There's no debating what happened Saturday night in Arizona. Nearly everyone -- including the Pac-12 now -- has acknowledged the referees screwed up in their failed efforts to spot the football in time at the end of the game, and then proceeded to not correct that mistake by failing to award Wisconsin an additional play. It was an egregious error by the refs, but it's time to put a cap on this game and look ahead.
Ultimately, and we knew this heading into the ASU matchup, the game's outcome doesn't affect much in terms of the Badgers achieving their goals for this season. It was a non-conference game, so it doesn't affect their standing in the Leaders Division or impact their chances of appearing in a third straight Big Ten Championship Game for another shot at the Rose Bowl.
Yes, it's painful to watch UW fall four spots in the AP poll, but unless the Badgers were going to make a run at a BCS bowl not named the Rose Bowl, it's fairly irrelevant.
We've grown accustomed to witnessing Wisconsin lose an early-season contest on the road. In both 2010 and '11, the Badgers fell to Michigan State, and last season it was an ugly 10-7 loss at Oregon State. Obviously in all three seasons, the Badgers became the eventual Rose Bowl representative from the Big Ten, so I'm trying to approach this from a more positive angle.
At least at this point in the season, the Leaders Division crown still seems to be between Ohio State and Wisconsin. If this holds true, the Sept. 28 showdown in Columbus will likely decide who is headed to Indianapolis. The winner would obviously hold the head-to-head tiebreaker in the division, so they'd even be able to drop another conference game and still be OK if the other team won the remainder of its conference games.
It's not impossible to believe the Badgers could drop games against Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State or any other Big Ten opponent and the same could be said for Ohio State -- which has to play Michigan as opposed to UW's crossover with Minnesota -- but whoever wins at the Horseshoe will be the overwhelming favorite to hold on to the Leaders Division title.
As gut-wrenching at Saturday night was, it's important we look at the big picture and how everything is still intact for the Big Ten season. The truly interesting part will be the response of the Badgers. Do they play with a chip on their shoulder in the coming weeks or let the bitterness of the ASU game negatively affect their play?
I side with the former, because this is a senior-laden squad with players who have survived all the misfortunes of the past few seasons, and yet, have still found a way to carry the Badgers to Pasadena.