UW football: Badgers not done worrying about Ohio State

2010-10-27T12:23:00Z 2010-11-05T08:40:35Z UW football: Badgers not done worrying about Ohio StateTom Mulhern | tmulhern@madison.com | 608-252-6169 madison.com

Most of the focus regarding the University of Wisconsin football team's Bowl Championship Series aspirations has centered on first-place Michigan State.

The Spartans are the only undefeated Big Ten team at 4-0 in conference play, going into the game on Saturday at Iowa. Since UW (3-1) lost at Michigan State, the Spartans hold the head-to-head tie-breaker. As a result, Michigan State would have to lose twice for UW to jump ahead of it in the standings.

But the more pressing issue for the Badgers could be Ohio State. Just because UW defeated Ohio State and Iowa on consecutive weeks doesn't mean those teams are completely in the rear-view mirror.

It's only the midway point of the conference race, so it's a little early to start fretting about tie-breaking procedures. Still, one scenario should have UW fans at least a little concerned.

If the Badgers finish in a three-way tie for first place at 7-1 with Michigan State and Ohio State, they could lose out on a BCS berth.

If there's a three-team tie and two of the teams don't play -- Michigan State and Ohio State don't face each other this season -- Big Ten tiebreaker rules stipulate the automatic berth goes to the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings.

Michigan State currently ranks fifth, with UW 10th and Ohio State 11th. But given the scenario of a three-way tie between those teams, there's a chance the Buckeyes could be ranked the highest of three by the final standings. They would get a boost with a road win at Iowa. Michigan State, meanwhile, will take a hit if it loses at Iowa.

Even if the Badgers win out, they may not help themselves, given the caliber of their remaining opponents -- Purdue, Indiana, Michigan and Northwestern.

If Ohio State were to snag the BCS automatic berth, it would leave the Badgers and Spartans fighting for the at-large berth. Michigan State would be helped in that scenario by the head-to-head win, leaving the Badgers with another possible trip to Orlando, Fla., for the Capital One Bowl.

If this scenario were to play out, the Badgers would likely have their nonconference schedule to blame. Ohio State could fare better with the BCS computers because of its nonconference win over Miami. The Badgers don't have any comparable nonconference win.

Ohio State still has to play at Iowa on Nov. 20 and finishes out the season at home against Michigan. The Buckeyes' other two remaining games are at Minnesota this weekend, then home against Penn State on Nov. 13, following a bye.

If the Badgers thought they were done worrying about Ohio State, they are wrong.

Of course, the job of the players is to focus on the game at hand and let everything else play out. UW coach Bret Bielema doesn't think his players will have a problem doing that.

"I know everybody is going to want to talk about things down the line, but there will be nothing but focus on Wisconsin and Purdue," Bielema said. "Everybody is going to assume we can do certain things down the line but they’re the same people that thought we were going to lose the last two, so that’s how quick the things can change."

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