It's a sign of how things have changed that Wisconsin-Fresno State is a significantly more important non-conference game then Notre Dame-Michigan. But that's the brave new world we're in for 2008, and the Badgers trip west has serious implications for the BCS. With a win, UW becomes a major threat for a bid to one of the big bowls even if they don't win the Big Ten. On the Fresno side, if they put a win here on top of their impressive throttling of Rutgers, they're poised to become the latest midmajor to crash the BCS party.
Wisconsin has shown their traditional power running game against Akron and then followed it up by showing off an impressive air attack against Marshall. They will need both to beat Fresno. The Bulldogs play solid defense and have been well-coached for many years now by Pat Hill. They came to Madison back in 2002 and nearly upset UW.
More relevant then these teams' last meeting six years ago is what's happened on Wisconsin's recent trips west. They nearly lost to UNLV last year, and they barely got by a bad Arizona team in 2004. UW always brings a lot of fans to games in these tourist-friendly locations, but one wonders if the players don't lose their focus a bit. That can't happen on Saturday night (10:30 EST, ESPN2), as Fresno is the best non-conference opponent they've had in several years. One player who could help a lot would be Travis Beckum. Jeff Potrykus of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes that the All-American tight end is itching to get on the field in the wake of his hamstring injury.
Purdue will have a big test when Oregon comes into town for a 3:30 kick on ABC. The Ducks have piled up 110 points in a pair of easy wins, including one over Washington. Tom Kubat of The Journal & Courier reports that the Boilers are wary of the Oregon speed trap.
Penn State has what should be an easy game at Syracuse, also on ABC at 3:30. But Jeff McLane of The Centre Daily Times says the suspensions have left the Lion D scrambling for replacements.