The 2012 preseason USA Today Top 25 coaches' poll was released on August 2nd, and the defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers were ranked 12th. Michigan is the top ranked Big Ten school at number eight, and Michigan State is right behind Wisconsin at number 13. This implies that the coaches believe Michigan will win the Legends Division of the Big Ten, Wisconsin will win the Leaders Division, and the Wolverines will win the Big Ten championship game.
With Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions, the Badgers have an easier road to the Big Ten championship game than they did last year. They are in the enviable position of having to finish ahead of only three teams to return to the title game. It would be a stunning upset, not to mention an epic failure on the part of Wisconsin if they didn't finish ahead of Purdue, Illinois, and Indiana.
I'm not surprised that Michigan is the top vote getter among Big Ten teams. The Wolverines are coming off an 11-2 season that ended with a victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, and have a lot of key personnel returning. All of that goes over well when preseason polls are conducted. Michigan will have to fight off Michigan State and Nebraska to finish on top in the Legends Division. Wisconsin didn't play Michigan last year and won't play them in the regular season this year, so if this matchup in the Big Ten title game does occur, it will be the first time the Badgers will have played against a Brady Hoke coached team.
So what would happen if Wisconsin did lose to Michigan in the title game? CBSSports.com projects that Wisconsin will be an at large team in the BCS and will play Big 12 champion Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The Badgers have never been to any BCS bowl game except the Rose Bowl, and while a trip to Pasadena as Big Ten champs is the goal every season, a Fiesta Bowl matchup with Oklahoma sounds like a pretty good Plan B to me.
Wisconsin schedules a nonconference game with Brigham Young in 2013
It appears Wisconsin really is trying to schedule more quality nonconference opponents. Brigham Young University has been added to the schedule in 2013. Originally the Badgers planned on hosting BYU on September 21st, but with the Cougars already scheduled that day, coach Bret Bielema juggled things around. Purdue agreed to play on September 21st, and BYU will come to Madison on November 9th.
It's not unheard of for Wisconsin to play a nonconference game sometime other than the beginning of the season. Between 2005 and 2009, the Badgers played a nonconference opponent at the end of the regular season four times and hosted Northern Illinois in the middle of the 2007 season (October 20th). Playing a nonconference game in October or November in order to accommodate the schedule of a quality opponent is a worthwhile idea. It will probably be necessary from time to time if the Badgers really are serious about upgrading the nonconference schedule.
A lifelong resident of Wisconsin, Mark Hudziak is a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and a long time fan of Wisconsin Badger sports.
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