By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Nov 19, 2006 at 5:22 AM
A lot will be said over the next few weeks about how the Bowl Championship Series, the media, and other coaches have given the Badgers no respect.

That kind of talk needs to stop right now. While there is a rule prohibiting more than two teams from one conference being selected for BCS bowl games, there is no reason whatsoever that Wisconsin should be playing in Pasadena this year.

While Bucky’s 11-1 record is beyond admirable, further inspection reveals that it is at least a little misleading. Let’s take a closer look:

GAME 1: Wisconsin 35, Bowling Green 10 -- Bowling Green will finish the season 4-6 and 3-3 in the semi-respectable Mid-American Conference. Not a bad contest for a season-opener; but nonetheless, this game will not win over those who think the Big Ten only deserves to send two teams to the BCS. On a scale of one-to-five, this game earns a quality rating of two footballs.

GAME 2: Wisconsin 34, Western Illinois 10 -- This game right here hurts the Badgers the most. Not many top powers in the NCAA would schedule a game against an I-AA school. Those games don't even count in the standings. So technically, you could deduct one victory from Wisconsin’s season total. The Jackrabbits are an unimpressive 5-6 overall and just 2-5 in the Gateway Conference. Rating -- 1 football.

GAME 3: Wisconsin 14, San Diego State 0 -- The Badgers and Aztecs played to a scoreless tie at the half, and looked far from sharp. Since then, San Diego State has managed to rack up just two victories all year, and sit at 2-7 (2-3, Mountain West). Rating -- 2 footballs.

GAME 4: Michigan 23, Wisconsin 13 -- You don't get points for coming close. Wisconsin held tough through the first half, and even during much of the third quarter. But Michigan showed why it is one of the best teams in the nation, and showed Badger fans that there is still a lot of ground to cover. Yes, Wisconsin might have a shot if the teams had played later in the season, but that’s just not how things work -- no matter how crazy the Big Ten schedule is. Rating -- 3 footballs.

GAME 5: Wisconsin 52, Indiana 17 -- This game is deceiving. It was a big victory over a sub par opponent, but sometimes, that’s what a team needs to do in order to gain a little bit of respect. Bielema and his team put a whooping’ on the Hoosiers, yet kept it classy. Rating -- 3 footballs.

GAME 6: Wisconsin 41, Northwestern 9 -- Northwestern lost their season opener to a Division I-AA team. The Wildcats have picked up one victory in the Big Ten. It’s Northwestern. Rating -- 2 footballs (because it wasn't a paid game, it was a conference meeting.)

GAME 7: Wisconsin 48, Minnesota 12 -- Nothing like a big victory over your arch-rival to get a fan’s heart racing and dreaming of rose-colored views. Minnesota is 2-5 in the league, 5-6 overall. A snoozer. Rating -- 2 footballs.

GAME 8: Wisconsin 24, Purdue 3 -- This game looked to be one of the tougher meetings on the Badgers’ 2006 slate. All facets of Wisconsin’s game were in full form as the Badgers rolled to the easy victory. Rating -- 3.5 footballs.

GAME 9: Wisconsin 30, Illinois 24 -- Granted the Illini have come on strong and are starting to find their way under Ron Zook. But for a team to be considered among the best of the best, you shouldn’t have to rally against one of the conference’s worst teams. Especially at home. Resiliency is a good thing, but the Badgers should have dominated. Rating -- 3 footballs.

GAME 10: Wisconsin 13, Penn State 3 -- The Nittany Lions came to Camp Randall looking to establish themselves as the league’s third-best team. Wisconsin came ready to play, and took control early. A solid, well-played conference victory. Rating -- 3 footballs.

GAME 11: Wisconsin 27, Iowa 24 -- In terms of the standings, there wasn't much to play for. Wisconsin had already all but clinched a trip to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. But a rivalry game that had been one-sided brought out a fight in the Badgers not needed much in 2006. This may be the best performance of the season. Rating -- 4 footballs.

GAME 12: Wisconsin 35, Buffalo 3 -- The fact that this game was scheduled for Senior Day is a perfect example of why the Badgers cannot be considered National Championship contenders any time soon. Buffalo – and it's 2-8 record – obviously was selected out of a shallow pool of candidates, but you can't put a lot of stock into an end-of-the-season victory over an obviously overmatched opponent. The Badgers got the job done, but need to find a way to eliminate late-season games like this in the future. Rating -- 2 footballs.

The long-and-short of it is that Wisconsin had a very fine season. Unlike many first-year head coaches, Bielema didn't walk into a situation with empty cupboards, and actually had some of "his" players in the program when he took over.

Still, not much was expected of this team. The Badgers weren’t even ranked until beating Northwestern, leaving way too much ground to make up even if Michigan and Ohio State weren’t ranked in the top spots.

The Badgers beat the teams they needed to beat, and lost one that everybody expected them to lose. Sure, Rutgers and Boise State – who entered the weekend undefeated in the Big East and Mountain West Conferences -- may have played lesser opponents than Wisconsin in the Big Ten, but it’s a different argument when there is a big, fat zero on the right side of the W-L column.

In a perfect world, Wisconsin would wrap up its regular-season slate and prepare for the postseason, in which they would battle the other top teams in the nation for a spot at a championship.

In reality, Badgermaniacs need to look at the facts -- a solid performance with a schedule that lacked luster, in a system that hurts teams who aren't highly ranked to start the season.

As it stands, the Badgers are ranked ninth in the country (as of deadline) and have come a long way since the opening of camp. They will play a New Year’s Day bowl game against a top-level opponent.

If Wisconsin is going to take the next step, it’s time to upgrade the competition. That’s when respect will come to Madison.