Wisconsin (3-3 Big Ten, 5-5 overall) helped its bowl hopes this past week by beating Iowa (2-4, 4-4), which also has postseason aspirations.
Because a winning record is required for bowl eligibility, Wisconsin needed to beat the Hawkeyes and will still need to win its home game with Michigan and its season finale with Minnesota to have a winning record.
The Badgers have this week off before their home game against Michigan.
“We probably played our best game offensively,” Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. “(Wide receiver) Lee Evans played well, (quarterback) Brooks Bollinger had his best day. I thought our offensive line played its best game.
“We”ve got on off date. Like most teams, we could sure use this week to get healthy. We”ve got a number of guys who are banged up and we could use this week to get ready for an excellent Michigan team.”
The Badgers have a number of possible bowl destinations, especially the Tangerine Bowl .
“What we try to do is worry about the next game,” Alvarez said. “Everyone”s smart enough to know how many games you need to win to qualify for a bowl game.”
Wisconsin has qualified for a bowl game the last six years.
Fighting chance: No. 15 Illinois (4-1, 7-1) is the surprise of the Big Ten thus far.
Entering the season, the Fighting Illini were considered a middle-ofthe-pack team, especially since they did not qualify for a bowl last season.
But Illinois has rebounded from its 45-20 loss to Michigan and currently shares the lead with the Wolverines atop the Big Ten.
At 7-1, Illinois might not be receiving the respect it deserves, perhaps in part because of its soft nonconference schedule.
“If we want respect, we have to earn it,” Illinois coach Ron Turner said. “If we don”t like where we are, we have to do something about it on the field. We just have to go out on the field and play football.”
Michigan owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Illini, meaning that even if Illinois wins a share of the Big Ten title, they might not receive the Big Ten”s Bowl Championship Series bid.
To qualify for the BCS, Illinois will need to win the rest of its games and Michigan will need to lose one of its last three games.
Illinois closes with a home game against Penn State, at Ohio State and back at home against Northwestern.
The last three games for the Wolverines are Minnesota, at Wisconsin and at home against Ohio State.
In closing: At 5-3 overall (3-2 Big Ten), Ohio State only needs one more win to become bowl eligible, which would be an accomplishment for new coach Jim Tressel and his young Buckeyes.
Ohio State escaped Minnesota last Saturday with a 31-28 win over the last-place Golden Gophers.
Getting that last win will be a daunting task for the Buckeyes, as they close with arguably the Big Ten”s best three teams: Purdue, Illinois and Michigan.
“You can look at this stretch a couple ways you could say it”s brutal for the teams we have to play, or you could say you”re fortunate because the teams that are ahead of us we still have to play,” Tressel said. “We happen to like the latter approach. We know how good the teams are, but thank goodness we still have the chance to play them.”
If Ohio State wins its last three games against those teams now in front of it, the Buckeyes would win a share of the Big Ten title but would still need another Michigan State loss to receive the Big Ten”s BCS bid. Because the two teams don”t play this season, Michigan State”s better overall record would be used as the tiebreaker.
“I don”t think anyone can consider bowl opportunities until they have six wins and we don”t have six wins yet,” Tressel said. “Our focus has been on adding another victory and then we can talk about which bowl games are available.”