Happy Bowl Season!
Fortunately, Badgers fans have been able to say such a thing for 12 straight years. That is correct. Next week the Wisconsin Badgers will play in a bowl game for the 12th-consecutive season, extending what is already the longest active streak in the Big Ten Conference.
I would hope players and fans appreciate that little nugget. I would guess there are a ton of schools across the country who would love to be in Wisconsin's position.
This figures to be a very entertaining matchup. South Carolina, under the direction of Steve Spurrier, ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, which began with a dramatic come-from-behind overtime victory at Missouri. It concluded with a 31-17 win against in-state rival Clemson.
To say the least, that makes for an impressive resumé.
Spurrier, who many refer to as the "Head Ball Coach," will be coaching his 300th college game.
Wisconsin's "Ball Coach," Gary Andersen, will be on the sideline for his 74th college tilt.
Beyond the obvious issue of overall talent, there are a few other factors in a bowl game that can give one team an edge on the other.
How does a team handle the four-week gap between games? Can it peak at the right time?
Is a team motivated? Will a star player go all out, or will he protect himself for the NFL draft?
My guess is both teams will be highly motivated.
South Carolina is trying to win 11 games for the third straight season. The Gamecocks program has never had such a streak.
Wisconsin is looking for its fourth 10-win season in the last five years, while the seniors are shooting for their 40th victory. If they can pull it off, it would match the school record set by the classes of 2007 and 2012.
South Carolina has an FBS low of five seniors on the roster, but a notable underclassman took part in the team's Senior Day ceremony. That man would be Jadeveon Clowney, a player many believe will be at -- or very near -- the top of the draft board this spring.
While some might wonder what Clowney has to gain in Orlando, the Badgers are expecting the star defensive lineman will be eager to leave a lasting final impression to NFL scouts and general managers.
As for the Badgers, there are a number of seniors who have had terrific seasons, but a standout performance on New Year's Day could improve their stock even more.
Sometimes, coaches and others refer to these contests as "Contract Games" or "Money Games."
While I am not a scout, and have no interest playing one in this forum, I have to believe a good game on a stage such as this would get the attention of the NFL folks.
Finally, the Badgers, especially the seniors, dearly want to end their college careers on a winning note. This group has turned in some amazing work. Three straight Rose Bowls, a stellar home record and an unbeaten mark against rivals Iowa and Minnesota are good places to start.
But they want a bowl victory, something this program has not enjoyed since 2009.
There is no doubt the Badgers will have to earn it. South Carolina is top-10 good, and has been for the last three seasons.
Hoisting a trophy at the end of this game would be a sweet conclusion to what already has been a very good season.