MADISON, Wis. – It’s only been about two years, but Wisconsin and Michigan State have shown a knack for playing in big games together. Now the Badgers and Spartans will square off again for the second time this season, with even higher stakes.
But even though the Badgers have a chance to avenge their earlier 37-31 loss to Michigan State, head coach Bret Bielema said he has not heard his players talking about getting ‘revenge’ on the Spartans.
"I haven’t really heard that out of my kids," Bielema said. "I get it why people say it but I don’t really think that’s existed. I think our kids want to play a game where they can play a four-quarter game, and hopefully have success."
The Spartans and the Badgers seem to have a knack for playing each other in high-stakes games. The Big Ten championship game will be the third meeting between the two teams in the last two years, and this most recent meeting will send the winner to the Rose Bowl game as the sole champion of the Big Ten.
It’s circumstances like these where rivalries begin to flourish, and Bielema knows that rivalries need to have a foundation of respect. In the lead-up to the championship game, that respect has become apparent. Members of both teams, including Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio, have expressed their respect for their opponent in the numerous media conference calls. Dantonio even mentioned that he wanted to build his program like Wisconsin’s when he took over as head coach in 2007.
"I think rivalries [grow] out of respect a little bit too," Bielema said. "I’ve known Mark a long time, I respect the way he coaches, they way they prepare. I think all of the games we’ve played as of late, both teams have been ranked and sometimes when you’re playing teams … when it’s lopsided it doesn’t get to be a great rivalry."
"But I know this – our kids, whether it’s a rivalry or not … really enjoy this preparation and enjoy having an opportunity to play them twice in a year," Bielema said.
-- Center Peter Konz has a chance to play against Michigan State this week after dislocating his left ankle against Minnesota. Konz is not listed on the depth chart, so the Badgers certainly aren’t counting on his return this week.
-- Linebacker Ethan Armstrong is probably out this week after injuring his hip against Penn State, which forced him to leave the field on an ambulance. Armstrong is on crutches, but could probably return for the eventual bowl game.
News and Notes
-- The Badgers gave out three offensive MVP awards after last Saturday’s win over Penn State. Kevin Zeitler, Josh Oglesby, and Jake Byrne shared the award on offense for their help in the running game. Shelton Johnson took home the defensive MVP award for his interception of Matt McGloin in the first quarter, and Derek Landisch won the special teams award once again.
-- Bielema was not aware of the reports at the time that Urban Meyer had been hired as head coach of Ohio State, but had a little fun when talking about Meyer’s job with ESPN, which saw him visit the Wisconsin program this year.
"[That] was a nice little scouting routine he called a job," Bielema said. "If he does indeed come into our league, it would obviously be a great splash for the league and will bring attention to everyone in our league."
-- Iraq war veteran Greg Russo finally got to play for the Badgers in the final minute of Wisconsin’s win over Penn State, and Bielema knew how much stepping onto the field would mean for the senior linebacker.
"I know it was big for him, and a lot of our kids were yelling on the sidelines," Bielema said. "He actually got in on two series, I was hoping he was going to get a sack."
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