Just two weeks after being stuck in neutral in the BCS Standings, Wisconsin football suddenly has very realistic hopes of earning a BCS at-large bid.
The No. 15 Badgers have steadily moved into position to play in one of college football’s most prestigious bowl games. When the rankings were initially released last month, Wisconsin was not even ranked. The team then advanced slowly, entering in at No. 24 and remaining there for another week, then moving up to No. 22.
In order to be considered for at-large selection, the Badgers must be ranked in the Top 14 of the BCS Standings. Getting no respect from voters to give the team the jump it needed, those BCS hopes appeared slim at best.
Last week, however, Wisconsin moved up to No. 19, leapfrogging Louisville, LSU, and Oklahoma. This week, UW made its biggest progression, moving ahead of Fresno State, Texas A&M, Central Florida, and UCLA to No. 15.
It is worth noting that of those seven teams that the Badgers have vaulted ahead of, only three—LSU, Texas A&M, and UCLA—fell because of a loss. That means that in the other four cases, voters simply felt that Wisconsin was the better team.
Such behavior would seem to indicate that the Badgers pulled off spectacular victories over teams ranked higher than they were. But that wasn’t the case. Wisconsin throttled perennial conference doormat Indiana at home, then knocked off No. 25 Minnesota on the road to retain Paul Bunyan’s Axe. While Minnesota is a good team, moving up so quickly shows that voters are finally recognizing that the Badgers are viable BCS candidates.
Wisconsin still needs to climb one more spot to reach the Top 14 and be eligible for at-large selection. The Badgers play Penn State this weekend at home, and even though the Nittany Lions are a shell of their former selves, a commanding UW victory would perhaps be enough to move the team up. Wisconsin would also likely move up if a team immediately ahead of them lost, like Oregon or Arizona State.
It is essential to remember that just getting into the Top 14 does not guarantee the Badgers a BCS bowl bid. It simply allows bowl committees to consider them for at-large selection. However, committees would be hard-pressed to leave a 10-2 Wisconsin team out of the mix.