Late last week I was grazing through the online sports sites and noticed that football writers were already making BCS bowl projections. At espn.com, Mark Schlabach was predicting a Sugar Bowl match-up of South Carolina and...Wisconsin? His fellow soothsayer, Brad Edwards, had UW in a BCS bowl as well -- the Orange, against Florida State. Others were making the same picks.
What the hell? Something wasn't computing here. The BCS has only 10 berths for its five bowls, and the Badgers are 24th in the BCS rankings. They've beaten no one of note, unless you charitably count a win over a meh Iowa team. It was strange enough to see UW in last year's Rose Bowl with five losses, but the Badgers won the Big 10 fair and square.
Not until you recall you're dealing with the essential illogic of the BCS is it plausible that UW could get an at-large berth, given its paltry qualifications. This is a problem for the duller side of Occam's razor. As Marcus Aurelius asked, what is this thing, the BCS, in itself?
Answer: The BCS bowls are big ol' participation ribbons for the six major conferences. Everyone gets to play, including the ACC in its down years and even the Big East, now the American Athletic Conference. To help keep the peace, the BCS allows no more than two teams per conference in its bowls each year. When you reconsider those 10 berths and multiply the major conferences by two, the math makes much more sense for Bucky.
Simply put, the Badgers need to win their remaining games, reach 14th in the BCS rankings to qualify for an at-large berth, and hope to be seen in the end as the second-prettiest team in the Big 10. It's strange to think UW has a path to a BCS bowl other than the Rose, but there you are.