After starting the season 0-for-2 on fourth down, Wisconsin's Head Coach is a perfect 5-for-5 on his extra decisions, gutsy play calls that have come at opportune times over the last three games for No.6 Wisconsin.
Against Iowa, the Badgers (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) were a perfect 3-for-3 on the down, including a fake punt by Brad Nortman that went 17 yards on fourth-and-four from the 26. That helped springboard UW, down 30-24, to march 80 yards in 15 plays for the game-winning score.
Against Purdue, Bielema dialed up a John Clay handoff on fourth-and-one inside the Purdue 10. After the two-yard gain moved the chains, Wisconsin connected on a touchdown pass, went up 13-10 and never looked back.
"You don't want to call a particular game-changing decision unless you have a pretty good idea it's going to have a success," Bielema said. "I don't have much doubt when I run John Clay behind Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt. To me, that's pretty good decision making."
Bielema said after the game Saturday that his ability to anticipate has been a big benefit to his comfort level. Earlier in the game, Bielema decided to kick a field goal on fourth-and-one from Purdue 23. Philip Welch missed the ensuing field goal, but felt that the Badgers were in rhythm or in-sync enough to roll the dice.
"If you sit there and try to make moment decisions, you're going to get yourself in trouble," Bielema said. "One of great advices I got from Coach (Alvarez) when I became a coordinator was after you are done with your series, you thought about the next series. If you had a third-and-long or a third-and-short, what were you going to anticipate calling? As a head coach, you have to be ahead on both sides of the ball. That's been the best thing for me."
Still, Bielema recognizing that opinions can change in an instant.
"Because they work their bold," Bielema said. "I am sure you would have a different adjective if they didn't work."
A week after Wisconsin was without freshman James White the Badgers might be without junior running back John Clay. Bielema said Clay is questionable for Saturday's game against Indiana with a sprained right knee even though tests came back negative following a 34-13 win over Purdue.
Clay was hurt early in the second half after getting hit on the knee on that fourth-and-one play and wanted to come back in the game, but decided not to risk it after Montee Ball turned in another successful performance.
"He was actually trying to get back in the ball game there late, but (we) just didn't feel where he was at that we needed to do that," Bielema said. "We'll see exactly where he's at as the week moves through. The MRIs came back and didn't even look as bad as possibly James' from a week ago, so there is a chance for him this week."
"Billy has been exceptional, really playing three positions," Bielema said. "I think we'll probably move full-go with him because I don't think Pete is going to be ready until Thursday-Friday. We'll just kind of make that move and move ourselves forward.
"It's been nice to move him in there. I know John Moffitt can (play center), but I would rather just interrupt one position than multiple."
While Wisconsin keeps moving up in the human polls, the Badgers aren't experiencing the same experience in the computer rankings.
Coupled with wins over UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State and FCS-member Austin Peay, four schools with a combined record of 8-28, none of the computer polls has Wisconsin higher than eighth. Coincidentally, the Badgers rank fifth in both the Coaches' Poll and Harris Poll, the other two factors to the BCS formula.
"I realize somebody's got to program (the computers), so you wonder what is going through there, exactly how they come up with their formulas," Bielema said.
The end result is Wisconsin ranking seventh in the BCS, but the Badgers are the highest of four Big Ten teams ranked in the top 13. Still, it's an important place to be currently for Wisconsin.
If Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin all finished with identical 11-1 marks, the automatic qualifier from the conference would be the team ranked highest in the BCS standings because the Spartans and Buckeyes didn't play each other. Only Wisconsin and No. 2 Auburn have two wins over teams currently ranked 15th or higher in the BCS poll, another factor in UW being ranked higher in the human polls.
The current situation gives Wisconsin an inside road to the school's first Rose Bowl appearance since 2000, but Bielema said that would quickly change with a slip up in the final three weeks of the season.
"None of that matters," Bielema said. "I know it's something to write about, and something I would be asked about, but our kids know that the way they played the first half last week, if they repeat that in the second half, we wouldn't even be having these discussions. So that's the important thing that always holds true."
Running for 127 yards and two touchdowns after filling in for Clay, sophomore Montee Ball was named Wisconsin's Offensive Player of the Game.
"Another great job by him in getting himself prepared and stepping in there," Bielema said. "When John went down in the second half, I can't say enough about Montee. Montee was really special again."
Wisconsin awarded Defensive MVPs to Patrick Butrym, who registered five solo tackles, and Antonio Fenelus, who matched a career high with nine tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown and recovered a fumble.
"Antonio played really, really well, playing confident," Bielema said. "Patrick probably had the best game of his career up to his point. He really did a nice job getting off blocks and making plays."
Extra Points: Wisconsin's Big Ten Conference game at 11 a.m. Saturday against visiting Indiana will be on ESPN2, league officials announced … Bielema is named one of 15 finalists for the inaugural Joseph V. Paterno Award for Coach of the Year and J.J. Watt has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the 2010 Chuck Bednarik Award … Bielema made another plea to the UW students to show up early and bring the intensity for the kickoff with the Hoosiers.