Wisconsin Football: History proves Badgers cannot take Western Michigan lightly

Dec 2, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Western Michigan Broncos celebrate after defeating the Ohio Bobcats for the Mac Championship 29-23 at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Western Michigan Broncos celebrate after defeating the Ohio Bobcats for the Mac Championship 29-23 at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Wisconsin Badgers will play the Western Michigan Broncos on January 2nd in the Cotton Bowl.

Undefeated is undefeated.

No one is saying the Western Michigan Broncos (13-0) will be a walk in the park for the Wisconsin Badgers (10-3). In fact, the Broncos’ dominance this season, especially over common Big Ten opponents, makes for a reason of concern for a Badgers team that is coming off a heartbreaking Big Ten Championship loss to Penn State.

Penn State endured heartbreak of their own, failing to make the College Football Playoff, scoring a date with in the Rose Bowl with the USC Trojans.

The beauty of Bowl Season is all the intriguing matchups, and for your favorite team- seeing them play against another high-caliber opponent that we would not normally see. If you are looking for a silver lining from that Big Ten Championship loss, at least the Badgers do not have to play USC for the second straight season in a bowl game.

So, the Badgers’ opponent, the Broncos, are one of two undefeated teams this year, but despite winning almost every game in convincing fashion, their low strength of schedule and the fact they are not a part of the Power Five conferences, formerly known as BCS conferences (Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac 12, Big 12), has given them a lingering disrespect all season.

NCAA rules indicate that the highest ranked non-BCS conference team at the end of the year will have the possibility of playing in a BCS (New Year’s Six) Bowl Game. The Broncos, albeit undefeated all year, continued to watch the likes of one-loss teams pass them in the rankings such as Navy and Boise State. When they failed to take care of business, the Broncos sprung through the ranks with an undefeated record and their most prestigious bowl game in their program’s history left on their schedule.

Western Michigan has played in just seven bowl games all time, holding a 1-6 record with their only win coming in their most recent appearance- a Bahamas Bowl victory over Middle Tennessee State in 2015. The Badgers on the other hand are appearing in their 14th straight postseason game with an all-time record of 13-14.

Although brief, history indicates that Power Conference teams have had troubles with these mid-major-like teams. The Badgers have faced just one. In 2010, Wisconsin got matched up with the TCU Horned Frogs, who are now a part of the Big 12 but were members of the Mountain West Conference six years ago. The Horned Frogs were victorious over the Badgers, winning 21-19 and sending the Badgers in a spiral beginning their three-game Rose Bowl losing streak. The last Power team the Broncos faced in a bowl game was back in 2011, a 37-32 defeat to Purdue.

Since the implementation of the BCS in 1998, and now the College Football Playoff, the sport has offered four BCS games in addition to the national championship- Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Sugar. Today, the equivalent of these games are now up to six contests with the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach Bowls. The Fiesta and Peach are included in the College Football Playoff this season.

A total of ten non-Power Conference teams, excluding Notre Dame who is independent, have made a BCS bowl game appearance since 1998. The record of these teams combined is 7-3, keeping in mind that WAC champion Boise State defeated MWC champion TCU in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. The most recent victory was last season when automatic non-automatic qualifier Houston knocked off Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl.

It is not often teams like Western Michigan, and other recent participants- Boise State, Houston, etc., get a chance on the big stage and a chance to knock off teams who are privileged to have an opportunity at this type of game every year. With this extra motivation, and perhaps a lack of excitement and inspiration from the opposing team, non-Power Conference teams have been able to dominate these contents in recent history.

Next: Badgers' layoff helping prepare for W. Michigan

This year it’s Western Michigan’s turn to add to the “little guys'” success. Wisconsin should be ready, but hopefully this history lesson provides a little more motivation.