Preparing for Teams, Not Divisions

Even with a couple changes to the depth chart, the Badgers, hosting an FCS opponent this week, are once again faced with scheduling questions. With no FBS non-conference opponents on the schedule, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema explains the reasoning behind the match-ups and the challenge of bringing top opponents to Madison.

MADISON - With the constant battle the Badgers have of scheduling BCS opponents for home match-ups, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has gone on record numerous times saying how difficult it has been to schedule power-conference opponents for a home game in Camp Randall, where the Badgers have won 32 of 35 games dating to the start of the 2004 season.

For that reason alone, potential match-ups with Oregon State and Texas have fallen by the wayside, forcing the Badgers to scramble to fill opponents, which recently have been filled with teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA).

"We prepare to play teams, not divisions," Bielema said during his Monday News Conference. "We do as much as we can to beat the opponent in front of us. What I look forward to Saturday is an improvement from a week ago."

Even so, that hasn't stopped Wisconsin fans from grumbling about the lack of luster or excitement a FCS matchup brings. Over Bielema's tenure, the Badgers, who are required to have seven home games per season, have already played three FCS opponents (Western Illinois in 2006, The Citadel in 2007, Cal Poly in 2008) and have a scheduled match-ups with South Dakota in 2011.

Although Wisconsin isn't the only school to schedule games against FCS opponents, the Badgers' 2009 non-conference schedule is put in a precarious spot since it is devoid of a BCS opponent.

Bielema made mentioned that top-ranked Florida opened the season against Charleston Southern (who Wofford beat 42-14 last week), but are playing Florida State in a couple weeks. With the Badgers having a undisclosed team back out of a three-for-one agreement early in Bielema's coaching tenure, Wisconsin was put literally behind schedule over the past few seasons.

"One of the things that became difficult for us this year was not having a BCS team on our schedule," Bielema said. " I think if you have a BCS team on your schedule and one at home every year guaranteed, then they'll look at (your non-conference schedule) a little differently."

Although FCS opponents will continue to appear on Wisconsin's non-conference schedule, the Badgers have tentative home-and-home and two-for-one match-ups with Arizona State, Washington State, Arizona and Virginia Tech in the upcoming season, including a home game against Arizona State scheduled for next season.

"My goal is what we all want, I want as good of schedule as we can have that's also a manageable schedule because of the Big Ten schedule that lays in front of us. It's a work in progress."

Clay to Start

After finishing with a career-high 143 yards on 21 carries, including an energizing 72-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that give UW its first lead of the day, sophomore John Clay is set to make his first college start this week.

More importantly, Bielema is eager to see how the redshirt sophomore from Racine responds.

"John is a momentum guy, as much as you like for him to be the guy that starts the momentum," Bielema said. "Hopefully he can be that …What we'd like to do is see how he takes the reigns and see where he goes."

Clay moved ahead of junior Zach Brown who rushed 14 times for 51 yards in the season opener and nine times for 40 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown run, against Fresno State. However, Brown didn't have any carries in the fourth quarter or overtime, leading the Badgers to make the switch.

"Not that anything is disappointing in Zach," Bielema said. "We just felt with John, with the momentum he gave us, (we) made the most of it."

Bielema also went more in-depth about the game-changing play that Clay got the credit for.

"When I watch that film from behind, there's a center getting up to the next level, there's are two guards on both sides that are on their right men, there are two tackles, including a tight end on the backside, with great cut off, great footwork by John Clay, snap, exchange, handoff, we have David (Gilreath) going behind him in motion on a play that's had success, that play from an offensive conceptual standpoint, was as pretty as it could be," Bielema said. "That's a Bo Derek, it looked great."

Fixing Problems

UW committed several pre-snap penalties, including two in the first quarter, and were penalized seven times for 66 yards. Scott Tolzien was called for delay of game after a Fresno State kickoff, and wide receiver Nick Toon was called for a false start, which forced UW into a third and 14.

"We have to take care of (that) on the sideline and those things have been addressed," Bielema said. "We don't want to see that pop up ever again."

Bielema also mentioned that his coaching staff needs to do a better job of preparing guys to fill in a certain positions. When Isaac Anderson went down with cramping issues, Toon filled his spot despite not having any reps at the spot throughout the week, causing him to be aligned improperly.

"We either have to stay away from that call or make sure Nick is in tune with what we need to get done," Bielema said.

Time for Conference Opener Set

The Big Ten announced Monday that Wisconsin's football game against Michigan State at Camp Randall Stadium on Sept. 26 has been given an 11 a.m. CT kickoff time. The game will air live on either ESPN or ESPN2.

The Badgers trail in the series 27-20 and 13-12 in games played in Madison. UW has won the previous two games played in Madison, but fell to the Spartans 25-24 last season in East Lansing on a last-second field goal.

Wisconsin was penalized 12 times for 121 yards, including a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Bielema midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Spartans first down in UW territory. Michigan State outscored Wisconsin 12-0 the remainder of a game.

Extra Points

Garrett Graham and John Clay were named co-offensive MVP, Chris Maragos (second straight week) was named defensive MVP, Phillip Welch and David Gilreath were co-special teams MVP, Tyler Holland was offensive scout team MVP and Leonard Hubbard and Kyle Zuleger was defensive scout team MVP … Bielema stated that two new flu cases popped up Sunday, but he believes the Badgers are through the majority of the virus … Travis Frederick is day-to-day with a sprained right ankle and is walking with a boot for protection. He is questionable for Saturday, meaning Peter Konz is now listed as the first-string center.


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