Notes: It's All in the Preparation

Getting another Rose Bowl opportunity after falling two points short against TCU last season, Coach Bret Bielema and No.9 Wisconsin, less than two weeks removed from winning back-to-back Big Ten Championships, will start preparation for No.6 Oregon on Friday.

MADISON - When one reporter said Wisconsin has lost three of its last four bowl games, head coach Bret Bielema mentioned he was being selective in numbers, pointing out that the sixth year coach has been in five bowl games with a 2-3 record.

"We can go three of the last four if that's what we want to do," Bielema said with a smile.

In the world of college football, Bielema should know it's always the ‘what have you done for me lately?' model, and he would be the first to agree that No.9 Wisconsin is likely a BCS bowl victory away from taking the next step forward as a program after winning back-to-back Big Ten Championships.

When the Badgers kick off against No.6 Oregon in the 98th Rose Bowl on January 2, it will represent a number of things for UW. First, it will be the Badgers' first opportunity to win a BCS game since beating Stanford in Pasadena in 2000. Second, it will allow the seniors and underclassmen the unique ability to make up for last year's 21-19 loss to No.3 TCU.

Lastly, it will represent just a 29-day window to prepare following Wisconsin's victory in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, the shortest in Bielema's tenure for a January bowl.

"A lot goes in to bowl prep and I take a lot of pride in what we are doing," Bielema said. "It does get down to just not game day, but the 48 hours leading into it. Are the guys locked in? What are they thinking about? Who are they spending time with and where are their minds at? There might be a kid I am looking at to be a valuable player on special teams that might be thinking about transferring out in January to get more playing time.

"You just don't know where kids' minds are but something we want to make sure we have on the right track this year."

Wisconsin (11-2) spent last weekend putting the first team offenses against each other and going through some developmental work before his team jumps into preparation for Oregon (11-2) Friday, one day before the school starts its final exams. Bielema doesn't plan to make major changes to the preparation schedule after analyzing what he has done in past seasons and what other coaches around the country have done to prepare for postseason play.

"One of the things I pride myself on is trying to gather as much information about teams that have success," Bielema said. "I talk to a lot of coaches out of season to get their bowl prep itinerary. A lot of people are always wanting our (prep schedule) for the success that we've had.

"It might sound silly but when a team gets whacked, I'll try to say, ‘Hey, can I get your bowl prep or see how you guys went about it?' I want to find out what they did so I make sure we don't do that. Our kids are so unique that Wisconsin preparation, even throughout the course of the year, is very, very different than normal college preparation. The way we practice, the physicality of it and the way we do it, we're probably not similar in a lot of ways (to many schools)."

Bielema had his staff on the road recruiting Tuesday through Thursday after keeping them in the office since Friday starting Oregon preparation. Bielema called it balance good teams have to struggle with and that the key for the UW coaching staff is watching Oregon film from games where the Ducks' opponents do similar things like Wisconsin.

According to Bielema, those games would be Stanford and a little bit of LSU from an offensive standpoint and USC, Arizona State and Washington from a defensive standpoint.

"There a team that likes to move a lot and do different things (on defense) that presents its own problems," said Bielema. "It's definitely unique to us. There are bits and pieces that you take that are similar to the Big Ten, but not a team you can wholesale sell that to. On the flip side of it, there offense is very, very unique in what they do and the speed that they play in. It will be a challenge in all three phases."

Bielema pointed to the NCAA rule that if one team makes a substitution, the other team has to be allowed to make a substitution, something he said UW will likely take advantage of, and just like in the past preparing for no-huddle units, the coaching staff plans to use multiple scout teams against the first-team defense with an added emphasis on speed.

"I think it's going to be good because now it's a multi-week preparation, so I think our scouts will get better at it," said Bielema. "When we go down there to Pasadena, we'll have eight bowl prep of Oregon and really snap our guys into that tempo and the conditioning needed to do it."

From the Infirmary

After missing the last three games with a knee injury, junior center Peter Konz will likely return to practice next week.

"We're gathering some information for him as well as getting a second opinion out there for him because he has a lot out there," said Bielema, "not only in the next couple weeks with us but for future (NFL) decisions."

Konz is the only key player injured heading into the Rose Bowl, but the status of sophomore quarterback Jon Budmayr heading into next season has become a little more serious. Originally slated to be the starter before quarterback Russell Wilson transferred, Budmayr has suffered through a rash of injuries, including suffered nerve damage to his throwing elbow that required surgery.

Projected to be ready for spring football, Budmayr's future is again in question after another potentially serious setback on Sunday.

"He was going at a level where they were kind of pitch-counting his throws during the course of the day," Bielema said of Budmayr, who will have a doctor's appointment scheduled for Thursday. "Everything was going good until about Sunday. It took a turn for the worse … I don't know if we can use him during bowl prep. It's just such a difficult year for Jon."

The injured quarterback on the roster – junior Curt Phillips – continues to make strides after recovering from his third ACL surgery in approximately 13 months and should be a part of spring practices.

"He's made positive strides," Bielema said. "He's a little bit ahead of schedule so that's a positive note."

Opening Another QB Door

Following recruiting visits to Kansas and Delaware, former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist is expected to visit the University of Wisconsin by the end of the week, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Crist remains interested in Wisconsin, which did not recruit him initially out of Sherman Oaks, California, which is in the marked for a quarterback pending the departure of the one-and-done Wilson after the Rose Bowl and with Budmayr battling more injuries.

"Every year I get transfer requests and any time you are a program that's had success you are going to naturally get that," said Bielema, who said recently that as many as 10 players have inquired about transferring to Madison. "It's twofold. It's from kids that you formally recruited that are at someplace else that maybe all the glitter and gold during recruiting isn't reality now. You get them reaching out to you.

"The other way is … because of Russell's success and the ease in which it happened. I'd be lying to you if I said people haven't inquired about that same type of scenario."

It's evident that Bielema in some way is referring to Crist, who is scheduled to graduate from Notre Dame later this month, and can take advantage of the same NCAA rule that benefited Wilson by being able to play immediately after transferring so long as he enrolls in a graduate program Notre Dame does not offer.

Crist, who committed to Notre Dame over offers from Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Oregon, Stanford and USC to name a few, has one season of eligibility remaining after starting nine games in 2010 before a season-ending patellar tendon tear (coming a year after he required reconstructive surgery on a torn ACL) and playing in just four games this season.

The flip side is that the bar was set pretty high by Wilson, a first-team all-Big Ten pick, the league's top quarter, the league's championship game MVP and ninth in the Heisman balloting, and that the move might not always work out that well.

"I suppose there is a point and counterpoint to everything," said Bielema.

Extra Points: Bielema said Montee Ball and Konz are the two juniors that have filed paperwork with the NFL's draft advisory board. Ball said previously he would leave UW is he received a first or second round grade … Nick Toon, Russell Wilson and Kevin Zeitler have all been invited to play in the annual Senior Bowl and Bielema said that typically earns them an invite to the NFL Combine … Bielema said Paul Chryst was asked to interview for a vacant head coaching job prior to UW's Big Ten title game against Michigan State. According to Bielema, Chryst said he wouldn't do it until after that game. That job opening was reportedly Illinois … Bielema said he and his staff can learn some things of how LSU in the season opener and Ohio State in the Rose Bowl two years ago were able to slow down Oregon with advance preparation.


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