Note: This was written on November 19, 2015. For the most up-to-date projections, see the UW-Madison page.

Sitting at 8-2 on the season, the Wisconsin Badgers are destined to make a post-season bowl appearance for the 14th consecutive season. The question is…which bowl will it be? In determining which bowl the Badgers will play in, a variety of factors for both the Badgers and other Big 10 teams need to be taken into account.

Quality of Wins vs. Losses

The Badgers got off to a rough start to the season losing two of their first five games. The first loss came in the Badgers’ season opener against the currently #2 ranked team in the country, Alabama. The Badgers were dealt a 35-17 loss that was out of their control well before the fourth quarter even began. They looked out of place and incomparable to a far more dominant Alabama team. While this loss certainly did not help the Badgers in the rankings, the biggest blow to the team’s hopes to compete in the College Football Playoff came with their loss to Iowa in Week 5 at Camp Randall. In their matchup with the Hawkeyes, the Badgers only scored 6 points in a game that could have easily gone the other way. Joel Stave accounted for four turnovers during the game including a fumble on the 1-yard line that could have pushed the Badgers to a 3-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Additionally, the Badger’s only managed to gain 86 yards on 34 rushing attempts. Quite simply, when an offense accounts for only 2.5 yards a carry and the quarterback has 4 turnovers your chances of winning and being recognized as a national powerhouse are not looking good.

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Wisconsin Schedule & Results (ESPN)

These two losses effectively killed Wisconsin’s hopes of competing in the College Football Playoff, but it by no means takes the Badger’s out of consideration for competing in an elite bowl game. So, if you look on the bright side, these two losses came from two teams in the top 6 of the current rankings and combine for only one total loss on the season. Whether the lack of competition in the Big 10 West is reason for Iowa’s undefeated season is up for debate, for now, it certainly helps the Badger’s campaign that none of their losses came from a team outside the top 10 and with a sub .800 record.

The second factor that needs to be taken into account is the number of quality wins the Badgers have had this season, and quite frankly, they haven’t had one yet. Their biggest win was in a close game against Nebraska on the road, but aside from that, all of the Badgers wins have come against sub-par teams at best. A case can be made that Wisconsin’s other seven wins were by significant margins, but that does not take away from the fact that these wins were against inferior opponents. I mean, you can’t honestly expect Miami (OH) or Troy to come to Camp Randall and not get blown out. Games like these are put on the schedule with the mindset that they are easy wins. Wisconsin gains little besides experience and confidence from these wins. In the grand scheme of things, I only see these matchups as having more potential to hurt the Badger’s than help them.

Remaining Schedule 

With the 2015 College Football regular season almost over, the Wisconsin Badgers are in dire need of two wins to conclude their regular season. Traditionally, I would not think much of a home against Northwestern or a game on the road against Minnesota, but believe it or not, these are going to be two of the tougher teams Wisconsin faces this year. The matchup that particularly intrigues me is the one this coming week against the 20th ranked, 8-2 Northwestern Wildcats. Under the leadership of head coach Pat Fitzgerald and the play of Justin Jackson, the Wildcats have won three straight and have a marquee win against #11 Stanford Cardinal. While the Badgers are sure to have their hands full this week, I believe that the strong home field advantage and hopeful return of Corey Clement will elevate the Badgers and allow them to avenge last year’s loss. If they can get a win against both Northwestern and Minnesota, they will be propelled in the rankings and in contention for an invitation to an elite bowl.

Bowl Scenarios

Holiday Bowl

With the 4th/5th best record in the BIG 10, the Badgers would most likely end up in California for the Holiday Bowl if the season ended today. This would provide a very interesting matchup with a team like Utah or USC and would really showcase the strength of conference of the Big 10 versus the Pac 12. This is the team’s projected bowl right now by most experts.

TaxSlayer Bowl/Citrus Bowl/Music City Bowl

All three of these options would provide great matchups against an SEC opponent. Of these options, I would say that the Citrus Bowl and Music City Bowl would be the hardest to get in, requiring the Badgers to win their next two games and really depend on how the Big 10 views Wisconsin’s standings versus Michigan’s. An appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl would most likely come as a result of a loss to Northwestern this weekend, but would still provide a lesser, yet still tough matchup against a team like Texas A&M or Mississippi State.

Foster Farms Bowl/New Era Pinstripe Bowl

If the Badger’s lose both of their final games and finish the season at 8-4, depending on the results of other Big 10 games, the Badgers would most likely end up playing at Levi Stadium in the Foster Farms Bowl against a Pac 12 team or in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium against a team from the ACC. This is what I see as the worst-case scenario for the Badgers, but it could provide the Badgers with a fun matchup against a team like UCLA in the Foster Farms Bowl.

Outback Bowl

Although the Badgers would certainly be good enough to play in the Outback Bowl, I see it as highly unlikely because of their appearance in this bowl last year in their win against Auburn.

New Year’s Day Bowl Games (Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Peach Bowl)

Two wins and a loss or two by Big 10 opponents could propel the Badgers into one of college football’s elite bowl games. The best-case scenario in this situation would be Iowa losing their remaining two games and the Badgers winning their final two games. In this situation, Wisconsin would move into first place in the Big 10 West and play in the Big 10 Championship game. A win in this game would put the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, where they would face the winner of the Pac-12 Conference. The more likely possibility is for if the Badgers win out and Iowa loses one game in the regular season and also in the Big 10 Championship Game. This would then most likely place Ohio State in the College Football Playoff and Iowa or Michigan State in the Rose Bowl leaving either Michigan or Wisconsin for placement in the Peach Bowl.

College Football Playoff 

The Badgers’ opportunity to play in the second ever College Football Playoff was crushed with their loss to Iowa in Week 5. I see no scenario in which Wisconsin comes remotely close to getting in the top four teams in the country.

References; Bleacher Report