The Voice: Leaders all, this senior class will be missed

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Other than to say it has been warm and humid here in Mexico this week, I will avoid any further weather details as Bo Ryan's basketball team as it makes its way back home after playing in the Cancun Challenge.

Tropical conditions aside, the competition continues to be serious for the Badgers, with more of the same on the horizon next week. After returning to Madison, the Badgers will hit the road next Wednesday to play Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Three days later, Marquette comes to the Kohl Center.

Not exactly Cupcake City for this group.

I have to say I am eager to get home -- cold weather and all -- as the Badgers football team prepares for its home finale against Penn State.

While there will be no Big Ten championship game for this year's team, there is much at stake this Saturday. The Badgers are vying to go unbeaten at home for the third time in four years. A 10th win would make it four years out of five that Wisconsin has hit double digits in victories. The seniors are looking for a 24th conference win, which would be the most in a four-year span.

Talk about consistency. That defines this senior class. A low-maintenance group that wins and wins the right way. Good students. Leaders on the field. Leaders in the community.

Not a bad way to represent your university.

As always, emotions will run high before, during and after Saturday's game. It is always interesting to talk to players before that last home appearance. They realize the clock is ticking, but you get the impression some of them would love to call a timeout.

"I don't really want to think about it," said linebacker Ethan Armstrong. "I'm still in the denial stage. Maybe I will figure out a way to have one more year."

Like many on this team, it has been a wild ride for Armstrong, who has battled through numerous injuries to carve out an excellent college career. Not that he has taken a ton of time to think about it.

"I'll probably appreciate it when I'm old, fat and retired," Armstrong said with a smile.

Coming off one of the coldest games in Wisconsin football history, there is at least one player who is rooting for Old Man Winter to make another appearance.

"I've been telling guys that I would be happy if it snowed for our last game," said Conor O'Neill of Delray Beach, Fla. Yeah, that is correct -- a Florida native wants snow this Saturday.

"I think it would be fitting for our senior class. We haven't played in a real snow game."

For the record, the last time I can remember a measureable snowfall for UW football was the 1994 spring game. The players started having snowball fights during the game. But let Conor have his dream, OK?

Snow or no snow. Bitter cold or relatively mild, it is another huge game for the Badgers. Senior Day alone makes it big, but with the home team still jockeying for position in the BCS standings, it is one more chance to make an impression on the voters.

Those folks should be impressed with what they have seen the last two months. It is a hungry team that is winning in dominant fashion.

"It starts with the guys in the locker room," said Armstrong. "They expect to be great, and they demand that of themselves and of this team. The coaching staff does as well. Of themselves and of this team."

Quarterback Curt Phillips agrees. He has appeared in just two games this season, but Phillips is as respected as anyone in the program. And he has nothing but respect for what he has seen in the last year.

"Coach Andersen and his staff, and the spark they provided," Phillips said. "Coach Alvarez holding down the fort with everything he did last year to coach us in the Rose Bowl. It is special."

So is this senior class. Winners in every way. I look forward to seeing them play in front of the home crowd one more time.

ON WISCONSIN