For a number of years now the cry has been the same: The Big Ten has too much of a layoff between its final regular-season games and its bowl games. Well, after facing Hawaii on Dec. 5, Wisconsin doesn't fit into that scenario this year.
While 23 days may seem like a long time between football games, especially when you consider the usual time is six days between games, bowl games are unusual in a number of ways. It's also 11 days fewer than UW had before last year's Champs Sports Bowl.
December is a heavy recruiting time with coaches allowed to be on the road for much of the beginning month. With the Badgers in Hawaii for the first week of December, the coaches needed to maximize their time once they got back on the mainland.
Following the Hawaii game, UW returned to Camp Randall Stadium around midnight on Dec. 6. The next day, Monday, Dec. 7, Coach Bielema and all the assistant coaches were on a.m. flights to go recruiting. Coach Bielema then had to be in Orlando on Dec. 9 for a Champs Sports Bowl press conference. He finally got back into Madison on Thursday evening. The other assistant coaches bounced around the country recruiting.
Friday, Dec. 11 the team held its inaugural Awards Show so everyone was back in Madison. The team practiced on Saturday and Sunday. With an off day on Monday, Coach Bielema was back on the road Sunday after practice, getting back into Madison on Tuesday afternoon. He made a conscious decision to keep his assistant coaches in Madison on Monday-Wednesday so they could start game planning for Miami like a normal work week.
The Badgers were back on the practice field Tuesday, Dec. 15 and Wednesday, Dec. 16. Finals started on Thursday so the team did not practice Thursday-Saturday. Coach Bielema and a number of the assistant coaches went back on the road.
Sunday brought another practice for the Badgers leading to today, which, according to Coach Bielema was his first full day in the office without a practice since the Monday before the Hawaii game (Nov. 30). In the 16 days since the Hawaii game (counting today) the entire coaching staff has been together in Madison for five days.
"Bowl games are always a little bit unique because you want to get an extensive preparation for the game but you don't want to put too much on your kids mentally. You have to realize that it's still just a four-quarter game and they didn't invent too many new plays since our last game," Coach Bielema said. "You have to balance that with our recruiting schedule, which has been difficult but has gone very well for us as of late."
Once finals wind down on Wednesday, the team will have a short practice and board the plane for Orlando to begin the final preparations for the bowl game.
"The big thing is that once we get down to Orlando the week will lay out exactly like our normal game week preparation," Bielema said.
What he means is that Christmas Eve, the team's first full day in Orlando, will be an off day for the players. The team will then hold its normal Tuesday and Wednesday practices (heavier work days) on Christmas and Dec. 26. Sunday, the 27th will be a normal Thursday practice focusing on cleaning up the game plan and then Monday's practice (a normal Friday) will consist of a light walk through.