Wisconsin in line for Rose Bowl trip
Wisconsin is on the verge of its first trip to the Rose Bowl since January 2000 after the Badgers remained ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State in the latest BCS standings.
Those three teams tied for the Big Ten title, and the BCS standings are used to break that deadlock. Wisconsin was No. 5 Sunday, with Ohio State one spot behind and Michigan State No. 8.
The final BCS standings come out next weekend, but it's hard to imagine either of the other teams moving ahead of Wisconsin now that all three have finished their regular seasons.
''It's kind of hard to make that up in a week when nobody's playing,'' BCS analyst Jerry Palm said. ''It's pretty much a done deal now.''
Theoretically, Wisconsin could still move into the top two and end up in the BCS championship game, but that's an extremely far-fetched scenario that would almost certainly have to include losses by both Auburn and Oregon next weekend.
It certainly felt as if the Badgers knew where they were headed after they beat Northwestern 70-23 Saturday. Their fans chanted ''Rose Bowl! Rose Bowl!'' and then rushed the field when the game was over.
Now, the Badgers will wait patiently and spend some time talking themselves up to anyone who will listen.
''Not taking anything away from Northwestern, but to put up 70 points on a team like that - I don't know who's doing these computer things, but how can you not pay attention to that?'' safety Aaron Henry said. ''I think we can play with Oregon, I think we can play Auburn.''
Wisconsin is No. 4 in the new AP poll. Ohio State is No. 6, and Michigan State is No. 7.
If the Badgers go to the Rose Bowl, the other two co-champions will be left to fight for an at-large spot in a BCS bowl. Ohio State is ranked higher in the BCS standings than Michigan State, and if the Buckeyes are offered a BCS invitation, the Spartans would presumably play in the Capital One Bowl.
Michigan State is still savoring its first Big Ten title since 1990, but the Spartans wouldn't mind being higher in the conference pecking order. They beat Wisconsin 34-24 for the Badgers' only loss so far.
''If Wisconsin is the best one-loss team in the country, we must've had the best win in the country,'' Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said Sunday night.
Hollis said any of the three teams would be worthy of a BCS bowl, but earlier Sunday, he tried to state his team's case on Twitter, noting that Michigan State tied for first and didn't lose to either of the other two co-champions.
Michigan State didn't play Ohio State.
The problem for Michigan State was that its win over Wisconsin took place in early October, before many people realized how good the Badgers would be. Also, the Spartans' only loss was a 37-6 rout against Iowa which probably cost them valuable style points.
Michigan State beat Wisconsin and Wisconsin beat Ohio State, but Michigan State and Ohio State didn't play. Head-to-head results are only used to break a three-way tie like this in the Big Ten if one team beat the other two or one team lost to the other two.
The three teams have identical overall records of 11-1 to go with their 7-1 conference marks, so the BCS rankings will be the deciding factor.
This is the last time for the foreseeable future that the league's automatic berth to a BCS bowl will be determined in this manner. Next year, the Big Ten will add Nebraska as its 12th member, split into two divisions and hold a championship game.
Beyond the three co-champions, there are five Big Ten teams that are bowl eligible. Illinois, Iowa and Penn State finished tied for fourth in the league, and if Illinois wins at Fresno State on Friday night, all three of those teams will be 7-5. Michigan and Northwestern also finished 7-5 but were a game behind in conference play in a tie for seventh.
The Outback Bowl is supposed to have the next pick among Big Ten teams after the Capital One, and the conference also has ties with the Gator, Insight, Texas, TicketCity and Little Caesars Pizza bowls. Since only eight Big Ten teams are bowl eligible, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl might be left looking elsewhere for a team.