- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Wisconsin is still paying the price for the incompetence of a Pac-12 officiating crew.
Perhaps the Badgers are also suffering for a schedule that, gasp, actually featured some challenges during the month of September.
Either way, a very good team, the second-best team in the Big Ten, is being completely overlooked nationally. And it's a damn shame.
The first sign of disrespect came around noon on Sunday, when the clown show known as the Coaches' Poll revealed its latest rankings. Wisconsin barely squeaked in at No. 24.
It's not as if the coaches, most of whom don't do the voting themselves and have little gauge on the national scene, are biased against two-loss teams. Three of them are ranked in the top 20. Surprise, surprise, all three -- No. 13 LSU, No. 15 Texas A&M and No. 20 South Carolina -- are all from the beloved SEC. This past Saturday, South Carolina lost to a thoroughly mediocre Tennessee team, while LSU fell to unranked Ole Miss. But a Big Ten team that has been dominant in its five victories, was robbed of a chance to win at Arizona State and lost by a touchdown on the road against No. 4 Ohio State is almost left out of the rankings.
The equally ridiculous Harris Poll also had the Badgers at No. 24.
Perhaps more egregious is the fact the coaches have both Nebraska and Michigan ranked ahead of Wisconsin. Nebraska could turn out to be a good team, but the Huskers to this point are a product of a soft schedule. They were soundly beaten against the only good team they've faced (UCLA) on their home field. Michigan might be the least impressive 6-1 team in the country. The Notre Dame win looks nice, but the Wolverines nearly lost to two woeful teams (Akron and Connecticut), fell to an average Penn State team in four overtimes and had no answers for Indiana's offense on Saturday. Like Nebraska, Michigan is a wait-and-see type of team. We know a lot more about Wisconsin, and most of it is positive.
The disrespect for Wisconsin continued Sunday night when the Badgers didn't appear in the initial BCS standings, while Michigan (No. 22), Nebraska (No. 24) and the three two-loss SEC teams all made the rundown. Wisconsin likely will be favored in its remaining five games, but unless Leaders division front runner Ohio State starts losing, the Badgers' best-case scenario is an at-large BCS bowl berth. They have quite a mountain to climb to reach the top 14 in the BCS standings and qualify for an at-large spot.
Open your eyes, America. Wisconsin has the Big Ten's most exciting player in running back Melvin Gordon, one of the nation's most dynamic and versatile defenders in linebacker Chris Borland and fun-to-watch schemes on both sides of the ball.
Wisconsin's schedule was front-loaded, unlike Michigan's, Nebraska's or Michigan State's, so the Badgers easily could be overlooked in November when they play Iowa, BYU, Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State.
A 10-2 mark might get Wisconsin its due when the BCS bowl pairings are announced. But here's what I think could happen: The Badgers run the table, make some Florida bowl game -- Capital One or Outback -- beat an SEC foe and finish 11-2.
Only then would the light go on and the voters realize their error.
Kind of like those Pac-12 officials.
14hBrian Bennett and Austin Ward