After plenty of speculation about the Badgers’ (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten) final matchup of the year and where it will be taking place, the destination is official. The University of Wisconsin’s last game will be against Arizona State (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) in the Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 30.

The Badgers’ opponent will bring back bad memories for UW fans, as the last time the two faced off Arizona State won 32-30 in an extremely close game. The game will take place at Allegiant Stadium — the home stadium of the Las Vegas Raiders who made their debut right before the 2020 season.

Wisconsin’s defeat against Minnesota in their last conference game of the season sent their bowl dreams into flux, eliminating the possibility of playing in the Rose Bowl and diminishing their chances of a bowl game on New Year’s Day.

Prior to the announcement, Las Vegas was the setting for UW’s bowl season, and it seemed the possibilities were down to Vegas or the Outback Bowl in Tampa Bay. The Outback Bowl would have been a more high profile game for UW as they would have faced off against an SEC opponent on New Year’s Day, but the Las Vegas Bowl is not a bad consolation prize. 

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The Badgers will travel west to face off against an Arizona State team that finished second in the Pac-12 South in 2021. The team has been solid under the leadership of Herm Edwards — the former NFL head coach who took over for the Sun Devils in 2018.

The team is led by a high-powered offense that averages over 400 yards per game. Jayden Daniels is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who has been efficient passing the ball this season. Paired with the thousand-yard rusher Rachaad White, the Sun Devils offense has the potential to cause issues for a stingy Badgers defense.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst will look to find an edge for his offense against a defense that lacks the physicality which is commonplace in the Big Ten conference. While Arizona State has had a strong defense in the Pac-12, they are not used to facing teams that are so committed to running the ball.

Against a strong overall defense, UW will have to attack the weakness of the ASU defensive unit that has allowed nearly 130 rushing yards per game this season. The Badgers could exploit the Sun Devils defense by getting back to the run-first offense that they shied away from against Minnesota. With time available for Braelon Allen to get back to full strength, he should be a major factor for the UW offense in this game.

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While the Badgers didn’t end the season in the fashion they wanted to, they have an opportunity against a respected opponent to end their season the right way. Bowl games can be seen as a way for teams to propel themselves into having a strong offseason ahead of the upcoming season, and this is a great chance for UW to do just that.

There are plenty of the Badger starters who will be returning to the team in 2022, and this game gives them something to build off of as they prepare and look ahead.

As the days progress, something to monitor will be the bowl game participation of Badgers’ NFL Draft candidates for after the season. While this hasn’t had too much of an effect on the UW program in the past, it has become more of a trend around the country in recent years for players to take it easy during the bowl game because they prevent risking an injury. Some players to keep track of in regards to participation are Jake Ferguson, Jack Sanborn, Leo Chenal and Logan Bruss.

The 2021 season did not meet the Badgers’ expectations, with losses coming in pivotal games that eliminated them from where they wanted to be at this time of the year. With that said, their final matchup is a chance for the team to right their wrongs and gain momentum heading into the offseason. Both the Badgers and Arizona will be looking to get its ninth win of the season and finish on a high note, which should make for a competitive matchup.

The Badgers will have a few weeks of rest before venturing West to take on Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 30.