Big Ten teleconference: Barry Alvarez

Wisconsin coach discussed playoffs, his secondary and preparing as an unbeaten team

Opening statement

"We try to take advantage of our open date. Work on some fundamentals. But, more importantly, get some guys healed up. Let the rest of the football team recharge their batteries. We got back on the field yesterday and had a good workout in preparation for Minnesota."

A 12th team and a conference championship game would probably bring a lot of money to the conference but it seems like most coaches would not be in favor of that. What are your feelings?

"I think there has been continued talk about a 12th team. I think there is certainly potential for that somewhere down the road. I don't necessarily think that because we have a 12th team that a playoff game within you conference is necessary and I wouldn't be in favor of that right now."

Is that because it would water down the regular seasons schedule?

"I think so and just listening to some of the other coaches who were involved in conference playoff games before bowl games, I don't hear a lot of positive things coming out of them. Unless you are a team like a Kansas State last year that had three losses, had a chance to get into a conference championship game. Next thing you know they are playing in a BCS game."

Kyle Orton has not been the same since playing your team….Bret Bielema said that when you guys go against quarterbacks you not only try to obviously shake them up physically but mentally by showing them different looks. I wonder how good this defense is at doing that?

"I thought in that game in particular because we felt going that he really read coverages, had presnap reads, did such a good job of it, always knew where to go with the ball. I thought our guys really tied it together very well. Bret and his staff did a nice job of preparing our guys and knowing how much time they would have to disguise. And then make the quarterback go through mental gymnastics after the snap rather than prior to the snap."

Could you tell us a little bit about your secondary? It looks like your secondary has been really coming along this year.

"They have, and it's a veteran group. Scott Starks has really gained a lot of confidence. I thought from midseason on last year played extremely well. He picked up where he left off, has given us tremendous leadership also. Jimmy Leonhard has been a four-year player for us and an outstanding player for the last three years. He picked up where he left off. Really gets us lined up and is very intelligent as far as getting everyone adjusted and that type thing. Robert Brooks is a young man who really has matured quite a bit and become a physical safety for us. Brett Bell, who was playing very well last year prior to being injured, has had a very good season. That is one section of our team I think is overlooked a little. We've had a lot of attention, and rightfully so, on our defensive front but the secondary has played exceptionally well."

Does the fact that you guys have played well as a unit, does that cut down on Leonhard's interceptions?

"Possibly. It's hard to put a finger on it. Maybe he hasn't had as many opportunities as he had early on. I think the best year he had was his sophomore year, when he led the nation in interceptions. Maybe they were testing out the little guy in the back end early on."

If the season plays out as it is right now, your team would not be in the Orange Bowl. Does that bother you or is the Rose Bowl still your team's ultimate goal?

"I really don't put a lot of thought into it. That's kind of the way I've tried to train this team into thinking. There's so much can go on between now and then. All I know is this: you keep winning, good things happen."

Do you think that if there are three undefeated teams at the end of the season, or I guess there could be four, might that push the presidents towards a playoffs?

"I doubt it. I wouldn't be in favor of a playoff."

How do you negotiate being undefeated, sort of having that target on your back, week-in and week-out at this point? In a game like Saturday, when it's a rival and the Axe is at stake and everything, does that kind of fall by the wayside?

"I think in both cases, what we try to do is take care of ourselves and concentrate on what we do and how we play and how we prepare. It doesn't have any baring worrying about or anticipating how your opponent is going to play. We just try to prepare and prepare as well as we possibly can. We've played for that Axe and there is a lot of tradition and history in college football that goes along with it. We've tried to make it important, because it is important. I think it's important to college football to continue those and make them mean something."

Do you think it's inevitable with the way college football is, with the money and that type of thing, that there will be a conference championship game eventually?

"I don't think it's inevitable… I don't think, I haven't heard a lot of talk about that. I don't think it's something that you look down the road and say, ‘this is going to happen.' I don't believe that."

You've talked before that maybe it affects how you play in a bowl, is your objection also the idea that players are put under pressure and one extra game is unnecessary?

"I think players like to play. If you have a great year, they want to play more. We've just done a survey with players in our league on the 12th game. I just saw the results of ours and it's overwhelming that they want to play a 12th game. They want to play. They like to play. I just have some other thoughts as far as a playoff game that I just don't think you have to have one."


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