Badgers have a lot to play for

UW's basketful of incentives: Alvarez's final game, senior day, beating Iowa, January bowl berth…

Shortly after his team's 35-14 loss to Penn State last week, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez stated emphatically how much the Badgers still had riding on this season.

UW's loss eliminated the team from contention for the Big Ten's automatic BCS berth. But plenty of the Badgers goals are still within reach.

"Let me tell you something: Our goals haven't changed," Alvarez said. "We can knock three of them off next week and reach every goal that we set. And one of them is a Jan. [2] bowl game. And I think if we win next week we have a chance to play in one… I just told the players this does not affect our goals one iota. It all comes down to the last ballgame at home against Iowa."

The three goals that can be ticked off the list with a win this Saturday? Beating Iowa, finishing undefeated at home and securing an invitation to a January bowl game. The latter goal depends on the predilections of the bowl selection committees, namely for the Capitol One and Outback games, who have the first and second Big Ten selections after the BCS fills its slots. No. 19-ranked UW (8-2 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) would be just about guaranteed, however, of receiving a bid to one of those bowls with a win over Iowa (5-4, 3-3) Saturday.

"There's still a whole bunch on the line," left tackle Joe Thomas said. "We still got two more games before a bowl. We got a chance to still win 10 games in the regular season…. If some things happen right might still have a chance at a Big Ten title."

The amount at stake in Saturday's game is reason No. 1 why the Badgers do not expect to any carryover effect from last week's loss.

The three aforementioned goals, chosen back in fall training camp, are being balanced against the more emotion-laced backdrops for Saturday's game: Senior day and Alvarez's final home game as Wisconsin's coach after 16 seasons at the helm.

"I think (Alvarez has) done a good job of staying focused and helping us stay focused and just playing football," junior quarterback John Stocco said. "That's something as players we think about. We want to send him out on a good note. We've got a huge game this week."

"It's a lot going on," senior linebacker Dontez Sanders said. "We still have a chance to win 10 games this year. That would be huge for us. Coach Alvarez's last game, seniors' last game. My parents going to be out there… We are still playing for a lot. We still have goals that we could obtain: Undefeated at home, beating Iowa and going to a Jan. [2] bowl."

Alvarez and the Badger players and assistant coaches have, all season long, kept Alvarez's final season on the back burner, choosing to focus instead on their day-to-day tasks. That has been the case again this week, but players acknowledged it will be a little more difficult Saturday.

"We go by the theme it's another game," Sanders said. "But it's really not. It's a bunch of things going on. But we going to try to keep that mind frame to just go out there and just play it."

"(Alvarez is) business-like. He's just such a classy guy," Stocco said. "We all have a lot of respect for him. And (it is) his last home game so we just have to be at our absolute best and come out and play with a lot of emotion…

"He's got to have a lot of emotions going through him right now I would think. I think as players we have to—we're going to be excited too but I think we have to think of it like that, as just another game too. Cause we can't do anything crazy. We just got to do the same things we've been doing all year."

"(It is) the last time that I'll walk behind Coach Alvarez through that tunnel," senior receiver Brandon Williams said. "I'm pretty sure it will be a lot of emotion. But that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing… Most of our team, the guys on this team, we play with a lot of emotion. So I think that will just help more than hurt it."

With so much going into Saturday's game with Iowa, it is easier for the Badgers to forget about last week's defeat in State College, Pa.

"I think it helps a lot. But this team, we're very resilient," Williams said. "We lose, we lose. We win, we happy about our win, but we are looking forward because we have goals and bigger things.

"But I think that this team will definitely bounce back. Senior day is always big. Last home game is always big. We don't want to lose. With a lot of young guys on the team they haven't experienced (losing) that much so… it just goes right past them."

"This is a competitive group," Alvarez said after the PSU game. "Just because you lose a game doesn't mean you fold the tent. Now, some people might do that. I think these kids have shown they've been resilient. Why would they (fold)? There's just too much riding on it. I would guess that they'll bounce back. I told them already what they're playing for. They're smart enough to realize that and they'll compete."

Williams has no doubt that the Badgers can bounce back.

"We still playing for a lot. We still got some goals to meet…. Camp Randall will be rocking as usual…

"There's no doubt in my mind. We'll be ready. This team is resilient. We play to the end and the season's not over. So we're still playing."

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