The Badgers will look to avenge last season's loss at Ohio State this Saturday. - Kirk Irwin
The Badgers may have locked up a trip to Indianapolis, but don't underestimate the importance of how they fare against Ohio State and Penn State.
The Indiana game sealed what many of us thought to be the inevitable before the season started. The 62-14 thumping of the Hooisers locked up a trip to Indianapolis for the Badgers. It's been far from a smooth ride to reach this point, but three tough loses, two offensive line coaches and three quarterbacks later, Wisconsin has reached its primary preseason goal. Despite that notion, these last two "meaningless" regular season contests are anything but irrelevant. In fact, I believe they'll be a fairly good indicator of what to expect from the Badgers in the Big Ten Championship and bowl game.
The first and obvious reason is because we don't want to see a 7-5 UW squad back into the Big Ten title game. We throw the word "momentum" around all the time, but I think it couldn't be more important for the Badgers at a time like this.
These last two Rose Bowl seasons, the Badgers have hit their rough patches but eventually turned the corner. I think we've been waiting for that "turn the corner moment" for this season's team, as well. It certainly seemed as if Wisconsin had after the three-game winning streak over Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota, but Michigan State ended those sentiments in abruptly ending the Badgers' home winning streak.
For the sake of this team's psyche and confidence moving forward, UW needs to at least split these final two games. A win over undefeated and intradivision rival Ohio State would provide a major boost for this team.
The defenses of Ohio State and Penn State -- like Michigan State -- will more likely than not slow down Wisconsin's running game, as well. I'm interested to see if Curt Phillips has the arm and smarts to make the throws necessary to win those games. UW's defense will give the Badgers a chance to win, but Phillips will certainly be more of a factor in the outcome than he was at Indiana.
Lastly, the final two games could affect the Badgers' overall standing in the Big Ten. If they lose in Indianapolis, these games could affect which bowl game UW heads to this holiday season.
So let it be known, these final two games are far from meaningless as they could help define the 2012 Wisconsin football team.
Adam Rittenberg writes about the Big Ten's (slim) chances of getting an at-large BCS team, the Legends Division race and how the true winner of the Leaders Division (including Ohio State and Penn State) will be crowned.
previews week 12 games in the Big Ten.
BTN's Tom Dienhart says "all eyes will be on Madison" this week.
BTN experts also predict how the Badgers will handle the last two regular season games.
Experts give their weekly rankings and bowl predictions for the Badgers (a couple have a Wisconsin-Notre Dame Rose Bowl!)