Bye Week Comes at a Good Time for UW

Climbing to No.4 in the AP poll, many in Badger Nation are wishing Wisconsin would be back out on the field Saturday to carry the momentum from its dominating victory over No.8 Nebraska. For coach Bret Bielema, taking a week off to recover and rest up is just as important.

MADISON – Even though his program's national exposure is at an all-time high following its 48-17 victory over Nebraska, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema maintained it was a good time for his program to have a bye week before preparing for Indiana on Oct.15.

Bielema and his staff were able to catch up on recruiting, get some injured players healthy, work with some developmental players Wednesday and Thursday and have an opportunity to watch the world of college football this weekend, including No.3 Oklahoma vs. No.11 Texas in Dallas.

"That game might be on the agenda," Bielema said Tuesday. "I hopefully am going to wear my remote out."

Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) has been on a steady climb in the polls since beginning No.11 with 900 points in the AP poll and No.10 in the coaches' poll with 829 points. After the rout of Nebraska, the Badgers check in No.4 with 1,266 points in the AP poll and No.5 with 1,236 points and one first-place vote in the coaches' poll.

Bielema wouldn't reveal is Wisconsin's lone first-place vote in the coaches' poll was his, citing that the votes in that poll aren't revealed until the final week of the regular season, but admitted that he is conscious of how the polls have a part in determining the participants in the BCS national championship game.

The national rankings also broke the Big Ten's old tiebreaker of determining which team to send to the Rose Bowl, a process that benefited Wisconsin over co-champion Michigan State and former co-champion Ohio State.

"In this professional, the polls matter," Bielema said. "I do think our kids, in the bigger picture, take one game at a time. That's our mentality. They also understand that if you (stay undefeated), you're sitting in a good spot any anything can happen. I continue to think our guys have gotten better every week. That's the exciting part."

Bielema also dismissed the notion that playing an extra game (the Big Ten Championship game Dec.3 in Indianapolis) would be a concern if his team has positioned itself for a berth in the national championship.

"I know there have been teams and situations in the past that teams lose that game lose that (BCS) opportunity, but the BCS is an elite level," Bielema said. "The more you can defend your right to be there, the better off everybody is."

Even though there isn't a game this week to prepare for, Bielema stressed that positioning to the team Sunday on how important this week was from a mental and physical preparation standpoint. Bielema also revealed that Wisconsin actually practiced about 45 minutes less during the Nebraska preparation week than the South Dakota prep week.

"We practiced less against a higher competition in theory and performed, in my opinion, even better," Bielema said. "That made an impression to me that it's not the volume, it's how you work and how you prepare. I made that a big point to our guys."

From the Infirmary

Wisconsin expects Shelton Johnson (calf) to be back next week and will be held out from practice this week. Bielema thought that Dezmen Southward, despite two or three mental mistakes, played a pretty good game on his 21st birthday.

"I fill out birthday cards for all the guys on our team or in the athletic department and I thought, ‘Holy cow. Here's his first start, it's his 21st birthday, all eyes (on) Nebraska,'" Bielema said. "I just kept building him up all week."

Senior right guard Kevin Zeitler's ankle injury isn't serious and he's not expected to miss any time.

"He said in the locker room that this wasn't near as bad as the other ones," Bielema said. "I don't know if we'll practice him this week, but he'll be back next week."

Tight ends Brian Wozniak (stepped on) and Jake Byrne (cramps in both hamstrings) are full go. Philip Welch came out of the game clean with his sore leg and will continue to kick PATs and field goals, as well as possibly alternate kickoffs with Alec Lerner to elevate some of the workload he's experienced.

Building Depth

Despite losing four starters (Devin Smith, Johnson, David Gilbert and Southward) off its defense, the Badgers have kept right on ticking because of the quality of depth they have at all positions. The offensive line hasn't stuttered with three different combinations in five games, Marcus Cromartie has stepped in to fill the void at cornerback and Brendan Kelly has finally put an injured past behind him to emerge as a quality starter.

After Gilbert broke his foot on last Tuesday's practice and will be out a minimum four weeks, giving Kelly his first career start, the redshirt junior had four tackles, registered a sack and forced a fumble.

"He was a little limited at first because of that hand injury and coming back off the foot injury, (he) really hasn't played football for two years," Bielema said. "He's just getting back in the swing of things and playing extremely well. He was prepared for the moment by his coach. (Defensive line coach) Charlie Partridge did a nice job getting him game ready, giving him a lot of work … He asked to work in all our developmental practices, working with the young guys, just to get more game reps in practice."

Of the 70 players on the travel roster, Bielema said 18 are seniors and nine are juniors. Through five games, the only freshman that has started is redshirt freshman Rob Havenstein at right tackle, another sign of depth.

Taylor Made

Already a two-time winner of the Big Ten defensive player of the week award this season, junior linebacker Mike Taylor earned his second award after finishing with a career-high 14 tackles, added a tackle for loss and intercepted a pass in the second quarter. Wisconsin scored on the ensuing possession to take a lead it would not relinquish. Throw in his then career-high 10 tackles last week against South Dakota, Taylor has emerged as the team's leading tackler and has been involved in a team-high two turnovers.

"Mike has been a talented football player here for the last couple years but I have seen his game grow in the last month," Bielema said. "I think he's getting coached very well by Dave Huxtable and he's buying into it. (Mike's) intelligent, very athletic and explosive. On Saturday, he really played in a showcase game."

Extra Points:Russell Wilson and Montee Ball were Wisconsin's co-offensive mvps, Taylor was the defensive mvp, Derek Landisch was the special teams mvp, Lance Baertz and Drew McAdams were co-offensive scout MVPs and Joe McNamara and Bryce Gilbert were defensive mvps … Wisconsin went through 13 periods (or 120 minutes) of developmental work Tuesday … Bielema said Ball deserves just as much attention in the Heisman talk as Wilson. ‘He hasn't had huge rushing numbers because we haven't used him for four games. His first chance to show it Saturday, he deserves all the attention I the world because that game was just as much him as it was Russell' … Bielema said Derek Watt and his '14 canoes' for shoes is a really hard worker, like his other brother J.J. Watt, and could grow into a defensive end position ... Bielema acknowledged UW is 'pretty done' for 2012 recruiting and the staff is working on 2013 and beyond this week. Wisconsin can have nine assistants out recruiting and Bielema spent all-day Monday recruiting and still has half his staff on the road. The whole staff will be on campus Wednesday and Thursday before going back on the road Friday.

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