Looking at almost any college football bowl predictions, experts will tell you the Wisconsin football team is headed to the Outback Bowl for a matchup with Auburn.
Assuming they beat Hawaii this Saturday.
This assumption should not be taken lightly as the Warriors will be fighting for their bowl lives in Aloha Stadium Saturday.
After losing its first six conference games to start the season, Hawaii is rolling on a four game winning streak including a momentum-building 24-17 win last weekend.
“Well, they were a 2-6 football team that has revived themselves very, very well,” UW head coach Bret Bielema said. “They were 2-6 and … regrouped and have played very well offensively and defensively. They have done some really good things in the kicking game. All four of these last games, none of them have really come easy, so they have earned each one of those victories.”
As one of only two teams not to have clinched a bowl or been eliminated from contention — with Army being the other — the Warriors will have plenty of motivation on senior day.
Currently on a 3-year bowl streak, the WAC school so far away from everyone will also be fighting to keep alive its hard-earned reputation as a decent football program.
“Bottom line, if they win this game they are going to become bowl eligible for a very big bowl themselves,” Bielema said.
Averaging 456.1 yards of total offense, including 348.7 yards through the air, the Badger corners will be tested once again. Exposed through mental mistakes against Northwestern two weeks ago, UW’s secondary will have to bounce back fairly quickly.
Its first challenge? Stopping junior wide receiver Greg Salas, an offensive dynamo responsible for 103 receptions, 1,559 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
“Our front four has to give pressure to help out our back end,” Bielema added.
Given a bye week, Wisconsin has taken the same approach to fixing mistakes that they have all season.
Hard work, hard work and, well… you know the rest.
“Just like in the offseason we just know we have to work harder,” UW running back Zach Brown said. “It was a tough loss, but we are using the bye week time to get better.”
Playing in a stadium four time zones away, the Badgers will face a host of challenges trying to stay prepared.
Besides exams and warm weather serving as distractions, UW will also have to avoid looking toward the looming bowl game.
“Honestly, we aren’t thinking about no bowl game,” Brown said. “We are worrying about Hawaii. That is our biggest game and we can’t look ahead. We just got to make sure we take care of Hawaii.”
Not to be all business and no fun, Bielema has designated time for the players to relax and see the sites.
Perhaps to inspire leadership, he mentioned going to Pearl Harbor.
“The hard part for us is, because it is an extended stay, it has similarities to a bowl game,” Bielema said. “But obviously the game is going to be on us very, very quick. So we told our guys it is about focusing on the details of what we need to do to win Saturday.”
“I am really excited,” Brown added. “Growing up, I was never a real big traveler and I never thought I would have a chance to go to Hawaii, so being able to do this is great and I am looking forward to it.”