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Badgers shining at Senior Bowl

Senior Bowl Logo
 NFL Network Broadcast Schedule
Thursday, Jan. 23
- Practice: 3 p.m.
- Senior Bowl Recap: 9:30 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 24

- Week in Review: 9 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 25

- 2014 Senior Bowl: 3 p.m.
 Senior Bowl Coverage
- Borland's Senior Bowl Blog
- SeniorBowl.com
- NFL.com Senior Bowl Home
- CBSSports.com Senior Bowl Home
- ESPN.com Senior Bowl Home
Who were the winners and losers of weigh-in day?

Yes, winners and losers of weigh-ins. That's the level to which prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft are being dissected this week in Mobile, Ala., leading up to the Senior Bowl, the nation's most prestigious college all-star game.

There's no shortage of coverage from Mobile, headlined by a daily TV presence on NFL Network, which will air the Senior Bowl game live at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Those prospects' week under the microscope began when they were sized up Sunday in front of a room full of personnel from NFL teams.

Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland and James White -- three of the five former Badgers selected for the Senior Bowl, along with Jacob Pedersen and Dez Southward -- were listed among the losers from weigh-ins. At 6-0 and 189 pounds, Abbrederis measured in "shorter and lighter than expected." Borland has the shortest arms of any linebacker in Mobile.

Since they've taken the field, however, all three have been on a winning streak, according to the media members and draft pundits on site:

An AFC scout told NFL.com's Andy Fenelon that Abbrederis has "consistently been the best receiver on the field this week" in a deep draft class for at the position.

ESPN's Todd McShay tweeted Wednesday that Borland "is an animal. Great instincts. Strong this wk as rusher and in cvg. Doesn't have measurables but who cares. He's a player!"



Not surprisingly, White has drawn praise for his strong work in pass protection, as a pass-catcher and as a consistent runner. According to one account of Tuesday's practice, "White's lone ugly rep came as college teammate Chris Borland beat him with a swim move."

For the Badgers, this week is about proving to NFL scouts that the tale of the (video) tape is more telling than the tale of the (measuring) tape.

So far, so good.

What They're Saying...
NFL Network's Mike Mayock called Borland "as fun a guy to watch on tape as I have ever seen" and compared him to second-year Carolina Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly.

Borland was among the most impressive players as full-pads practices came to an end with Wednesday's session for the North Team, according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.

 Tony Pauline is keeping a running tab on each player at DraftInsider.net. His thoughts on Borland? Monday: "Just a tremendous day." Tuesday: "Another terrific day."

In a video recap for PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Pauline poured more praise on Borland's game: "He plays smart, instinctive football, he's tough, he goes after the ballcarrier. He made plays on the blitz, made plays in run defense, also made good plays in coverage. He's got all the skills except for the height." 

Pauline had similar thoughts for Packers.com writer Vic Ketchman in this video recap. For his part, Ketchman also thinks highly of Borland, taking the popular comparison to former NFL star Zach Thomas a step further: "Borland bears body resemblance to Zach Thomas, but he's a better player."

Ketchman's thoughts were shared by Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who is guiding Borland's North Team this week in Mobile: "He reminds me of Zach Thomas. Sometimes we put these measurables up, but the tape doesn't lie. That's your DNA. He has great FBI (football intelligence)."

The crew from NFL Network also gave their thoughts on Borland's NFL future.

Borland is offering insight into his experience in Mobile by contributing a journal on the Senior Bowl's official web site. "It's no longer a dream, it's right front in of you," he writes. "I think it's exciting for us and I'm definitely pumped about it."

 Russ Lande was a guest on Big Ten Network's BTN Live on Tuesday and addressed the impression Borland has left on scouts: "Some people thought ... that like of height might hinder him, but he's just been great. The thing that's been the most impressive is his all-around versatility."

Lande also had some good things to say about Abbrederis: "He's making a tremdendous impression. Through the two days of practice he's shown that he's polished receivers down here in Mobile ... he's looked just tremendous."

