Did the Wisconsin Badgers Throw Away the Big Ten's Chance for 2 BCS Teams?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IDecember 1, 2013

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Ranked No. 15 in the latest BCS standings, it was all right there for the Wisconsin Badgers on senior day.

Win with Orange Bowl officials on hand, and Wisconsin was very likely off to its fourth straight BCS bowl game.

Instead, it was Penn State that treated the contest like a bowl game as it took down Wisconsin, 31-24, for its first road win of the season.

Not only did the Badgers' hopes of a BCS bowl game fall by the wayside, but the chances for the Big Ten to get two teams into the pinnacle of college football in the last season of the current BCS format also took a major hit.

"That's not going to happen and so we'll move forward. Such is life," coach Gary Andersen said of making a BCS bowl, via the Associated Press. "The way we played today and the way I coached them, obviously, we don't deserve to have that opportunity. It's gone now."

It was the performance of two quarterbacks that told the story of how this game played out.

Wisconsin's Joel Stave threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns on 53 attempts, but it was the incompletions and three interceptions that loomed large in this one.

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 30: Christian Hackenberg #14 of the Penn State Nittany Lions drops back and passes the football during the second half of play against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Stave's counterpart in this game, freshman Christian Hackenberg, made just about every right decision possible in the passing game. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 339 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

"He really stepped up in a big way, and words can't describe how thankful I am to that guy," said Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel to the Associated Press.

Penn State got out to a quick start, with Hackenberg hitting tight end Adam Breneman for a 68-yard touchdown on its opening drive.

Wisconsin struggled on its first few possessions, and Stave's performance was a microcosm of that, going 1-of-4 to start the game. That included throwing high to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis on a wide-open 3rd-and-7 to kill the Badgers' second drive of the game.

"I mean, that's kind of how it was. Just a jerky-jerky day," said Stave following the game. "Sometimes we were moving the ball, we were moving it smooth, getting it up and down the field. Other times, we're putting ourselves in tough positions, third and whatever. I thought we did a pretty good job of converting a few big third downs. But we just have to be able to maintain drives."

Stave settled down for a while after that and helped the Badgers to a 14-7 lead in the second quarter.

He ended the day credited with three interceptions, but it could've been much worse, as Penn State dropped at least three other opportunities to pick off the Wisconsin quarterback.

It wasn't just on Stave's shoulders on Saturday in Camp Randall, though—his offensive line played perhaps its worst game of the season.

Stave was sacked three times and hurried six times, and pressure from the edge caused one of his interceptions, as the ball jumped off his hand and into the waiting arms of Penn State defensive end C.J. Olaniyan.

Wisconsin also failed to get a pass rush going against Penn State, recording no sacks and only hurrying Hackenberg twice all game long.

The inability to pressure the quarterback and stop Stave from being pressured was the perfect storm that blew up the Badgers' BCS opportunity.

Wisconsin's loss on Saturday made what could've been an easy BCS scenario a very muddled one for the Big Ten heading into its championship game.

Couple that with Alabama losing to Auburn, and it's safe to say the BCS is in chaos mode.

Yet the Big Ten still could see two teams getting into the BCS. 

As long as Ohio State wins out and is part of the Top Two, the Big Ten would send a representative to the Rose Bowl, which could be Michigan State.

However, it remains to be seen just how the voters and computers will react to all that took place this Saturday.

The Big Ten's hopes for two BCS teams will hinge heavily on the positions of Ohio State and Michigan State in this week's BCS standings, due out on Sunday night.


*Andy Coppens is Bleacher Report's lead writer for the Big Ten. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens.


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