Wisconsin football: Previewing the rest of a lost season
Just about every college football team has dealt with coronavirus issues throughout the country whether it was during offseason workouts, preseason practices or in the regular season. Combined with the poor decisions made throughout this entire process from the B1G and half of its season getting the axe six weeks into its season, you could argue the Wisconsin Badgers have been impacted by COVID-19 the most in the entire sport.
Wisconsin took its third weekend off since the Badgers started B1G play against Illinois on Oct. 23. Since then, the Badgers’ coronavirus outbreak led to canceled games against Nebraska and Purdue. They returned to blow out Michigan and lost to Northwestern before the rivalry game with Minnesota, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled because of a coronavirus outbreak for the Golden Gophers.
In six weeks, Wisconsin played three games and saw three games get canceled. This would not be such a problem for teams in other conferences that built in multiple bye weeks in case of coronavirus outbreaks. The B1G was among the leaders in this idea when it initially released a schedule with each team receiving three bye weeks. But then the conference canceled its season just days after the schedule was released to the public.
Unless almost all of the remaining B1G games are canceled in the next two weeks, the Badgers will not be eligible for the conference title game. They very likely wouldn’t have won the West Division anyway after their loss to Northwestern. The B1G did its teams no favors by starting in late October, allowing no margin for error. Now Ohio State is going through an outbreak, so its conference title hopes hang in the balance too. The B1G is making life difficult for some of the best programs it has.
Clarification from the conference on the math behind the Big Ten Championship Gm eligibility rules: Assuming the 4 remaining games today are played, 12 of the 14 gms scheduled for the final 2 wks would need to be canceled for a team to qualify for Indy w/ fewer than 6 gms played.
— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) November 28, 2020
Realistically, the best-case-scenario for Wisconsin is to play five games in its 2020 regular season at most heading into Champions Week matchup and play for a bowl game. Admittedly, I found myself wondering why I should even care about the rest of the Badgers season with not a whole lot to play for in a season that felt like it could be a special one.
After an electric start to the year, the season expectations reached pretty significant levels. Since then, three games were canceled, Wisconsin did what it does on the road against Northwestern and cornerback Rachad Wildgoose called it quits on the season so he can get ready for the NFL Draft.
— Rachad Wildgoose II (@Clamps_era) November 27, 2020
With one of the top players opting out, should Wisconsin fans do the same? Sure, some will stop paying attention, but I will be looking forward to what should be a maximum of four matchups that should be fairly compelling to watch.
Final slate should be fun
While the annual game against Minnesota has been canceled (maybe?), Wisconsin still has a home game against No. 12 Indiana that should be a huge test for this Badgers team. The regular-season finale is a road matchup with Iowa, which is always a fun game between two teams playing the exact same style of play. People say they like the flashy thing called the forward pass, but this is B1G country. Run, run and run some more.
So what about the Champions Week matchup? Prior to the season, the B1G announced that the day of the conference title game will also include crossover games in the conference where East and West opponents would match up 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, etc. This is a plan that would’ve made a lot of sense assuming everybody was able to play their full eight-game regular season schedule.
With three games inside the division canceled, why not have the Badgers play a team from the West instead? The B1G has been very stubborn in this entire process, so maybe it won’t budge on this, but there would a lot of interest among Wisconsin and Minnesota fans getting ready for the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. It would be a fantastic way to close out what’s been a disappointing season for both programs for a variety of reasons.
The B1G wants to avoid rematches during Champions Week, so the most likely scenario would be Wisconsin playing Maryland that day. Wisconsin vs. Maryland or Wisconsin vs. Minnesota? This seems like a no brainer.
Here’s another scenario. If Ohio State has one more game canceled, it will not be a part of the B1G title. That very likely slots the Buckeyes against Wisconsin in the 2 vs. 2 matchup during Champions Week. The Badgers have gotten close against Ohio State plenty of times before, so I wouldn’t hate seeing that once again.
I’d be very satisfied to see Wisconsin take on either Minnesota or Ohio State on Dec. 19. Anything other than that would be a bit underwhelming. As for the bowl game? If the Badgers finish with a strong regular season, it’s possible they could be in consideration for a New Year’s 6 bowl, though they might need some help.