MADISON, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Hayden Epstein kicked a 31-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining as No. 11 Michigan squeaked by Wisconsin, 20-17, to move within one win of the Big Ten Conference title.
A pivotal mistake by Wisconsin freshman Brett Bell put Epstein in position for the game-winning kick.
Wicsonsin's Mark Neuser was wide right on a 36-yard field goal with 1:26 remaining and the Badgers defense stopped the Wolverines short of a first down. Though Wisconsin had no players in the backfield to return the punt, Bell accidentally made contact with the kick and the Wolverines' Brandon Williams recovered it deep in Badger territory.
"I hope they don't blame it on me," Bell said. "They're some of the best seniors I have had the privilege of playing with. I'm sorry."
Michigan (8-2, 6-1 Big Ten) remained in a first-place tie atop the Big Ten with Illinois, which defeated Ohio State, 34-22, earlier on Saturday.
Because Michigan defeated Illinois earlier this season, the Wolverines will wrap up the conference title and a BCS bowl berth with a win over the Buckeyes next week in Ann Arbor.
"My hat's off to an outstanding effort by the Wisconsin team and coaches," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "We were fortunate to win. If ever a football game was determined by the kicking game, I think it came right down to it. The last couple of plays were critical plays. We had an opportunity to block a couple of punts. Going in, we felt we had to win the kicking game."
The loss ended any bowl hopes for Wisconsin (5-6, 3-4), which outgained the Wolverines, 292-163.
"We wanted to win this game for our seniors, the last time they played in this stadium," Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said. "A bowl game? That's out the window. The disappointment of losing today is paramount right now."
Michigan's John Navarre, a Wisconsin native, completed just 11-of-19 passes for 58 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Brooks Bollinger of Wisconsin was 14-of-29 for 133 yards.
Michigan freshman Marlin Jackson snapped a 7-7 tie 4:39 into the second quarter when he blocked a punt, scooped up the ball and scampered 43 yards for a touchdown.
After Epstein kicked a 25-yard field goal with 8:27 left in the third quarter to give Michigan a 17-7 lead, Wisconsin's Anthony Davis scored on a 10-yard run and Neuser converted a career-long 46-yard field goal over the next 6 1/2 minutes to tie the score.
Both defenses held their opponent's top receiver in check.
Wisconsin held Michigan's Marquise Walker to four catches for 14 yards, and the Wolverines limited Lee Evans to three catches for 31 yards.
The Badgers have not defeated the Wolverines since 1994. Carr, who took over the team in 1995, improved his record against Wisconsin to 5-0, including a 3-0 mark in Madison.
"This is probably one of the hardest losses I've been part of," Wisconsin tight end Mark Anelli said. "I mean, Senior Day, to pass up seeing seniors walk off victorious and come back out there and dance in the fifth quarter. To fight so hard, to come off with a loss like that, I'm speechless."