MADISON, Wis. - During the last week of practice, the Wisconsin coaching staff hasn't been emphasizing the "revenge factor." Even though Michigan State handed the Badgers their only Big Ten loss last year, the team has not focused on getting back at the Spartans for throwing a wrench into their 2010 season.
Instead, Bret Bielema has been taking a familiar track of telling his players to show how much they've improved since their 34-24 humbling in East Lansing.
"This has not been a week of revenge, it's not a week of payback," Bielema said after practice Thursday. "It's a week of ‘How are we going to improve from where we were a year ago.'"
It's a method Bielema has seen work before during his previous five seasons coaching the Badgers.
"To me, a big statement for us was when we left the [Champs Sports Bowl] getting beat by Florida State, to come back and play the way we did to beat Miami, [showed] a year's growth," Bielema said. "This is the same thing."
Bielema has said often this season that he didn't know if he had a championship-caliber team when they took the field against Michigan State a year ago, but he knew he did after the game. It remains to be seen how Bielema will feel after Saturday's game, but he knows his team has grown a lot since their last regular-season loss.
"We left the locker room last year, took the lessons we learned, we applied it to Iowa, won that game, went on to win every Big Ten road game since then," Bielema said. "It was week about how individually we're gonna get better for what we're going to do this Saturday."
-- Wide receiver Nick Toon practiced all week after sitting out against Indiana with a nagging foot injury, and is ready to go against Michigan State.
-- Defensive tackle Patrick Butrym got a little work in Thursday after injuring his ankle against Indiana. Bielema said the plan is to rest Butrym Friday and hopefully get him back on Saturday.
-- True freshman running back Melvin Gordon had a procedure to relieve discomfort from a hernia, which will sideline him for three to four weeks. A medical hardship waiver would be available for Gordon, who only played in three games this season, but Bielema said Gordon wants to try and play this season. Whether or not they apply for the waiver will depend on how quickly he heals.
News and Notes
-- The Big Ten announced the suspension of Spartan defensive end William Gholston Thursday afternoon, but Bielema doesn't think the Spartans will have to change their game plan in his absence.
"You kind of just treat it like an injury situation," Bielema said. "You thought he would be there and he's not, but I know our kids were looking forward to the challenge of playing him."
-- Bielema said having both Shelton Johnson and Dezmen Southward feels like having two starters at strong safety, but they bring a little extra versatility to the defense. If both safeties remain healthy and play against Michigan State, look for Johnson to slide into the nickelback spot and for Southward to play at safety.
Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!
For more Badger Football news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter (@JohnVeldhuis).