Football: remain focused

Badgers concentrating on gridiron while in Hawaii; game will feature Pac-10 officials

HONOLULU—While visiting paradise, Wisconsin is focusing on the college football game at hand.

The 24th-ranked Badgers (8-3 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) face host Hawaii (4-6, 4-4 Western Athletic Conference) Friday at 8 p.m. Central Standard Time..

Let's see. Where would you rather be for a week in November? Madison or Honolulu?

"We are going to enjoy our time out there and the experience out there," safety Joe Stellmacher said. "But our No. 1 objective is winning the game."

There are plenty of potential distractions on a tropical island, but the Badgers are treating this as a crucial game for their bowl future.

"It's going to be tough to balance because it's a break away from the cold weather," tailback Brian Calhoun said. "But people understand that we're out there to win a football game."

Following practice Wednesday, the Badgers were scheduled to visit Pearl Harbor. The team will not fly back to Madison until Sunday evening.

"I think coach (Barry Alvarez) has emphasized we're going to do some great things," linebacker Mark Zalewski said. "He's just saying that we have to take that all in and experience it. It's a great trip…. But any time it comes down to anything football-related it's all business."

A win over Hawaii, coupled with Ohio State securing a BCS at-large bid, would likely earn the Badgers a trip to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl.

Alvarez said he was not sure how much Friday's game would impact his team's postseason destination, but he felt that a nine-win season would make the Badgers attractive to bowl committees.

"I would guess that the Capital One Bowl, even if Ohio State was in the BCS, would expect us to win before they would extend an invitation," Alvarez said.

Game will feature Pac-10 officials

As a result of Hawaii's two contentious home wins over Big Ten schools last season, Wisconsin initially asked the Warriors to accept Big Ten officials for Friday's game. WAC officials customarily referee Hawaii home games. The teams settled on Pac-10 officials for Friday's game.

Last season, Northwestern and Michigan State were each called for about twice as much penalty yardage as they were accustomed to; they had a combined 235 yards in penalties marched off. The Spartans had two touchdowns wiped off the board by penalties.

The Wildcats and Spartans were highly critical of the officiating after the games, though the MSU game was refereed by a mixed WAC/Big 12 crew.

Alvarez admitted Monday that convincing WAC commissioner Karl Benson and Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier to make a switch was a "very touchy situation."

"You have to be sensitive to Karl. He's the commissioner and what do you tell your officials?" Alvarez said. "Quite frankly, all football coaches are paranoid, and so you worry if you (travel) that far, you have someone else's officials, so on and so forth. It'd be nice if you had neutral officials anytime you had inter-conference games."

Typically, the home conference's officials work non-conference games. Alvarez said, however, that the Badgers try to set up referee swaps when they schedule home-and-home non-conference series. For instance, a Big Ten crew worked the Badgers game at North Carolina this year, and an ACC crew worked the 2003 UNC-UW game in Camp Randall.

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