Abbrederis and Borland were also the headliners of this assessment of the Senior Bowl workouts by the Sporting News.

When it comes to wide receivers, the consensus seems to be that Abbrederis has been most impressive in practice this week: "He's consistently been the best receiver on the field this week," an AFC scout told NFL.com's Andy Fenelon. "You know when they say the best player always jumps off the film when you pop in a game tape? Jared has been one of those guys for me this week."

NFL Network talked to Abbrederis about how much pride he takes in his precise route-running.

BTN's Lisa Byington also caught up with Abby to get his thoughts on his Senior Bowl showing.

The first team to talk with Pedersen in Mobile? That would be the Green Bay Packers, the team he grew up rooting for in nearby Menominee, Mich. "They haven't drafted a Wisconsin guy in a while," Pedersen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "but I wouldn't mind doing that."

Speaking of hometown teams, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native White spoke with MiamiDolphins.com on his hopes for the Senior Bowl.

Badgers among best of BCS era

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The Bowl Championship Series era came to a close Monday with the crowning of Florida State in the 16th and final BCS National Championship Game. Marked by both compelling matchups and controversy, opinions vary as to what the BCS' legacy will be. No matter what history chooses to reflect, however, the one undeniable truth about the BCS is that it forever changed college football by taking the sport to new levels of popularity nationwide. 

Just as the postseason format will leave a lasting impact on the sport it helped to grow, Wisconsin teams will always be among the lasting images of the BCS era, a time in which the sport's growth coincided with the growth of the Badgers into one of the nation's premier programs.

Wisconsin proved to be one of the nation's most successful teams during the BCS' hold on the college football postseason. Here's a look at why:

- Wisconsin appeared in the Rose Bowl five times in the BCS era, making UW one of just 11 teams to play in at least five BCS bowl games

The Badgers went 146-61 (.705) overall in the BCS era, giving them the 13th-best win percentage in the nation over that span

Among Big Ten teams, only Ohio State had more wins (161) and a better win percentage (.793) than Wiscosnin during the BCS era

- UW's 146 wins were the 12th-most of any team in the BCS era

- The Badgers were ranked in 72 of the 125 BCS standings, tied for the 11th-most appearances of any team in the nation

- From 2004 to 2006, the Badgers appeared in the BCS standings for 24 consecutive weeks

- UW ranked as high as fifth in the BCS standings, rising to No. 5 in consecutive weeks in 2004 (Nov. 1, Nov. 8) and 2010 (Nov. 28, Dec. 5)

- Ron Dayne holds the record for rushing yards in a BCS bowl with his 246 vs. UCLA in the 1999 Rose Bowl

- Dayne tied for the record for most rushing touchdowns in a BCS bowl with the four he scored on UCLA in the 1999 Rose Bowl

- Jared Abbrederis owns the record for all-purpose yards in a BCS bowl with 346 (119 receiving, 201 kickoff return, 26 punt return) vs. Oregon in the 2012 Rose Bowl

- Montee Ball became the first player to rush for 100 yards three times in the Rose Bowl and the first to score a touchdown in three different Rose Bowls

With college football set to move on and the debut of the College Football Playoff coming at the end of the 2014 season, it's an exciting time for the sport. Hopefully, the playoff can prove to be as exciting - and successful - for Wisconsin as the BCS era. 

The Voice: Saying goodbye (good riddance?) to the BCS

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With Florida State's dramatic win against Auburn on Monday night, we bid farewell to the BCS era. Some will say goodbye, while many others will say good riddance.

Whatever the case, starting next season college football moves into its next phase -- the College Football Playoff. While the now-departed method created some classic championship games, not to mention a number of other thrilling BCS bowls, the whole concept of the Bowl Championship Series has been a source of great debate, and often times, harsh criticism.

As I -- and many others -- have previously stated, the BCS was an imperfect system, but it was far better than what preceded it. Gone are the days of a top-ranked team sealing its national title by beating a No. 14-ranked squad in its bowl game.

