bowl, which flip-flopped with the Gator Bowl this season in the selection order.
If Wisconsin beats Penn State but loses to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game...
...the Badgers probably end up in the Outback Bowl.
In this scenario, I still think the Capital One Bowl will lean towards Nebraska (assuming a win over Iowa) in favor of Wisconsin. Both teams would have three losses, and the Badgers did beat the Cornhuskers handily, but Nebraska has never played in the Capital One Bowl. I would definitely take a fan base eager to travel to a bowl game it has never been to over a fan base that has been to Orlando four out of the last six seasons. Not to mention, how many Badger fans are really going to be eager for a bowl trip after losing three games in a season with such high expectations?
That would send the Badgers to the Outback Bowl where they would certainly be chosen over a Penn State team they beat.
So yeah, probably a good idea just to win the next two games and make all of this a moot point.