With the Badgers – now ranked eighth in both major polls – having their first in-season bye week since 2001, Wisconsin's goal this week is to start developing younger players by having the underclassmen scrimmage on Tuesday and to get a jump on some recruiting, as Badger assistant coaches are traveling on Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
"It's a balance between getting better, getting a jump on Michigan and also getting healthy," Bielema said in his Monday news conference. "I think those three things were what we looked at as a coaching staff. I made a little joke with the guys that this should be the easiest 1-0 week of the year. If we don't win this, we've got problems."
Kidding aside, the Badgers' main focus is Michigan and the opening of the Big Ten season. In its 113th conference season, Wisconsin is 25-27-3 on the road and will be going to a facility where the Badgers have not won at since 1994.
While it can be argued that this isn't the same Michigan program that has beaten Wisconsin four-straight times in Ann Arbor (UM has been ranked in the top 15 in each of the last four meetings), Bielema realizes that Michigan has got a lot of good football players, many of which he and his staff recruited.
"We have an opportunity to get a jump on Michigan, correct our mistakes and expand our packages just because we have more of a preparation time," Bielema said. "One thing Michigan has got is good players. Obviously there are new schemes and the kids are getting acclimated. Anytime you turn the ball over as many times as they did, you're going to have issues and that's what happened to them in their game. I am sure that will be a big emphasis in all phases for them."
After giving up 33 sacks a season ago, the Badgers, offensively, are protecting the quarterback, as neither Allan Evridge, Dustin Sherer of Scott Tolzien have fallen victim to a sack in three games this season.
Although the Badgers are passing less than they were last year (Wisconsin averaged 26.7 passes per game in 2007 and 21 so far in 2008), Bielema attributed that success to offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who had done a stellar job with the blocking schemes for the offensive line.
"I think it's a combination of our offensive line and by our offense knowing where the ball needs to go and not taking a sack," Bielema said. "I can't say enough about Bob Bostad and what he's been able to do from a scheme-protection standpoint. It's a huge jump from where we were a year ago about giving up pressures."
In three years under Bielema, Wisconsin has stuck to the non-conference format of three home games and one road game. Throw out the 2004 and 2005 seasons and that format has been Wisconsin's routine since 2000. Currently for next season, Wisconsin has two home games (Central Florida and Fresno State) and two road games (Hawaii and Northern Illinois) but Bielema hinted that next year's schedule is pretty close to being completed.
Currently the only open date on the schedule is September 19, the third week of the season. With home and home series scheduled in the near future with BCS Schools Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State, Wisconsin feels the Badgers will continue to play testing opponents.
"I've had several national radio spots the past couple weeks and they couldn't believe that we would make such a tough non-conference schedule," Bielema said. "I wanted to (call) several of you guys to understand and appreciate. To play a ranked opponent on the road that was a bold challenge and something we can continue in the future."
Bielema also hinted that Wisconsin is looking for another road game in the future that isn't too far from Madison to test his team but not make the circumstances so overtly challenging and that he wouldn't be opposed to playing Fresno State again, contingent on a few changes to the contract.
"One thing that we would probably work into is either having neutral or switching officials," Bielema said. "When these contracts were being written, it was common place for the home team to have host officials strictly based on cost. That's what has evolved now. When we played Marshall, we had neutral officials. I think that's a good way to do it."
Aaron Henry got treatment on Sunday and is still hoping to play against Michigan.
"We'll wait and see what he gets done this week and I know he's been itching to get back for the Michigan week and preparation," Bielema said. "We'll see what he can do."
Allan Evridge's leg issue was just cramps and he's fine.
Jae McFadden injured his hand in the first half and came back with it wrapped in a club in the second half. Bielema did not specify the injury, only to say he'll have surgery this week and be back for practice by Tuesday next week and that it will have to be cast in some form.
Jason Chapman dealt with cramping and some ligament damage to his hand. He'll get a cast and be ready to play by Michigan, according to Bielema.
Players of the Week
Offense – P.J. Hill
"Although he didn't get in the end zone," Bielema said, "I don't know if I have seen him play better with the way he handled the game and how things came at him and obviously hang onto the ball."
"He was outstanding in the game," Bielema said. "Obviously (he) created the big play (for us on the interception)."
Bielema did not give out a special teams most valuable player.
"There were a lot of OK performances but nobody still out above the rest," Bielema said.