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A comprehensive guide to 2018 bowl predictions for Wisconsin

Where will the Badgers land for the postseason?

Wisconsin v BYU

It’s time to go a bowlin’.

I am avowed Bowl Season mark. I love these swag-filled, money-grabbing exhibitions played to half-filled stadiums. I love the pageantry, the random match-ups and the non-stop slate of games from Christmas to New Year’s Day.

Even with Wisconsin in the midst of its worst season in a decade, I still regularly check in on the Badgers possible post-season destination along with accompanying flight and hotel cost estimates that my wife will never approve. I can’t help myself.

With nothing but idle time between now and Sunday’s selection, here is a comprehensive guide to Wisconsin’s 2018 bowl destination, examining the factors for selection, expert picks and my own guess as to the Badgers’ landing spot.

The Breakdown

It’s been said countless times before: bowls are under no obligation to take teams by order of record.

Bids generally break down by a team’s success, but factors such as how well a team travels or pulls in television eyeballs matter. Not insignificantly, Wisconsin does well in these areas, to its benefit (and to the detriment of squads with lesser national cache).

The Big Ten is actively trying to spread its teams around to all of its bowl partners in hope that fresh match-ups and new locations drive up fan attendance. The more recently (and frequently) a team has played in a given bowl matters in its selection.

[Auth. Note: Normally, there would also be a section about the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six selection process. This is self-evidently not an issue for Wisconsin this year, so we’ll just go ahead and skip it. If you’re curious, please reference for more information.]

Big Ten Bowl Eligible Teams

  • Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) ***Big Ten East Champion***
  • Michigan (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten)
  • Penn State (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten)
  • Northwestern (8-4, 8-1 Big Ten) ***Big Ten West Champion***
  • Iowa (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten)
  • Michigan State (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten)
  • Wisconsin (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten)
  • Purdue (6-6, 5-4 Big Ten)
  • Minnesota (6-6, 3-6 Big Ten) (Ugh)

[Auth. Note: The Big Ten is just not very good this year.]

Factors Impacting Wisconsin’s Bowl Bid

  • Pros: Wisconsin travels well; generally garners national interest; is viewed as “quality” Big Ten opponent by outsiders; is not Purdue.
  • Cons: This specific iteration of the team is not very good; did not finish the year strongly; was beaten by teams similarly situated (Northwestern, Minnesota).
  • Recent Bowl Participation (Season): New Year’s Six (2017, 2016); Holiday (2015); Outback (2014); Capital One (2013)

“Expert” Projections Round-Up

Here is a round-up of projections by the “experts” through Week 13:

Wisconsin Bowl Projections

"Expert" Bowl Location Opponent
"Expert" Bowl Location Opponent
Athlon (Lassan) Redbox Bowl Santa Clara, CA Stanford
CBS Sport (Palm) Taxslayer Gator Bowl Jacksonville, FL Missouri
College Football News Taxslayer Gator Bowl Jacksonville, FL Missouri
ESPN (Bonagura) Redbox Bowl Santa Clara, CA Cal
ESPN (Sherman) Taxslayer Gator Bowl Jacksonville, FL Vanderbilt
SB Nation (Kirk) Redbox Bowl Santa Clara, CA Arizona State
Sports Illustrated (Single) Redbox Bowl Santa Clara, CA Stanford
Sporting News (Bender) Holiday Bowl San Diego, CA Utah
247 Sports (Crawford) Redbox Bowl Santa Clara, CA Stanford

(For those interested, full slate of expert predictions can be found here: Athlon (Lassan), CBS Sport (Palm), College Football News, ESPN, SB Nation (Kirk), Sports Illustrated (Single), Sporting News (Bender), and 247 Sports (Crawford)).

Expert consensus is on the Gator in Jacksonville, Fla., or the Redbox in Santa Clara, Calif.

My Prediction

Here is the full slate of Big Ten bowl projections. The following assumes a few things:

(1) Ohio State beats Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game.

(2) Ohio State does NOT make the College Football Playoff (#thankgod).

(Also note that corporate title sponsors of bowls are boring tools of Satan himself, therefore, I will refer to bowls by the laziest possible iteration of their names.)

Big Ten Bowl Projections - 2018

Bowl Game Big Ten Team Conference Opponent Season Wisconsin Last Appeared Date Rules
Bowl Game Big Ten Team Conference Opponent Season Wisconsin Last Appeared Date Rules
New Year's Six (Rose) Ohio State PAC-12 2012 1-Jan-19 Big Ten Champion (Unless selected for CFP)
New Year's Six Michigan TBD 2017 (Orange Bowl) TBD At-Large (Selection Committee)
Citrus Penn State SEC 2013 1-Jan-19 Five different Big Ten teams in six-year period
Outback Michigan State SEC 2014 1-Jan-19 Five different Big Ten teams in six-year period
Gator Wisconsin SEC NA 31-Dec-18 No more than one Gator and one Music City in six-year period
Holiday Northwestern PAC-12 2015 31-Dec-18 Five different Big Ten teams in six-year period
Redbox Iowa PAC-12 NA 31-Dec-18 Five different Big Ten teams in six-year period
Pinstripe Purdue ACC NA 27-Dec-18 Six different Big Ten teams in eight-year period
Quick Lane Minnesota ACC NA 26-Dec-18 None

If Northwestern knocks off Ohio State, they probably leapfrog into one of the New Year’s Eve/Day bowls against the SEC (Citrus, Outback, Gator). That pushes Wisconsin further down the pecking order, probably to the Redbox.

If Ohio State ends up in the College Football Playoff, that may bump Penn State up into a New Year’s Six bowl. While that probably helps Northwestern, I don’t think it changes the calculus for Wisconsin - the Gator Bowl is probably the “ceiling” for the Badgers post-season trip.

My projection is the Gator. If I was laying odds, the Gator would be +110, Redbox +115, Pinstripe +130, and the rest of the field would be +150.

Jacksonville is the pick due to a combination of novelty (Wisconsin has never been to the Gator, whereas Northwestern and Iowa have both been in the past six years) and strength of fan travel. If the Wildcats got the nod, though, it wouldn’t shock me. In that event, Wisconsin likely heads to Santa Clara.

I think the Holiday is unlikely given Wisconsin’s recent appearance. The Citrus and Outback are unlikely given the team’s performance this year and the availability of quality teams ahead of them. I don’t think Wisconsin slides to the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit - I think the Pinstripe would jump at a chance to host the Badgers.

Regardless, odds are good that Wisconsin is going to a bowl it’s never been to before, probably playing on New Year’s Eve.

What say you Badgers Nation? Where do you want to see Bucky go?


What bowl do you most want Wisconsin to attend?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Gator (Jacksonville, FL)
    (400 votes)
  • 10%
    Holiday (San Diego, CA)
    (104 votes)
  • 15%
    Redbox (Santa Clara, CA)
    (151 votes)
  • 10%
    Pinstripe (New York, NY)
    (108 votes)
  • 2%
    (22 votes)
  • 20%
    I have already moved on to the (No. 1 in the country) women’s hockey season.
    (208 votes)
993 votes total Vote Now