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MADISON - Much to its fan base's delight, Wisconsin football's nonconference schedule keeps getting injected with some pretty stiff challenges.
After months of speculation, the worst-kept secret in Wisconsin football has finally been inked, as Wisconsin will open the 2014 season playing LSU in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff on Aug. 30, 2014 at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for us to open next season against one of the best programs in the country," said Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen in a statement. "We want to compete at the highest level and on a national stage and this game is a great example of that."
A return game on Sept. 3, 2016 at Lambeau Field remains in the works but UW officials will not comment until a contract is signed, which is expected to come in the next week. It will mark the second time a UW team has played at Lambeau; the first was the UW men's hockey team, which played Ohio State in front of a crowd of 40,890 in 2006.
That means UW will open the 2014, '15 and '16 seasons facing elite SEC opponents at neutral sites. Defending national champion Alabama will face the Badgers on Sept. 5, 2015, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Wisconsin is also scheduled to open the 2017 season against BYU in Provo, Utah.
It's a sign of the times considering college football begins a new four-team playoff season in 2014 and strength of schedule will play an integral part in determining the four teams who are selected.
Wisconsin is expected to receive around $2 million dollars for next year's neutral site game, which will be played in prime time and televised nationally on an ESPN network.
Speaking to reporters at the Southeastern Conference meetings in the spring, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva spoke of his eagerness to start the year, "with a quality opponent." Having won the last three Big Ten championship, Wisconsin certainly fits that bill.
Next season's meeting will be the third between the Badgers and the Tigers. Playing a home-and-home series in 1971-72, LSU swept the two-game set, beating Wisconsin, 38-28, in Madison and 27-7 the following year in Baton Rouge; the last time Wisconsin faces a SEC opponent in the regular season.