Like A Second Bowl Game, Badger Coach Says

Comments from Wisconsin's defensive coordinator and soon to be head coach are featured as the Badgers prepare for the Capital One Bowl game vs. Auburn.

Orlando, Fla.--Wisconsin's defensive coordinator and soon to be head coach, Bret Bielema, says that he believes his defensive group will be ready for whatever Auburn throws at them on Monday.

The Badgers, 9-3 from the Big 10 Conference, go into Monday's Capital One Bowl Game as an underdog to Auburn, a team with a 9-2 record and No. 7 national ranking.

"What they do offensively is pretty consistent," says Bielema, whose defensive unit is ranked 100th nationally among Division I level teams. (Offensive coordinator) Al Borges will bring in a new wrinkle for every bowl game, but he always stays within the same package. They do it time and time again.

"They will do a lot of multiple air packages with their tight ends. You think they will do a condensed package, but then they will jump them out. They will do a lot of cluster stuff with their offense, but the main thing is their consistency. To some extent, that makes it a little easier to prepare for them."

Auburn, which leads the SEC in total offense, has defeated Top 10 ranked Georgia and Alabama in its last two games. The Badgers wrapped up their regular season with a 41-24 victory at Hawaii after back to back losses to Penn State and Iowa.

"It helped bridge the time between the season and the bowl," Bielema says of the trip to Honolulu, which was on Nov. 25th, 13 days after a 20-10 loss at home to Iowa.

"The Hawaii game was like a miniature bowl trip for us," he says. "We had an off-week and then had to travel a significant amount of distance. We gave them a couple of days off and then started preparing for the game. I think it maintained our focus in Hawaii and we used that same approach for this bowl game."

Bielema will officially take over for Barry Alvarez as head coach in late January, just before national signing day. Alvarez will continue his duties as Wisconsin's athletic director, but won't step down as head coach until recruiting season is almost done so Bielema can spend more time on the road recruiting. NCAA rules restrict severely restrict the amount of time a head coach can spend with prospects.

"I don't think it will matter much," Bielema says of the five-week layoff between the Hawaii game and his team's bowl game vs. Auburn. "Our guys are workers and they will show up. There are a lot of things that go into a bowl. A lot of things the bowl wants the players to do, a lot of things we want them to do. We have had some good practices since we've been here and expect to have good practices leading up to the bowl."

Wisconsin took Thursday off and will return to the practice field on Friday to continue preparations for Monday's game, which will kick off at noon CST with TV coverage on ABC.

"Our whole philosophy is to have the team peak on the right day," Bielema says. "By giving them today off, we are going to come out and treat the next three days like a normal Wednesday-Thursday-Friday practice pattern."

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville (left) poses with Disney characters and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez.

Bielema found out he would be the new head coach early in the 2005 season, a decision made by Alvarez, the most successful football coach in Wisconsin history. "The timing issue was the key," Bielema says. "The reason we announced when we did is we didn't want to interrupt the process. We felt it would be easier on the players and easier on the recruiting process. A lot of people thought it would lead to distractions, but believe it or not all the distractions came from the outside and not within our program.

"One of the things I loved is Coach Alvarez called me up and gave me a packet of information that (former South Carolina coach) Lou Holtz gave to him when he was making the transition from assistant to head coach of Wisconsin. He gave me those notes to reflect on the move, just like Coach Holtz had given him the notes. It's great to hear different philosophies on coaching."

Bielema says one of the best pieces of advice in the Holtz notes was, this one: "Assistant coaches make recommendations, head coaches make decisions."

Auburn is looking to win its fourth straight bowl victory on Monday. One of the victories in that streak was a 28-14 decision over the Badgers to wrap up the 2003 season at the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

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