When the NCAA Division I Board of Directors decided to add a 12th game to the schedule beginning in the 2006 season, it left BCS schools scrambling to fit their foreseeable schedule. With the Badgers forced to play seven home games each season to help the department's budget, Bielema was blatant in saying the list of viable, competitive suitors willing to travel to Camp Randall with no guaranteed return home game was small and unimpressive.
Enter the world of FCS football to fill the void. Much to the dismay to the thousands of fans of Badger Nation, the trend of Wisconsin playing a FCS opponent (formally I-AA) will continue when the Badgers host Austin Peay on September 25.
Finishing 4-7 overall and 7th in the Ohio Valley (3-5), Austin Peay doesn't appear to provide much of a competitive challenge. The Governors lost 26 seniors from last season squad and although their website claims it's Tennessee's fastest growing university, Austin Peay (located in Clarksville) could only practice with 60 players in the spring.
While the Governors don't have much depth, they do have some playmakers on offense. Sophomore Jake Ryan took over the starting job midway though last season and will be throwing to three upperclassmen receivers – four-year starter Adrian Mines, senior T.C. Jennings and junior Scott Thomas.
Senior Terrence Holt, an All-America running back/kick return specialist, has been voted the Ohio Valley Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Holt rushed for 793 yards and a conference-leading 13 touchdowns. UW will need to be aware of him, seeing as he returned a punt and kickoff for a touchdown last season.
Surprising enough was that junior teammate Ryan White actually recorded more yards, rushing for 1,081 yards on the season. The group as a whole has work to do, seeing as the team averaged just 289.9 yards on offense and ranking them 92nd out of 118 FCS teams, but should be better than a defense that has to replace plenty of pieces in its front seven, which was decimated by graduation.
Wisconsin has hosted an FCS opponent eight previous times in its history, but has played an opponent from the lesser divisions in each of Bielema's four seasons. It's a trend that will continue, seeing as UW has scheduled a non-conference game against South Dakota for 2011.
Wisconsin has never lost to a FCS opponent – outscoring opponents 270 to 125 – but the game against Cal Poly two years ago is a prime example of how these games have little to gain and a lot to lose. Austin Peay is no Cal Poly, but all the Badgers fans are concerned about is making it through the Fall Saturday with a win and no injuries heading into the conference opener.
If you go
Date/Time - Saturday, September 25 at 11 a.m. CT
Arena – Camp Randall, Madison
Series – First Meeting
Early Prediction - Wisconsin 45, Austin Peay 13