University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez thinks he has this BCS thing figured out.
He told members of the UW Athletic Board on Tuesday that if the Badgers win their final two games — at Michigan on Saturday and vs. Northwestern at home Nov. 27 — they would go to the Rose Bowl in the event of a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten Conference.
Michigan State, Ohio State and UW are 5-1 in the Big Ten. If they win out, the tiebreaker is the BCS ranking. Right now, the Badgers are seventh, Ohio State ninth and Michigan State 12th.
There's concern among UW followers that Ohio State might generate enough juice from wins over Iowa and Michigan to pass the Badgers in the BCS formula. That would create all sorts of angst given UW beat the Buckeyes 31-18 Oct. 16 at Camp Randall Stadium.
Asked about that possibility Monday, Alvarez replied curtly: "I'm not going down that road."
But after a day to mull the scenarios, Alvarez told board members that if the Badgers beat two seven-win teams — Michigan and Northwestern are 7-3 overall — that should be enough to maintain their BCS lead over Ohio State, which also closes the regular season against two seven-win teams.
Unusual sight lines
A great deal of planning has gone into Saturday's Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, but it's not been limited to their respective playbooks.
Risk managers, civil engineers and safety engineers have been brought in make sure the historic baseball stadium will be able to function as a Big Ten football venue.
Arranging the field east to west has created some areas that are either quirky or dangerous, depending on your vantage point.
Parts of the east end zone are a sneeze away from the right-field bleachers. A portion of that end zone is wedged up against a padded wall.
The goal posts, meanwhile, are fastened into bricks a few feet below the first row of bleachers. There will be no netting, so kicks could sail into bleachers, onto Sheffield Avenue or even nearby roofs.
Illinois coach Ron Zook said strategy will be affected by the layout, which offers the feel of an indoor game.
"I jokingly told our wide receivers, ‘It gets you ready for the Arena League if that's where (you go),' " he said. "But there (were) a lot of concerns and a lot of thought put into that before the decision was made that we would play."
Speaking of liability issues, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald scraped plans for his team to take the ‘‘L'' — the elevated train system — to practice Thursday and the game itself because the school and Chicago Transit Authority couldn't reach an agreement.
The game itself, a home game for the Wildcats, has passed muster.
"It took some time for the T's to get crossed and the I's to get dotted, so I think both universities felt great about it from a risk management standpoint," Fitzgerald said.
Speaking of neutral-site games, Indiana will play its home game Saturday with Penn State at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The Hoosiers reportedly will get $3 million, triple their take from a game in Bloomington, Ind.
"There are financial ramifications," Indiana coach Bill Lynch said.
Game of the week
No. 8 Ohio State at No. 21 Iowa
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 27
Iowa averaged 34 points through its first eight games, but managed a total of 35 the past two weeks against below-average defenses in Indiana (an 18-13 win) and Northwestern (a 21-17 loss). That doesn't bode well for the Hawkeyes, who will mix it up with the top defensive team in the league that's trying to maintain at least a share of first place. UW fans will be rooting for the Buckeyes to win, but not too impressively.