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Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Winning big is Badgers' best argument

By Brian Bennett

Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen has insisted that he won't campaign or lobby for his team's BCS at-large chances.

Gary Andersen
Gary Andersen doesn't want to discuss style points, but it may just be what his Badgers need right now.
Of course, the best statement the Badgers can make is on the field. But Andersen also said this week that making sure his team wins with style points "doesn't even enter my mind."

"I believe if you start worrying about stuff like that, you're going to have a major issue on your hands," he said. "If we're fortunate enough to play well and win, we're going to get back on the plane and be very, very happy, regardless of the score."

Wisconsin may not be trying to impress voters with lopsided scores, but it's happening anyway. Last week, the Badgers whipped Indiana 51-3. In fact, since a seven-point loss at Ohio State on Sept. 28, they have won all five of their games by double digits and four of those by at least 19 points.

Those wins have helped Andersen's team gain some traction in the polls and in the BCS standings, but it's not enough. Wisconsin is No. 19 in the BCS this week, still five spots away from reaching the top 14 and becoming eligible for an at-large bid.

The Badgers already have a statistically dominant profile. They're No. 5 nationally in yardage margin over their opponents and No. 7 in scoring margin. The only teams to rank ahead of them in either category are Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor, Oregon and Louisville. They are No. 12 in the FBS in total offense and No. 6 in total defense.

Football Outsiders rates every FBS team on a series of advanced metrics, and it ranks Wisconsin No. 7 in the country, one spot ahead of Ohio State -- and one below Arizona State. Jeff Sagarin's ratings have Wisconsin No. 5 overall, but when he takes out the margin of victory for his Pure ELO rating that the BCS uses as part of its formula, the Badgers fall to No. 20.

Why have the 8-2 Badgers been slow to move up in the polls? It all stems back to that desert debacle, when the officials botched the ending at Arizona State. Not only is Wisconsin saddled with an extra loss it shouldn't have, it has no real statement wins. The best wins on the résumé are over BYU at home and Iowa on the road.

That's what makes Saturday's game at Minnesota crucial for Wisconsin. Beating the Gophers, at No. 25 in the BCS standings this week and No. 23 in the USA Today coaches' poll, would give the Badgers their first victory over a ranked opponent this season. The old rivalry that has been pretty irrelevant outside of the two states' borders the past several years all of a sudden has become an important showdown.

Wisconsin is heavily favored to win at TCF Bank Stadium. Doing so emphatically would boost the team's case for a BCS bid. Andersen may not want to think about it, but more style points are exactly what the Badgers need right now.