MADISON, Wis. -- The team that finished the regular season7-5, placed third in its own division and never won more than three consecutivegames played in a Rose Bowl. The team with a potential to finish the regularseason 10-2, hold the second-best record in the entire conference and closewith seven straight victories could miss a Bowl Championship Series gameentirely.Sometimes, life isn't fair. And players on Wisconsin'sfootball team are finding themselves on the cusp of realizing how that maximcan play out on the field. Or, more specifically, in the polls.One year after backing into a Big Ten championship gamebecause Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible for postseason play, Wisconsinwill garner no such luck in 2013. The Badgers are once again at the mercy ofcircumstances beyond their control, and -- at this juncture, anyway -- itdoesn't appear it will work in their favor.Wisconsin enters the week ranked No. 22 in the latest BCSstandings, and the climb into a possible BCS game is steep with three weeksremaining in the regular season. The Badgers would need to reach No. 14 to earna shot at a potential at-large BCS selection.All indications suggest victories to close the regularseason against Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State aren't going to be enough.Instead, Wisconsin will need teams to tumble -- and a bunch of them at that. Alook at the schedule of other ranked teams reveals several upset possibilities: BCS No. 21 LSU plays No. 11 Texas A&M No. 20 Louisville plays 7-2 Houston and at 7-2 Cincinnati No. 19 Arizona State plays at No. 13 UCLA No. 18 Oklahoma plays at No. 12 Oklahoma State No. 16 Michigan State plays at 7-2 Nebraska No. 15 Northern Illinois plays 9-1 Ball State on WednesdayYet even if all six of these ranked teams lose -- and thelikelihood seems slim -- Wisconsin still may miss out on a BCS game because theBadgers need to jump eight spots.For Wisconsin players, it isn't enough to put a damper onthe entire season. But it certainly could hinder perception in gauging theoverall success of the Badgers' year."Thats not something that we as players cancontrol," Wisconsin safety Dezmen Southward said. "I dont understandthe BCS rankings. I understand the AP. Those are (done by) man. You neverunderstand it, but it's the system thats been in place for a long time. It'sfor the most part put together some pretty good games -- sometimes not so goodgames. As players, the only thing we can do is continue to play. As coaches,they'll continue to coach and then let everyone else decide who's worthy toplay."If we were to win out, which is definitely our plan, Iwould hope that people would take a lot of things into consideration when itcomes to BCS games. We'll see how it goes."Many assumed that if Wisconsin won its final seven games,the Badgers would be a lock for a BCS selection. But it has taken the Badgers amonth in the BCS polls simply to reach No. 22. Wisconsin was not included inthe initial top 25 poll on Oct. 20. The Badgers reached No. 24 on Oct. 27 andwere still there one week later despite an impressive victory at Iowa.This week marked the first time Wisconsin even showed up ina set of six computer calculations that determines one-third of the BCSstandings. Wisconsin's victory against BYU boosted the Badgers into an averagecomputer calculation of No. 18, up from No. 27 a week ago.Now for the first time, players are noting the reality ofwhere Wisconsin stands. If the Badgers cannot make up substantial ground, aspot in the Capital One Bowl as the Big Ten's No. 2 team or Outback Bowl as theNo. 3 team is on the horizon.Still, players are trying to find the positives in earningan opportunity to play one more game."The Capital One is a great bowl," Wisconsin tightend Jacob Pedersen said. "Outback Bowl is a great bowl. All those are coolthings. Maybe as a player, especially for me being out in Pasadena the lastthree years, maybe it's cool to go see somewhere else. Obviously, we'd love tobe back at the Rose Bowl again."You just know that whatever bowl game you're going togo into, normally you're going to play against some high competition. It givesyou a chance to showcase your talents."Perhaps the most disappointing aspect to all this is thatthis year's Wisconsin team is so clearly better than last year's team acrossthe board. Quarterback Joel Stave is much improved as a sophomore, the offenseis better by more than a touchdown, the defense is better by four points andthe team could win 10 games for only the ninth time in program history.But with such a competitive top of the college footballworld this season, the Badgers are being punished for a controversiallast-second loss against BCS No. 19 Arizona State and a one-touchdown road lossagainst BCS No. 3 Ohio State. And given that there is no way to one-up anundefeated Ohio State season this year, Wisconsin's chances to reach a fourthconsecutive BCS game are fading each week."I think this team does a better job of playing to itspotential," Southward said when asked to compare this team to last year."And I say that because sometimes it's hard to come out and win whenyou're noticeably better than an opponent. For the most part, we've done that."I think sometimes in some of our past years, wehavent been able to do that. And thats completely fine. Every team is differentwithin each year. I think we're playing to our ability more consistently."All Wisconsin can do now is keep preparing for its remaininggames and playing to the best of its ability. Players and coaches can only hopethe rest falls into place."Everybody wants to play in as big a bowl and as big astage as you can at the end of the year," Badgers coach Gary Andersensaid. "No one's ever going to say we don't want that in any way, shape, orform."As this team continues, they've labeled themselves asa good team, and they deserve it. Right now, if it were over, they'd be known as a good teamregardless of what happens. They want to be a great team. If they're a greatteam, then they're going to play in a very, very prestigious bowl game at theend of the year, wherever it may be."Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the process that makes thosedeterminations may not not agree.
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