Mike is an undecidedsophomore. If you think that one loss is a realistic goal for next year’s team,that somebody will go undefeated next year or have already turned yourattention to the basketball team and didn’t even read most of the column, hecan be reached at [email protected] If you did not see it coming before, this weekend made whathas seemed inevitable for a couple weeks clear: an undefeated team will not beplaying for college football’s national championship.When the mainland United States’ only unbeaten, Kansas, loston Saturday night, and LSU — a team with one loss but also holding a stackedBCS deck– losing Friday, that realization gave way to a collective cringe thatwas felt in the stomach of fans across the country, Madison included.As it turns out, had the Badgers lost one game instead ofthree (not an unattainable feat), they could have been in contention for a spotin this season’s BCS National Championship Game.If Wisconsin had gotten by any two of the three teams theylost to, Illinois, Penn State or Ohio State, UW would be doing BCS math rightnow, trying to figure out where it stood in the championship picture instead ofmaking reservations to play in a second-tier bowl game.With no undefeated team playing for the nationalchampionship this season, the hopes dashed across the country aftertough-to-swallow early losses now seem to have been lost preemptively.They certainly were here. With pressure and expectationsrising — albeit cautiously after some close calls — then-No. 5 Wisconsin lost,but was not upset by unranked Illinois (the team that would also end OhioState’s perfect season).At that point it appeared that all hope for a championshipcrown had been lost. A shot at the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance —still nothing to sneer at — seemed to be the highest achievable remaining outcome.Remember, at the time, the nation still included 10undefeated teams among the Top 25, and a single loss felt more like a crushingblow than the speed bump it would eventually turn out to be.So, woefully, Wisconsin went and got crushed at Penn Statefor its second loss, came home to pick itself up against Northern Illinois andIndiana, then went and blew a lead at Ohio State — then the country’stop-ranked team — en route to finishing with three regular season losses.Beating Michigan in the penultimate game of the regularseason helped make the year bearable. But couple the Wolverines’ decision tosit quarterback Chad Henne for most of the game and running back Mike Hart forall of it with what happened this weekend in the championship picture, and it’stough not to think about what could’ve been this season.Just like almost every other team in the country right now,this season for Wisconsin has become a collection of not just memories andstatistics, but more disappointingly “what-ifs.”What if Lance Smith hadn’t missed all the team’s road games— and all the losses — because of his unconventional suspension?What if top wide receiver Luke Swan hadn’t been hurt againstIllinois?What if Allan Evridge had beaten out Tyler Donovan for thestarting quarterback job in the preseason?What if the defense had been more prepared to face a spreadoffense?The list goes on, but in the end it doesn’t matter what theanswers to these questions are or were. Nothing will change, and the Badgerswill likely take their three losses to the Outback or Alamo Bowl to give fans alast glimpse for the season against another team disappointed with where it isplaying.For 60 more minutes the Badgers will play football, and forthe next nine months fans will alternate between bemoaning the failures of thisseason, giving credit to the high points and speculating on what next seasonwill hold.Next year, barring any major changes, Wisconsin will boast aloaded backfield and a defense that will, at the very least, be an experiencedgroup.With a little luck, tight end Travis Beckum will return andbolster a young receiving corps led by Kyle Jefferson, who showed a lot ofpromise when thrown into the mix this season. The defense may even figure outhow to stop the big plays.How the roster shapes up next season and what promise the2008 season may hold is a different discussion for a different day, though.What’s going to be important to remember now, and what thisseason and this past weekend have shown, is that when UW loses for the firsttime next season it won’t be the end of the world, but rather, just a speedbump.