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Badger Bits: Can Wisconsin Finally Live Up to High Expectations?

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If you've read or watched any interviews with Badger players or Bret Bielema this off-season, one thing is clear: they are not getting wrapped up in the preseason hype that the media and fans have created for them. Lately, when the respect isn't there, Wisconsin has played with a chip on its shoulder and has played well. Conversely, one needs look no further than Wisconsin's 2007 season to find an example of a team that failed to live up to high expectations. That team was number seven in the polls in the preseason, but only finished 9-4 with a disappointing loss in the Outback Bowl. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an article up noting that the players are very aware of what happened in the 2007 season and intend to learn from past failures. Adam Rittenberg also touches on the topic on the blog.

Although Wisconsin has struggled with high expectations lately, I think fans have good reason to be optimistic that this season won't be a repeat of 2007 or 2008. Unlike those two seasons, the Badgers have a proven commodity starting at quarterback in Scott Tolzien. There are defined leaders on this squad. There's reason to believe this team can play consistent football every week. There seems to be an attitude of 'the only thing that matters is what happens on the field.' So while it's appropriate for the media to draw comparisons to 2007, this team seems much more destined for great things.

After the jump, recap of 2009 Fresno State and more Badger linkage:

Week 2 of the 2009 football season brought Fresno State to Camp Randall Stadium, looking to avenge a 13-10 home loss to Wisconsin in 2008, a game in which both teams were ranked at the time.

Fresno St. Bulldogs (1-0) at Wisconsin Badgers (1-0), September 12, 2009 - This game will forever be known in Wisconsin lore as the "swine flu game". Many Badger players came down with the flu as soon as the day after the Northern Illinois game and struggled with it all week leading up to the game. Bielema estimated that more than 40 of the players had the virus. It didn't help matters for the Badgers that this contest went to double overtime. Fresno jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the 2nd quarter, but Wisconsin chipped away and was able to cut it to 21-17 on Philip Welch's 57 yard field goal as time expired in the first half. That field goal is the longest in Camp Randall history. Things weren't looking good for Wisconsin until John Clay rumbled 72 yards for a touchdown to give Bucky the 24-21 lead with 5 minutes left. In my eyes, that run was one of the most thrilling plays of Wisconsin's season. Fresno tacked on a FG to force OT, the teams traded passing TDs, Chris Maragos picked off Ryan Colburn in the end zone to start the 2nd OT, and Philip Welch sealed the victory with a 22 yard FG.

More Links:

Here's video of an Adam Rittenberg interview with Bret Bielema at the Big Ten Media Days. Rittenberg also has an interesting story up discussing how Minnesota safety Kim Royston (who you'll remember transferred to the Gophers from Wisconsin following the 2007 season) is looking forward to getting Paul Bunyan's Axe back in Minnesota. Talk about delusional.

Ben Breiner at the Daily Cardinal notes that this is the first season in four years where a new quarterback isn't at the helm.

Tweet of the day: Seth Davis was impressed with the play of Jon Leuer in Vegas. So was USA Basketball, as Leuer's invited back to do more USA Basketball training next week, this time in New York City.

A good article by Gerry Ahern of Yahoo Sports on Scott Tolzien's quick rise to one of the nation's top quarterbacks. Tolzien credits his success partially to his ultra-competitive family.

Bielema's not in favor of nine-game conference schedules, because of the imbalance it creates since teams won't have the same number of conference home games and road games.