MADISON – If you think this is a trip to the beach, think again. While the Badgers spent the week off after ending the Big Ten season on a sour note, Hawaii, needing five wins in its last five games to become bowl eligible, won its fourth straight with a 24-17 victory over Navy.
With the Warriors playing for a bowl game on senior day, it's something that the University of Wisconsin can't overlook.
"It's a very emotional day and they'll have a lot riding on it," UW coach Bret Bielema said Sunday.
The game against Hawaii, which will be officiated by a Pac 10 officiating crew (part of the stipulation Wisconsin had in the contract when the game was moved) is starting to be a growing trend of Big Ten schools playing games after Thanksgiving. In addition to Wisconsin's game with Hawaii, Illinois and head coach Ron Zook scheduled two non-conference games after Thanksgiving, losing to No.5 Cincinnati Saturday and hosting Fresno State this weekend.
"Just within our conference, certain people have talked to us about playing a game later because there are no parameters if you mutually agree on a date to move it," Bielema said. "We'll see what kind of success we have."
Bielema is in favor of the move, especially if it's a rivalry game and all the hype a game like that brings to the atmosphere, a stance he started taking after spending time in the Big 12 with Kansas State, as the Wildcats played themselves in a BCS game with a league championship win over Oklahoma.
"I grew up in the Big Ten, so I only knew playing it how it was done," Bielema said. "When I first went to another school and we had to play after Thanksgiving, I was like ‘Woe is me.' You don't know what you don't know."
Part of the equation for playing a game after Thanksgiving is that it helps with bowl preparation, allowing Wisconsin to play tougher competition into December, shorting the layoff between its last regular season game and its bowl game. The results are mixed, as Wisconsin had 37 days and 43 days off, respectively, for the 2006 & 07 Capital One Bowl (both wins) and 44 days off before its loss in the 2008 Outback Bowl.
"We played well when we didn't have it," Bielema said. "I think bowl preparation, a lot gets written about it when you play and don't play. Bottom line, it's a two week window when you are a little different."
Wisconsin last traveled to Hawaii the last week of the 2005 regular season and has played a game at the islands roughly every four or five years since 1996. It's a series Bielema would like to continue, but something the athletic department will have to look at for budgetary purposes. After the Hawaii game, Bielema said he and the administration will start looking at scheduling for future seasons.
Back to Outback?
Bielema said he's letting Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and Associate AD John Chadima handle talking to the bowl reps. Many pundits are begging UW for the Outback Bowl (Jan 1, 10 a.m.), probably in a rematch with Tennessee, who clinched second place in the SEC East with a 34-20 win over Kentucky, beating the Wildcats for a 25th straight time.
Just because he isn't on the phone doesn't mean Bielema hasn't addressed his players about it. After practice Saturday, Bielema brought up the fact that Oklahoma State being shutout against Oklahoma effects UW, as the BCS will likely take a pair of Big Ten teams.
"Nobody knows what's going to happen," Bielema said. "It would directly impact the pecking order of our bowl slots."
Figuring Penn State goes to the Capital One Bowl (or Iowa, if the Nittany Lions go to the BCS), Wisconsin would then go to the Outback Bowl, as the bowl would likely take UW over Northwestern, with the Wildcats headed to the Champs Sports Bowl.
Of course, all that is predicated on Wisconsin winning.
UW will certainly have its work cut out for them before even playing a down. The Badgers will not practice Monday, will practice in Madison Tuesday and take off on the 11-hour plane flight for Honolulu at 9 am Wednesday.
There's not time for jet lag when the Badgers arrive at 4:30 pm local time, as the Badgers will practice at game time Wednesday, Thursday afternoon with temperatures expected in the mid 80s and on at a local high school Friday before kickoff at 6:30 local time Saturday (10:30 central).
"There are a lot of things that we'll have to work ourselves through," Bielema said.
Extra Points: The only injury Bielema reported was Josh Oglesby (knee surgery) … Bielema said nobody put on too much weight over the Thanksgiving holiday … Bielema said he's had initial talks with two guys about the NFL draft, but won't name names.