Opportunity Knocks

With the Badgers winning their last three games to become bowl eligible, Wisconsin knows that winning a fourth straight game and earning an important bench-mark victory would do wonders for the program heading into 2009.

MADISON – Make no mistake about it, this isn't a throw away game for Wisconsin.

In a teleconference accepting his team's bowl bid, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden mentioned that unless you are in the national championship game, the bowl game isn't as important and the pressure is off.

With Wisconsin getting a chance to salvage a disappointing season and gain a big steeping stone heading into 2009, the Badgers are looking at their second-tier bowl game as a championship game.

"It's an opportunity to have one more game," said Head Coach Bret Bielema of Wisconsin's December 27 match up against Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl. "We'll prepare as hard and as intense as we have. After what we experienced this year, the emphasis on wining is the only thing that really matters for us."

After playing SEC teams in its last five trips to Florida, including two trips to Orlando, Wisconsin will get its first chance to match up against a top-tier Florida state school, as this will be the Badgers and Seminoles first-ever meeting.

"Once (the players) heard me say Florida State, they were very excited of the opportunity," Bielema said. "I know our kids will especially be amped to have an opponent like Florida State and the type of history they have."

It's also a big deal for the 11 players that are on Wisconsin's roster and from the state of Florida and a big deal for the Badger coaches to show that, despite being far to the North, that Wisconsin is comparable and competitive with the teams in the state.

"There will be some common battles and some high school relationships," said Bielema, who acknowledged that safety Jay Valai and FSU starting quarterback Christian Ponder played on the same high school team. "Recruits are allowed to come on and view our practices and that's great for them. Bowl games allow you to showcase your program that much more."

The tough task of playing an 8-4 Florida State team in its home state wasn't on the radar a couple of weeks ago for the Badgers when they were first approached by the Florida Citrus Sports committee. Originally, the potential opponent was tossed around to be the loser of the ACC Championship game, Miami (FL) or North Carolina. After the Seminoles lost two of their last three games, including a 30-point home loss to rival Florida, FSU jumped into the picture.

"We've kind of anticipated this announcement for the better part of a week," Bielema said. "We weren't sure of the opponent but as it came closer and closer to this day, we actually did a film exchange with Florida State midway through last week and had an opportunity to get a little bit of a head start."

After the Badgers lost their first four conference games and fell to 3-4 on the season, a bowl game was the furthest thing from outsider's minds. With Wisconsin winning four of its last five games, the Badgers make a seventh straight bowl game, the longest such streak in school history.

"We were ranked number eight and hit a four game stretch where we lost some very difficult ball games," Bielema said. "I think it speaks volumes of our players and the resiliency they have. To be able to response down the stretch is a great attribute to the character that they are made out of."

More importantly, it allows the Badgers to warm up.

"If any one you have seen the forecast for Tuesday, South Florida sounds like a very nice option at this time," Bielema said of the projected single digits. "That will be a pleasure for our guys."

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