Miami Shores, Fla. — The Wisconsin Badgers are blaming no one but themselves for their current predicament.
They had a chance earlier this month to secure a berth in the College Football Playoff but blew it by losing to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. Now, the Badgers can only move forward by solely focusing on ending the season on a positive Saturday against the Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium.
“We’re going to treat this as our playoff game, as our national championship,” linebacker Chris Orr said. “It does sting a little bit. One, it just stings that we lost the Big Ten championship. Also, it stings a little more that you missed out on a chance to make history here in this program.”
The Badgers (12-1) were attempting to become the first team in school history to play for a national championship. After starting the season with 12 straight wins, they lost, 27-21, to the Buckeyes on the final weekend of the season. They were left on the outside looking in despite having the same amount of losses as the four teams — Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Georgia — that made the playoffs.
In fact, the Badgers arguably had the best loss of any of those teams, but were still passed over.
“We try not to worry about that,” Orr said.
“We know it’s nothing that we can control. We missed out because we didn’t handle our business.”
With the national title out of the picture, the Badgers are searching for consolation prizes. A victory against the Hurricanes would give them their first 13-win season. It would also mark their fourth consecutive bowl victory.
“I think it’s important, not because of the streak, it’s important because this is our next game and it’s the last game of this year,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said.
“That’s why it’s important. We’ll do everything we can to give ourselves a chance. We know we’re playing a really good Miami team, but it’s important for this year’s team; and it’s not about streaks, it’s not about anything like that. We had guys who weren’t even part of those teams. If you win, you’re beating a really good Miami team and the way to finish out this year.”
Added linebacker Leon Jacobs: “It’s for pride. You always want to end the season with a win, especially for our seniors. The past two years we’ve done that so we want to keep it going.”
None of the players on the roster are having a more bittersweet experience than those from South Florida. Freshman cornerback Dontye Carriere-Williams, who played at St. Thomas Aquinas, was thrilled upon learning the Badgers were chosen for the Orange Bowl.
The feeling somewhat soured when he realized they were just one touchdown from competing for the championship.
“Definitely, our goal was to get to the College Football Playoff, but when I found out I was coming home, that was a big deal for me,” said Carriere-Williams, who is expected to have 21 friends and family members in the stands. “In the beginning of the season, that’s what you work hard for. That’s what you strive for to play in at the end of the season, that big stage. But I mean, we just want to go out and win this Orange Bowl at the end of the day.”