UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: With much to play for, Badgers won't rest

The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgIn sports, one can argue that each team has its own identity and its own set of challenges, but with Bret Bielema's football program, a common theme has been the ability to get off the canvas after a hard-to-take loss.

As Wisconsin heads to Happy Valley this week, that theme is back in play.

Do they always win the week following a loss? No, but it is fair to suggest that the Badgers have not simply rolled over, the victim of an emotional hangover from the previous game.

This season has offered some examples. After losing to a better-than-expected Oregon State team in September, the Badgers did struggle, but managed to hang on against Utah State (9-2 overall, 5-0 in the WAC). Maybe not a very pretty game, but I don't think it was because of lack of effort. Remember there was an assistant coaching change that week and a quarterback change that night.

Better performances happened after losses to Nebraska and Michigan State, when the Badgers outscored Illinois and Indiana 93-28.

Remember, many were jumping on the Hoosiers' bandwagon, and there were some who picked Indiana to win and stay alive in the Rose Bowl race. It didn't happen.

Clearly, in this "bounce back" game, the caliber of opponent is better.

Given the NCAA sanctions and player departures, Penn State has played extremely well. While the Thanksgiving holiday might have some wondering about the size of the crowd this Saturday, I will go ahead and assume that Beaver Stadium will be loud. Very, very loud.

Remember this is Penn State's final game of the season, and the final game period for the seniors. As for the Badgers, after Saturday they have two games remaining.

A popular question is whether Bielema will rest some players for next week's Big Ten championship game. If this is the NFL, perhaps he does to keep his group fresh for the playoffs.

This isn't the NFL, and the Badgers seem eager to get the winning feeling back as soon as possible. In addition, Saturday's game can be about bowl positioning. Naturally, they have their eyes on Pasadena. However, if that does not happen, you want to be as high in the bowl pecking order as possible.

At the moment, bowls not named the Rose that appear to be the most in play are the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, or perhaps the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. The Badgers need to win this week to keep close with Northwestern. If Wisconsin falls two games behind the Wildcats in the loss column, then the Gator Bowl likely is the best option (other than the Rose Bowl, of course).

Does this make sense?

If it is confusing, don't worry about it. Spend any length of time around this football team and you will realize that, as long as they are going to keep score, the Badgers just want to win a game -- and Saturday would be a big one.

It is difficult to measure how many points you get for being emotionally ready. I don't know who will win the game, but I am confident that the visiting team, coming off a tough loss yet already assured of a trip to Indianapolis next week, will bring all they have to State College.

We have seen nothing to suggest otherwise.