Alvarez excited for New Year's opportunity

Badger football team headed to Tampa for the third time in coach's tenure

The lingering pain of the University of Wisconsin football team's regular-season ending two-game losing streak is subsiding, Badger football coach Barry Alvarez said Tuesday in a press conference held a few hours after it was announced that his team had accepted a bid to play in the 2005 Outback Bowl.

"Let's face it, when you go to the 11th game of the season and you have an opportunity to win your league and represent your league in the Rose Bowl and you don't do that then naturally you are disappointed," said Alvarez, whose team was one win away from Pasadena. "Yet it takes about three days to get out of your system and sit back and reflect a little of where you were and what your team has accomplished this year and realize you're playing in a Jan. 1 bowl in a warm weather state against a very quality opponent.

"Then your juices start flowing again. You start getting ready to break down the film and get ready to go. I'm sure our players will come back and be excited about participating in the bowl."

There will be a pause before the Badgers return to break down film or do anything else football related, for that matter. The team has this week off and Alvarez said most of players will travel home for the holiday weekend either Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The Badgers will condition with the team's strength and conditioning staff Monday through Thursday next week, then begin practicing on weekends and around the university's upcoming exam schedule, before traveling to Tampa, Fla., in time for the team's first on-site bowl practice Dec. 26. The game kicks off at 11 a.m. Eastern time on Jan. 1.

The time off should benefit the Badgers. Star tailback Anthony Davis has battled injuries nearly the entire season and did not play in UW's 30-7 loss at Iowa Saturday. Ends Erasmus James and Jonathan Welsh have not been 100 percent for weeks.

"I'd like to think if our better players are playing at 100 percent that we should be a better team," Alvarez said.

Wisconsin's first bowl practice in Madison will take place Dec. 4. At that point, the Badgers will still be waiting for a dance partner. The Outback Bowl has the third selection from the Big Ten and SEC, but the latter conference cannot be sorted out until after the Dec. 4 conference title game between No. 3 Auburn and No. 15 Tennessee.

Alvarez said Outback Bowl Chairman Jim McVay told him that the Volunteers and No. 8 Georgia were the most likely SEC teams for the game.

"He felt that it might be Georgia or a Tennessee," Alvarez said. "Those two were strong contenders, possible opponents for us."

Wisconsin has not enjoyed a great deal of success against the SEC with a 2-6-1 all-time mark against the league. The Badgers are 0-2 versus the SEC in Alvarez's tenure, with a 33-6 loss to Georgia in the 1998 Outback Bowl and a 28-14 loss to Auburn in last season's Music City Bowl.

"They are very good teams. A lot of speed, excellent athletes. I look forward to playing against them," Alvarez said.

In addition to the '98 Outback Bowl, Wisconsin visited Tampa for the 1995 Holiday Bowl, the pre-corporate sponsor version of the current New Year's Day game. The Badgers beat Duke 34-20 in that game.

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