The Bulldogs (9-2) opened the season as the No. 3 team in the nation and a chic pick to win the national championship. All that optimism basically ended in the fifth week of the season with a flop of a loss to Tennessee.
The Badgers (9-2) started the year ranked No. 21 and not considered
even a fringe player in the national title race, but they rolled up nine
straight wins and went from No. 20 to No. 6 in a three-week span. By
Nov. 7, Wisconsin was No. 4 in the country and one of four legitimate
Wisconsin, it turned out, was only saving its flop until the 10th week
of the season. The Badgers lost 49-14 that day to Michigan State and
followed it up with a 30-7 loss to Iowa.
"We were disappointed," Badgers quarterback John Stocco said.
any team would be. We had the opportunity to play for a championship,
and that's why you play the game. It didn't work out, but we're
definitely not disappointed to be in this bowl game. This is a great
opportunity for us, but I think everyone was a little disappointed about
the way we finished our season."
Stocco insists that disappointment is gone now that No. 16 Wisconsin
is here preparing for Saturday's Outback Bowl. And No. 8 Georgia's
players and coaches say the same thing. Still, no one here has forgotten
that the national championship is being decided another couple hours
down I-75 in Miami.
"Obviously," Georgia quarterback David Greene said,
they were in the Orange Bowl, but this is a great bowl."
The Bulldogs have insisted all week that they won't let their
disappointment affect them once they get inside Raymond James Stadium,
home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Bucanneers.
"If we weren't playing against a team we respect then maybe,"
wide receiver Reggie Brown said.
The team's work ethic and intensity have been good since it began
practice on Dec. 26, Georgia defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder said.
"I don't know how they feel about being at the Outback
Bowl," he said,
"but I like their focus. I like their concentration."
Wisconsin senior free safety Jim Leonhard probably put it best when he
said: "We've all got a bad taste in our mouth with how the season ended.
We're excited to be going down to the Alamo Bowl and having a good time
and getting a win."
The Badgers played in the Alamo Bowl in 2002.
Both head coaches are trying to motivate their teams with the 10-win
milestone. The Badgers have only had three 10-win seasons in school
"That tells you how difficult it really is to get to 10,"
coach Barry Alvarez said. "Ten wins is a big deal."
Georgia is shooting for its third straight season and 15th overall
with at least 10 wins.
"The difference between eight (wins) and nine doesn't seem as
Coach Mark Richt said. "You get into double digits, and it just looks
better. It feels better. I think it's been a very good year. If you win,
it's a great year."
However, 10 wins won't make anyone wearing red and black forget the
fact that this season was supposed to end further south.
"It won't erase it," Brown said. "We didn't get there and
always going to be in the back of our head, but at least it's good that
we're disappointed in 10 wins."
Different Paths to Tampa
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