MADISON — The Wisconsin football team will be in the Big Ten title game for a fourth time in six years.
Thanks to Iowa’s 40-10 whipping of Nebraska on Friday, the Badgers clinched at least a share of the Big Ten West title and booked a trip to Indianapolis for next Saturday’s championship game. With a win on Saturday against Minnesota, Wisconsin can claim the division for itself.
Earlier this week, outside linebacker Vince Biegel said they were aware of what Friday’s game meant, but the focus was always on the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
“Obviously, we’d love to see Iowa win, right? But we want to take care of business on Saturday,” Biegel said. “That game doesn’t affect the way we approach this week (and) doesn’t affect how we conduct our business. We want to leave no question marks on the table of who the Big Ten West champions are.”
This is Wisconsin’s second West Division title in the three years the division has existed. It remains to be seen who the Badgers will face in Indianapolis. If Michigan beats Ohio State on Saturday, the Wolverines will represent the Big Ten East. If Ohio State wins, and Penn State beats Michigan State, the Nittany Lions will head to the title game for the first time. And if the Buckeyes win, and Penn State loses, the Badgers will face Ohio State.
“You guys are probably eating it up,” senior linebacker Vince Biegel told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “A lot of story lines here; you can’t write this up. Dave Aranda leaving University of Wisconsin [and] going to LSU. They’ve got Leonard Fournette. Big time game; It’s at Lambeau Field.”
That’s just the beginning of a very difficult 2016 schedule, which features a stretch from Sept. 24 to Oct. 29 against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, and Nebraska. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio has hopes to give Wisconsin a challenge.
“I respect Wisconsin’s football team and I hate to say it, but I’m not concerned who they play after us,” Dantonio said during a podium session Tuesday afternoon. “I’m just concerned who they’re playing before us…They’ll come to East Lansing and it’ll be a great opponent.”
Wisconsin then travels to Michigan who they haven’t played since 2010 due to a quirk in the conference schedule. The Badgers have won their last two meetings with the Wolverines, but UM holds a 49-14-1 all-time record against the UW. Badgers senior defensive back Sojourn Shelton embraces the challenge.
“They’re just one of those teams you can’t shy away from…I hear it’s a crazy atmosphere [at Michigan Stadium] and they’re a good, solid team. They have a lot of good, solid players. Of course, everyone will pick them to be this and that but at the same time, when game time comes around, all the team’s have got to put it together.”
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst took a similar stance when making his opening remarks Tuesday morning.
Wisconsin will report to fall camp on Aug. 7 for media availability and will hold their first practice the following day up until their Sept. 3 meeting with LSU at Lambeau Field.