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Derek Montgomery

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Ohio State gave Wisconsin all the help it could. Just before the Badgers kicked off at Kinnick Stadium Saturday, the score between the Buckeyes and the Big Ten-leading Wolverines of Michigan became final: a 37-21 OSU victory meant that UW was playing to go to the Rose Bowl.

“The kids were very excited,” head coach Barry Alvarez said. “I got the score just before we went out and I told them. I thought it’d give them a pretty good lift.”

But, in the end, the Badgers weren’t able to fulfill their part of the deal. UW’s hopes of becoming the co-Big Ten champion and making its first Rose Bowl appearance since 2000 were squashed by a heart-wrenching 30-7 loss to Iowa.

“We lost the game; we lost the Rose Bowl; we lost co-champs,” junior receiver Brandon Williams said. “There’s a lot of stuff we lost today.”

With two losses in their final two games, the Badgers finished with a 6-2 record in Big Ten play. Iowa and Michigan tied for the Big Ten Championship at 7-1.

Predicated by an early-season victory over the Hawkeyes, the Wolverines will go on to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. If Wisconsin had won, it would have held the tiebreaker over Michigan (based on a better overall record).

“We were sitting there with other opportunities, so it’s depressing,” Alvarez said. “We played a lot of good football. We didn’t play particularly well these last two games … I don’t know what you can do. Just move on now: regroup, get healthy and play a good bowl game.”

The Badgers will likely be placed in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. A representative from the Tampa Bay, FL event was in attendance at the game.

“Monday, we meet at 4:30 and then we make a recommendation to the Board of Directors and they announce Tuesday afternoon,” the representative said.

Wisconsin has appeared in the Outback Bowl — which traditionally pits the third place team from the Big Ten against the third place team from the SEC (Georgia, Florida or LSU this season) — twice, winning in 1995 (when it was called the Hall of Fame Bowl) and losing in 1998.

Though it’s not the bowl the Badgers were shooting for, it is a prestigious national bowl that will bring UW a hefty monetary reward for its play.

“Going to a Jan. 1 bowl, you’re going to get up for the game. We’re still on ABC; it’s still a big game,” Williams said. “We’re still going to prepare as a team. We know we’re not done playing games. And we want to go out winners.”

The Badgers will need to repair their bruised egos in time for a game in which they will face one of the top teams in the country.

“Losing is always tough, but I think it tests your character — the type of person you are. It’s going to test the type of team we are,” added safety Robert Brooks. “The important thing is how we’re going to bounce back.”