Wisconsin Football: Why the Badgers Will Play in Big Ten Championship Game in 2014

Wisconsin Will Play in the Big Ten Champoinship Game This Season

6/2/14 in NCAAF   |   zrastall   |   5 respect

Jan 1, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers nose tackle Beau Allen (96), defensive end Ethan Hemer (87), and linebacker Joe Schobert (58) after losing to the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Capital One Bowl held at the Florida Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY SportsThanks to a revamped Big Ten that changed the conference's divisions from Leaders and Legends to East and West, the Wisconsin Badgers have been presented with a golden opportunity to return to the Big Ten Championship Game.
With a conference schedule that is projected to be the easiest in the Big Ten, the Badgers are in prime position to finish the season atop the Big Ten West.
Wisconsin’s two cross-divisional games will be against conference newcomers Rutgers and Maryland. This means they will avoid playing Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan -- four of the Big Ten’s best teams -- in the regular season.
Despite having some questions remaining regarding player personnel heading into the fall, there’s no reason to think that the Badgers won’t seize this excellent opportunity to win a division title and earn a trip to Indianapolis in December.
Wisconsin kicks off its season with a highly-anticipated showdown against the LSU Tigers in Houston in what will surely be a huge test for Gary Andersen’s team. However, after their game with the Bayou Bengals, its schedule gets exponentially easier.
In fact, there is a very real possibility that the Badgers could run the table in the Big Ten.
The first five games of their conference slate come against Northwestern, Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, and Purdue. A loss to any of these teams would be, quite frankly, a huge disappointment.
Things get a little tougher to finish the season for Wisconsin, as it will play a pair of home game against Nebraska and Minnesota, with a road matchup versus Iowa sandwiched in between. While this trio of games will be a bigger test than the first five of their conference schedule, the Badgers still aren’t exactly running the gauntlet to finish the regular season.
Nebraska poses as one of the biggest threats to Wisconsin in the Big Ten West, so that game will certainly be no cakewalk for the Badgers.
Wisconsin will face the Cornhuskers in the friendly confines of Camp Randall Stadium, where it has won nearly 90 percent of its games since 2004. The Badgers have also beaten Nebraska two out of the three times they’ve faced off since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten, outscoring them 145-78 in those contests.
Their next game comes on the road against another potential division contender, the Iowa Hawkeyes.
This matchup could also be problematic for the Badgers, especially since it’s on the road, but it remains to be seen whether or not the Hawkeyes will have enough offensive firepower to take down Wisconsin.
The Badgers’ regular season finale will come against rival Minnesota, who continues to improve under head coach Jerry Kill. While the Golden Gophers are on the rise, upsetting Wisconsin in Madison still seems a little unlikely.
All things considered, 2014 sets up perfectly for Wisconsin to make a huge run in conference play and capture the Big Ten West crown. This team may not be as good as the 2013 team, but its easy schedule should allow it to improve on last season’s 9-4 record.
Of course nothing is ever a sure thing in sports, but if Andersen’s team isn’t playing for a Big Ten title on December 6 in Lucas Oil Stadium, Badgers fans will have every reason to be upset.
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