Game 15: Illinois @ Wisconsin

The Illini came into Madison much improved from last season. Their record was only 6-4, but that did not represent their strength. Wisconsin came in 5-4-1. Prior to the game, it was announced that the winner would be invited to the Hall of Fame Bowl in January. However, the situation was different for the loser. If Illinois lost, they would still be headed to a bowl with a winning record of 6-5. If Wisconsin lost, they would not be bowl eligible with a .500 record (5-5-1). A Badger win would serve the Big Ten best because both teams would receive bowl bids resulting in more money and more television exposure. We all hoped that justice would be served on this frigid day in Madison.

The level of excitement increased from last week’s drowsy display. There was hope. No team had ever gone from no bowl to Rose Bowl to no bowl in three straight seasons and Wisconsin wasn’t about to be the first to inaugurate that statistic. Rather, a defensive contest ended with the Badgers on top of the Illini 19-13. Despite the close score, any casual observer could feel that Wisconsin had control. It was a remarkable way to end a season that had little direction. Over the PA system, the announcer was inflating imaginations with verbal images of Tampa and the warm vacations that would soon be booked by Badger faithful.

After the fifth quarter, there was a scramble to get home to start inquiring about ticket information. Come January, the Badgers remained consistent with a powerful victory over Duke in the Hall of Fame Bowl. Now, Coach Alvarez had two January bowl victories in a row. Expectations in Madison began to climb the ladder again…

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