Wisconsin football can’t seem to catch the break it needs in the BCS Standings.
Over the weekend, the Badgers dominated BYU, 27-17. While the game was most certainly not a blowout, Wisconsin was in control throughout. Playing against one of the nation’s most explosive rushing attacks, the Badgers’ defense shut it down. The Cougars’ dual threat quarterback Taysom Hill was held to one of his lowest rushing outputs of the season, and nearly half of BYU’s total yards came in the fourth quarter after Wisconsin was ahead by three scores.
Despite this, the Badgers only moved up two places in the BCS Standings this week, going from No. 24 to No. 22. This may have been Wisconsin’s last chance to make a major impact on their BCS at-large chances, and even though UW did everything that was asked, those chances appear slim.
It’s rather absurd how Wisconsin is getting no love this year. While the two losses and the weak schedule have done the Badgers no favors, their dominating rushing game, underrated defense, and just-enough-to-get-by passing attack make them arguably better than a few of the teams immediately above them. But it’s hard to make an impression on the computers, and no one really knows what goes into those formulas anyways.
In order to qualify for an at-large bid, Wisconsin must finish in the Top 14 of the BCS Standings and win at least nine games. BCS rules state that no more than two teams from each conference can make it to a BCS game. In the SEC, Alabama and Auburn currently hold the highest BCS rankings in the conference, thereby hypothetically eliminating Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and LSU from BCS contention. All four of these teams are currently ranked ahead of Wisconsin.
In the Pac-12, Stanford and Oregon currently hold the conference’s highest rankings, which would hypothetically take out UCLA and Arizona State. Both the Bruins and Sun Devils are ahead of Wisconsin. In the Big 12, Baylor and Oklahoma State are the top two, hypothetically eliminating Oklahoma. In addition, only one team from a non-automatic qualifier conference can make a BCS bowl, which means either Northern Illinois or Fresno State, not both.
If we remove these hypothetical eliminations from the BCS Standings, then Wisconsin would move up to No. 13. Fresno State/Northern Illinois, Michigan State, UCF and Louisville would be ahead of Wisconsin. There would be one open spot for these five teams, assuming the top two teams from the ACC, Big Twelve, Pac-12, and SEC all receive berths, and Ohio State as well. That remaining spot is reserved for the champion of the American Athletic Conference, unless a non-AQ team finishes ahead of the AAC champion. So it’s safe to assume that the final spot would be taken by either Fresno State, Northern Illinois, UCF, or Louisville.
In other words, despite the fact that many of the teams ahead of Wisconsin won’t be eligible for BCS selection, the Badgers need to get into the Top 14 to be considered for at-large status. Once in the Top 14, Wisconsin’s strong fan base could make them a more attractive option than, say, Oklahoma State or Clemson. But with the way things look right now, it is essential to get into the Top 14.
Wisconsin may have one more shot to help itself in the BCS Standings when it plays resurgent Minnesota in two weeks. Otherwise, all the Badgers can do is do what is expected of them—beat the teams they should beat—and hope for the teams ahead of them to lose. It’s the only realistic path to a BCS return at this point.