MADISON, Wis. - When the Wisconsin Badgers lost early-season road games to Arizona State and Ohio State most of their season goals were still in front of them. And while the Badgers still have an outside shot to win the Leaders Division, defend last season's Big Ten title, their hopes of making a BCS bowl game with an at-large berth took a significant hit on Sunday night when they were left out of the initial BCS rankings.
The Badgers (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) were ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press' most recent poll, and squeaked in to the USA Today Coaches Poll at No. 24 following their 56-32 road win over Illinois. But the computer models that the BCS uses as part of its formula are not fond of the Badgers through seven games. The Badgers were left unranked by all six of the computer models this week, leaving them just one spot shy of appearing in the poll.
Wisconsin will almost certainly move up in the BCS standings if they keep winning, but getting left out of the initial poll has made their road to an at-large berth much more difficult. At-large teams need to be ranked in the Top 14 of the final BCS poll, and the Badgers might not have enough impressive wins left on their schedule to climb 12 spots in seven weeks.
The Badgers have games against Iowa, BYU, Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State left on their schedule. Of those five teams only BYU is ranked by one of the computer polls, while none of those teams are even receiving votes in either the AP or the Coaches Poll.
That means that the Badgers would need to open quite a few eyes in the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll to move much higher up in the BCS standings, since it doesn't look like the computer rankings are going to do them any favors.
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said in the end he's not concerned about his team's BCS ranking, and he can't control how the formula ranks his team.
"I'm only going to worry about the things I'm going to worry about," Andersen said Monday at his weekly press conference. "I try to get the kids ready to play every single week. I really haven't put any thought in to that. I've been to two BCS games in my life and at the end of the year they were really good teams. If you're really good at the end of the year you'll probably have a chance to go to a BCS bowl."
However, Andersen might feel differently at the end of the season if his team finishes 10-2, with a controversial loss to Arizona State on their record. The Badgers might have hoped after that game that voters would give them some benefit of the doubt, but as of right now any extra sympathy has yet to materialize.
News and notes:
-- Andersen said there's "really no situation" when it comes to kicker Kyle French, who lost his starting jobs to Andrew Endicott and Jack Russell. French posted on his Facebook page that he will not return to the team for his senior season next year, and his original message implied that the coaching staff asked him to step away from football. French clarified his impending departure on Twitter, and Andersen said he and French talked before the decision was made, and that the redshirt junior kicker will always be able to reach out to him for help.
"We discussed life, just like I always do with every kid in the program. It matters to me. I want to do what's best for them," Andersen said. "I think he believes he's moving in the right direction for the football team, for himself and football for the rest of this season, and for himself in the future as he prepares to go in the direction he's going.
"He knows he's got my support. Kids' live change every day. It doesn't always go the way they want them too."
-- Andersen said redshirt freshman quarterback Bart Houston is developing well as a backup to Joel Stave, who's started every game for the Badgers so far this season. Houston competed with Stave, Curt Phillips and Tanner McEvoy this fall for the starting job, but Andersen said Houston has grown in working with the scout team and in the quarterback meeting room.
"When I observe him on the scout team, he does a nice job," Andersen said. "[He] understands that role, works hard at it, accepts it, and is very good at it. When he gets down with the offense, he always seems to be in the middle of it.
"It's not the easiest spot to be in, but he's developed, I think, as a thrower. He can really throw it, which we all know. He's working hard on becoming a better quarterback. I think Coach [Ludwig] is happy with his progress, and I'm sure Bart thinks he's moving in the right direction."
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