Time to Grind

If No.9 Wisconsin only had one week to prepare for No.6 Oregon in the 98th Rose Bowl, the Badgers admit they would have some problems. With a little under a month to study, condition and prep for the Ducks' speeding offense, Wisconsin is hoping to follow a developing trend.

MADISON - Standing on the sidelines of the 2010 Rose Bowl after flying out for UW athletic director Barry Alvarez induction into the Hall of fame, UW coach Bret Bielema calls the whole experience ‘surreal.'

It was the first time he ever watched game he wasn't involved in and the first time he had been to the Rose Bowl since he was a reserve defensive tackle for Iowa in 1991. Maybe it's why Bielema remembers a lot about that game, including how Ohio State persevered through a four quarter game.

"These guys would be hard to play within a week," Bielema said referring to No.6 Oregon, Wisconsin's opponent in the 98th Rose Bowl game on January 2. "If you had a game on Saturday and you had to get ready for them, I think it would be a very difficult challenge. With the extended prep and the opportunity to kind of slow things down a little bit mentally is going to be great."

Watching the Buckeyes win 26-17 over Oregon, Bielema saw an Ohio State defense, which had 29 days to prepare, limit Oregon's high-flying offense to 20 points and nearly 200 yards below its previous season averages. After averaging 424.7 yards on 69.3 plays, the Ducks had only 260 yards on 53 plays.

Unfortunately for Oregon, it's been more of a trend than a blip on the radar.

In last year's BCS National Championship game, Auburn had 37 days to prepare for the Ducks and their nation-leading 49 points per game. The result was the Tigers holding the nation's leader in both scoring and rushing (LaMachiel James) to only 49 rushing yards and the Ducks, who scored 37 points in 11 of 12 games, to two touchdowns.

In the season opener against LSU, which had all offseason to prepare, the Tigers forced four turnovers, held James to 54 rushing yards and the Ducks to a season-low 27 points.

Throw in Oregon's 2009 season opener against Boise State, the Ducks have scored roughly four touchdowns and average 200 yards per game fewer against a Top 20 nonconference opponent than in their other games. Wisconsin enters the Rose Bowl eighth in total defense, giving up 293 yards per game.

"You have a unique preparation," said Bielema, as UW has 30 days to prepare for the game. "One point of emphasis I've made to the kids is we've got extended prep for this game, which is critical."

During prep time for the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, Bielema gleaned ahead if his team was going to play Oregon and recognize how huge the film from the LSU game would be. He watched that film first, and every game from that point forward to find what Boise State, Ohio State, Auburn and LSU have found.

Oregon's offense hasn't changed much in three seasons under head coach Chip Kelly. The Ducks are still explosive and rank third in the nation in points per game (46.2), fifth in rushing yards per game (295.7) and lead the country in yards per rush (6.53).

It's a challenge test, and a reason why Bielema is going outside his practice routine. Instead of the usual 22- or 24-period practice, all practices leading up to the Rose Bowl have been 18 periods or less with six of the 14 practices having post-practice conditioning work.

It's designed to make the Badgers work crisper and faster, and possibly continue the recent trend of stopping the Ducks with plenty of time to observe.

"For this game, with maybe these shorter practices, we will emphasize conditioning at the end of practice," said Bielema, "to kind of simulate the speed of the game and have them be in condition for that type of offense."


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