Wisconsin bowl game prediction? One projection stands out for experts


The Wisconsin football team knows it’s bound for a bowl game for a 22nd consecutive year but also knows it won’t be competing for a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game. So where will UW be headed as the holiday season nears?

Here’s a look at some potential destinations.

Many experts predict the Badgers will play in the Music City Bowl

The Music City Bowl, taking place Dec. 30 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, appears to be the most likely destination as things stand now.

It would be the first time Wisconsin plays in the game since 2003, a 28-14 loss to Auburn. Tigers running backs Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown each ran for two touchdowns, still two years away from becoming top-five picks in the 2005 NFL draft. Anthony Davis had 77 rushing yards for the Badgers and Lee Evans caught a touchdown from Jim Sorgi.

Longtime college-football insider Brett McMurphy has been connecting UW to this game for a couple weeks, squaring off with Texas A&M. If things fall according to expectation, with Michigan in the College Football Playoff, Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and Iowa in the Citrus Bowl, this feels like the most likely destination.

Others seeing a UW vs. Texas A&M clash include 247Sports, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Gabriela Carroll of the USA TODAY Network.

Bryan Fischer of Fox Sports not only sees UW in the Music City Bowl but also sees them re-matching with Auburn once they get there. The Athletic also has Wisconsin against Auburn. ESPN’s experts put Wisconsin in the Music City Bowl vs. Auburn and the ReliaQuest Bowl against LSU.

How does bowl game selection work?

The Big Ten has established relationships with a number of bowl games outside the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowls, and those bowls are placed in a pecking order for selection. Once the CFP and New Year’s Six have their teams, the remaining eligible teams in the Big Ten are selected by the committees representing those bowl games, often but not always in order of record.

It stands to reason that Michigan or Ohio State will get a spot in the College Football Playoff, and the loser will play in the Orange Bowl (if not also selected among the four CFP teams). Penn State has a good case to get a New Year’s Six bowl as well, and Iowa would likely wind up in the Citrus Bowl, the top Big Ten-affiliated bowl game that isn’t in the New Year’s Six. This could all get thrown out of whack if Penn State loses to Michigan State in the finale this weekend or Iowa shocks either Michigan or Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, but let’s assume some chalk for now.

That leaves the remaining teams, like UW, to compete for the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Las Vegas Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl in New York, Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix and Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit. The conference gives up its spot in the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa (formerly the Outback Bowl) in any season in which one of its members is selected for the Orange Bowl, which seems likely for the Ohio State/Michigan loser. But ReliaQuest can’t be fully ruled out, either.

As further complication, another bowl game could come looking for an eligible Big Ten team if one of its preferred conferences doesn’t have any remaining eligible participants.

Wisconsin won the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix in 2022 and the Las Vegas Bowl in 2021, and though UW would be in line to appear in one of those bowls again, a preference for variety could become one of the determining factors in extending an invitation.

When will the Badgers know their bowl game destination, and when do tickets go on sale?

The Badgers will learn their bowl destination Dec. 3 on “Bowl Selection Sunday.” Tickets will go on sale for the general public Dec. 7, with Wisconsin athletics donors and season-ticket holders getting earlier dibs.

Here are other bowl games that could wind up inviting Wisconsin:

Pinstripe Bowl

  • When: Dec. 28
  • Where: New York (Yankee Stadium)
  • Last visit: 2018 (35-3 win over Miami). Jonathan Taylor ran for 205 yards and a touchdown as the Badgers overwhelmed the Hurricanes, holding them to 6 rushing yards and 169 total yards, with five takeaways.

The Yankee Stadium bowl game wouldn’t exactly provide a tropical destination for the Badgers, but it would return UW to the scene of one of its more lopsided bowl triumphs. An ACC opponent would likely be waiting.

Quick Lane Bowl

  • When: Dec. 26
  • Where: Detroit (Ford Field)
  • Last visit: Never

This destination increases in likelihood if the Badgers lose to Minnesota in the regular-season finale. An opponent from the Mid-American Conference would await; the Big Ten hasn’t put a team in this bowl game since Minnesota in 2018.

Las Vegas Bowl

  • When: Dec. 23
  • Where: Las Vegas (Allegiant Stadium)
  • Last visit: 2021 (20-13 win over Arizona State). Braelon Allen ran 29 times for 159 yards, and Collin Larsh hit field goals from 48 yards and 35 yards for the Badgers.

This isn’t a bowl game that typically has a tie-in with the Big Ten; Wisconsin went in 2021 and the Big Ten will tie in this year and in 2025, with a Pac-12 school also joining the mix.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl

  • When: Dec. 26
  • Where: Phoenix (Chase Field)
  • Last visit: 2022 (24-17 win over Oklahoma State). Braelon Allen ran 22 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, with Chez Mellusi adding another 77 yards as the Badgers closed a trying season on a positive note, with both new head coach Luke Fickell and outgoing interim coach Jim Leonhard together on the sideline.

Again, given that Wisconsin was just there, it’s not as likely as others, but at least one writer sees the Guaranteed Rate Bowl as a possibility, projecting UW to face Kansas (coached by former UW-Whitewater head coach Lance Leipold).

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

  • When: Dec. 27
  • Where: Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Last visit: 2020 (42-28 win over Wake Forest). Graham Mertz ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, and additional rushing scores came from Jalen Berger, Garrett Groshek and John Chenal as the team rallied from an early 14-0 deficit.

Sure, the Badgers were just here, playing in a game made famous by the dropped trophy in the aftermath. But since fans didn’t get to attend the showcase on account of COVID-19, it’s possible organizers would be eager to welcome the Badgers and their fans back to Charlotte.


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