In the end, perhaps Wisconsin playing Western Michigan was in fact a lose-lose situation for the Badgers. At least when it comes to the Associated Press top-25 poll.
Wisconsin was ranked No. 8 in the AP’s top 25 before playing No. 12 Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl. After beating the Broncos, Wisconsin ended up at No. 9 in the final AP poll.
How did this happen?
Neither of the national semifinalists, Ohio State and Washington, played particularly well in losing, but they were national semifinalists so didn’t slip that far. In fact, the Huskies stayed at No. 4 while the Buckeyes went from No. 2 to No. 6 after their 31-0 shellacking at the hands of Clemson.
Then-No. 5 Penn State lost a close Rose Bowl game to USC and moved down just two spots. Meanwhile, the Trojans, who were No. 9, vaulted past Wisconsin to No. 3. No. 3.
Oklahoma was No. 7 and won its bowl game, so it moved to No. 5. Michigan lost a close one to Florida State and slid past the Badgers from 6 to 10. Meanwhile, the Seminoles got 73 more votes than Wisconsin and, like USC, moved ahead of UW at No. 8.
As far as the Badgers go, 26 voters moved Wisconsin down on their ballot from the previous voting while 28 voters had UW at No. 10 or No. 11 on their ballot.
The biggest drop was three spots — and again, I remind you Wisconsin won — by Robert Cessna (8 to 11), Tony Parks (7 to 10), Matt Porter (7 to 10) and Steve Wiseman (8 to 11).
Clearly, that Cotton Bowl win did not impress these voters (and/or not as much as other teams’ victories).
Comparably, 22 voters moved Wisconsin up on their final ballot. The biggest jump was 7 spots — from 11 to 4 — by Jonny Miller, who had Oklahoma No. 3, USC 5, Ohio State 6, Washington 7, FSU 8, Penn State 9, Oklahoma State 10 and Michigan 11 (for reference sake).
While no one thought Wisconsin was the fifth-best team in the country, four voters had the Badgers at No. 6 — Jimmy Burch (from No. 8), Matt Charboneau (8), Josh Kendall (7) and Rob Long (10).
One last thing to keep in mind: In the preseason poll, only seven people had Wisconsin ranked on their ballot, and none as high as No. 14. (For those curious, those voters were Mike Barber 14; Marq Burnett, 18; Jerry DiPaola, 23; Michael Lev, 18; Long, 22; and Miller, 24.)
Other than that preseason poll, Wisconsin appeared on every voter’s ballot the rest of the season (with the only exception being twice when a voter didn’t turn in a ballot). Not too shabby.
Here’s the ballots from the final AP poll compared to the pre-bowl game votes: