MIAMI — Within minutes of the University of Wisconsin’s arrival in Miami on Sunday, fanfare for its upcoming appearance in the Orange Bowl began in full force.
Two fire hoses shot a “water salute” over the Badgers’ plane as it pulled into the airport apron. After de-boarding, players, coaches and the rest of their traveling party walked down an orange carpet surrounded by dozens of bowl committee members dressed in orange blazers while the UW fight song blasted through nearby speakers. They were handed oranges and other gifts before hopping on their team buses and being escorted out of the airport by police motorcycles.
Like most bowls, UW’s matchup with Miami on Saturday — and the pageantry leading up to it — will be nothing like a typical game week.
“The biggest thing is just knowing how to lock in and how to block out all the noise,” UW inside linebacker T.J. Edwards said. "There’s a lot of stuff that we do throughout the week, but we have to do our best job of just focusing on what’s important."
Edwards and the rest of the Badgers’ roster have become quite good at doing so. UW’s shooting for its fourth straight bowl win, a streak that’s followed four consecutive losses from 2010-13.
Only eight players remain from the 2013 team that lost to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl. Since, the Badgers have defeated Auburn in the Outback Bowl, Southern California in the Holiday Bowl and Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl.
“I take a ton of pride in that,” redshirt junior left tackle Michael Deiter said. “Before I got here, they were on a little bit of a streak of losing bowl games. And ever since — I’m not saying it’s us — but ever since my grade got here, we haven’t lost a bowl game, so I guess we’ll take some credit for that. But since we haven’t lost, to be 4-0, it would be awesome."
UW won its past three bowls under a myriad of difficult circumstances. The Badgers won the Outback and Holiday bowls as underdogs, while the victory over Auburn came less than a month after Gary Andersen left for Oregon State following a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game.
Last year, UW bounced back from blowing a 21-point lead against Penn State to win its first New Year’s Six/BCS bowl game since the 1999 Rose Bowl.
Now, the Badgers will attempt to make it four straight by defeating Miami in the Hurricanes’ home stadium and overcoming the disappointment of falling one drive short of a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“It’s really important, being a senior this year — finishing strong and finishing the right way,” UW tight end Troy Fumagalli said. "I think that’s really important, both enjoying your time here and enjoying everything that comes with the bowl and everything we earned up to this point, but also finishing it the right way."
Despite missing out on the playoffs, UW’s finishing off one of its best-ever seasons and can break a program record with its 13th win of the season Saturday.
Ending this year with a victory would mark a significant achievement and guarantee a second straight top-10 finish.
"I think that’s what this group’s done well,” UW coach Paul Chryst said. “This year’s been important to them. And certainly the last game is going to be important. ... It’s not about streaks. It’s not about any of that. We’ve got guys that weren’t even a part of those teams. But it’s really important because if you win, you’re beating a really good Miami team and it’s the way to finish out this year."