Bielema excited for "tremendous opportunity"

The Big Ten Coach of the Year spoke to the media Tuesday about the Capital One Bowl, which the Badgers accepted an invitation to for the second consecutive season.

Big Ten football Coach of the Year Bret Bielema spoke to the media on Tuesday night about his award and his team's berth in the Capital One Bowl – the Badgers' second consecutive trip to Orlando upcoming on January 1.

For anyone lamenting the fact that BCS rules prohibit the Badgers from earning what in many years might have been a Rose Bowl bid, Bielema stressed the positives for his team and Wisconsin fans.

The upside according to Bielema includes the fact that Wisconsin will again get a highly-ranked SEC opponent – either Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU or Tennessee depending how the remainder of the SEC season works out.

"I don't think that our players will be disappointed in anyway to go to a January 1 bowl game," Bielema said. "That was one of our goals to start the season, however that came about.

"I know our kids will run to Orlando if we ask them to just to get a chance to put on the pads again."

Wisconsin fans will also have six weeks in advance to potentially make travel plans. A year ago much attention was given to the fact that a game at Hawaii in November contributed to a lower exodus to Orlando. But the Badgers' success last year in a 24-10 win over Auburn combined with the lack of a distant road trip this season figure to possibly result in a greater showing the second time around.

The defending Capital One Bowl champs will be staying at the same hotel and practicing at the same facilities as they did a year ago in preparation for what they hope will be a similar outcome. Until then, Bielema will use the extra time afforded to Big Ten schools to sit back and watch his potential opponent – whoever that might be.

"I can guarantee you that our video department will have a few more VCRs on to record certain games," Bielema said.

Sultan of the sideline

In a season in which both Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Michigan's Lloyd Carr put together campaigns worthy of coaching honors, it was a rookie head coach and his performance with a team scarcely mentioned as a preseason contender that earned the conference reward.

Bielema, who thought Tressel would garner the award but was pleasantly surprised by the outcome, first called his parents and then the man he succeeded – two-time fellow award-winner Barry Alvarez.

"It's a tremendous honor, and it's something I'll carry with me for a long time," Bielema said. "But really it's reflective of what our team has been able to do and our staff."

He also touched on how it meant a lot to Alvarez, who may have been on the receiving end of some criticism at first for putting his faith in a young, relatively untested coach. The smooth passing of the torch no doubt aided the process for Bielema.

"I think our guys have bought into a system – not only our players but our coaches,' Bielema said.

Honors and snubs

The media and coaches each selected two Badgers to the All-Big Ten Conference First Team on Tuesday. On the coaches' side, Joe Thomas and Jack Ikegwuono each earned honors, and on the media side it was Thomas and P.J. Hill.

While Matt Shaughnessy, Roderick Rogers, Taylor Mehlhaff and Travis Beckum also made at least one of the lists for second team, many others were selected as honorable mentions – including John Stocco, Jonathan Casillas, Marcus Coleman, Allen Langford, Joe Stellmacher, Eric Vandenheuvel, Ken Debauche, Jason Chapman and Mark Zalewski.

Bielema expressed the opinion that Thomas – selected as a finalist for the Outland Trophy awarded to the nation's top offensive lineman – deserved to be named offensive lineman of the year in the Big Ten. That award went to Jake Long of Michigan, who was not selected as an Outland finalist.

Bielema also felt that the lack of preseason name recognition might have played a factor in people like Beckum not getting higher honors than they did.

Despite all of that, however, Bielema stressed that the reason his team is 11-1 on the season is not because of individual honors, but a team effort encapsulated by a Joe Stellmacher quote that caught his eye and that he reemphasized to his team.

"It's amazing what a team can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit," Bielema repeated. "That's what we're all about."

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