TAMPA - In what is becoming an annual tradition, Wisconsin - and its rabid fan base - will be celebrating the New Year in Florida.
Wisconsin accepted an invitation to represent the Big Ten Conference in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 at 11 a.m. at Raymond James Stadium. This marks the fourth consecutive New Year's Day bowl trip for the Badgers, who played in the Capital One Bowl the past two seasons and the 2005 Outback Bowl.
"Our entire team is excited to be returning to Florida for our fourth straight January bowl game," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "We've always heard terrific feedback from our fans who have followed us to Tampa in the past, and I know we'll have a big sea of red down there again.
"We're looking forward to the warm weather, hospitality and a great game on New Year's Day."
There's a reason Wisconsin (9-3) is a popular choice for Florida's bowls, said Jim McVay, the Outback Bowl's president and CEO.
"They're the perfect bowl team for our game," McVay said.
This will be Wisconsin's fourth Outback Bowl appearance. The Badgers also played in the 1995, 1998 and 2005 games.
The Badgers are ranked No. 18 by Associated Press and No. 19 in the BCS.
Wisconsin also had been under consideration for the Capital One Bowl, which picks before the Outback Bowl. But since Wisconsin played there the past two seasons, Capital One Bowl officials said Wednesday they would select either No. 15 Illinois, Michigan or Penn State.
"We like the fact the Badgers are ranked highly in the BCS, a 9-3 team," McVay said. "They finished strong, beating Michigan and Minnesota.
"It's a fun team to watch, they play with a lot of passion, a real team concept. Wisconsin has proven over the years they get ready for bowl games.
"Everything about Wisconsin says 'New Year's Day bowl game.' Whenever we have a shot, we take them."
McVay said there are six SEC teams in the running to be Wisconsin's opponent, but the most likely candidate is Tennessee, if the Vols lose to LSU in Saturday's SEC title game.
With Wisconsin receiving the bid four days before its SEC opponent, Bielema said it gives Badgers fans an added advantage at securing flights and hotels.
"We're absolutely thrilled to be returning to Tampa for the Outback Bowl," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said. "It has been a tremendous destination for us the previous three times we have been there. Our players and fans have always enjoyed the Tampa area and everything the bowl brings to the table."
In other bowl news: Cincinnati accepted an invitation to represent the Big East Conference and play Southern Miss in the Papajohns.com Bowl. USF defeated East Carolina in last year's inaugural bowl.