The system also set up a number of wildly entertaining matchups, such as Boise State's stunning victory against Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. This year's other BCS games were fairly decent, too, from underdog Central Florida putting the hammer down on Baylor, to Michigan State's 24-20 victory against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State-Clemson in the Orange, and Oklahoma-Alabama in the Sugar Bowl were not bad games, either.

I think part of the frustration of the BCS is that many of us struggled to fully understand how it worked.

We did not know what made up most of the computer rankings. We were easily confused on what a team had to do to qualify for consideration to one of the "big boy" bowls. A top-14 finish? A top-16 for a non-AQ conference if it finished ahead of lowest-rated champ from an AQ conference? Otherwise, a non-AQ had to be in the top 12? Huh? What is a non-AQ? And Notre Dame has its own sets of rules? 

What?

As sports fans, we tend to like things to be a bit more simple, and hopefully the College Football Playoff is a step closer in that direction.

Still, in today's world, many of us will find something to be unhappy about, and we will have multiple platforms where we can vent to our heart's delight.

It is anything but a stretch to predict that the biggest outcry will come from those who want more than four teams in the playoff. However, executive director Bill Hancock repeatedly has said the four-team playoff will be in place for the next 12 years, so we probably would be wise to get used to it. Those who help run college football are very protective about the importance of the regular season. They are in no hurry to run the risk of hurting high-stakes games in October.

We also should remember that there will be two more top-end bowls, the Cotton and the Chick-fil-A. Part of the selection committee's job will be to place teams in those games, as those sites will join the rotation for the semifinal round on New Year's Eve 2016.

Whether the College Football Playoff will be more satisfying than the BCS remains to be seen. I believe it will. Yes, the team that ends up fifth in eyes of the committee will be very upset. So is the basketball squad that just misses the cut to the 68-team NCAA tournament. 

Overall, I would claim the BCS worked reasonably well. If nothing else, it gave college football fans something to talk about every week of the season.

Starting next season, we can all try to figure out who will play in those semifinal games at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, with the winners meeting in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2015.

It figures to be anything but dull.

The Voice: New-look Badgers already taking shape

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If there is one bit of wisdom I have been able to gather through the years, it is that there really is no such thing as an offseason for coaches.

It is an interesting dynamic. There is extreme focus on the present. There is trying to find a way to win the next game. How to get a certain player to make the next step in his development. And of course, there is always an eye to the future, as recruiting season seemingly never ends.

Such is the case for Badgers head man Gary Andersen, as he and his staff conclude their first season together in Madison.

On the field, this was a good team. Yes, there were missed opportunities. In each of the four losses, players, coaches and fans can go crazy playing the game of "coulda, shoulda."  Clearly, that was the case in this week's Capital One Bowl setback to South Carolina. A key penalty. A missed fourth and short. Not getting a stop when momentum was on your side. The kind of mistakes that will haunt you against a top-flight opponent.

The result hurts, but the time to move on comes quickly. 

"It's going to be good to take a big, deep breath and get back and get started again," Andersen said. 

That is not to say the senior class -- or this team general -- will be forgotten anytime soon.

On his radio show two days before the bowl game, I asked the UW coach whether the job has been everything he had imagined. His answer is what any Badgers fan would hope to hear.

"These kids on this team have made me a better person," he said. "I feel like I am a better coach because I was able to be around them.

"It is a tremendous community. Hopefully we will be able to keep this coaching staff together and recruit like crazy because we have a good foundation built. We are blessed and lucky to be here every day, and we are excited about the future."

In about one month, the Badgers will introduce another recruiting class. With such a big senior class moving on, there will be some interesting position battles, and perhaps some of the newbies will be in the mix. 

It will be fun to track the progress of young returning players such as Corey Clement, Sojourn Shelton and Leon Jacobs, as well as redshirts Alec James and Chikwe Obasih, just to name a few.

Next season starts quickly, as in nearly right away. Soon enough, the team will begin its winter conditioning. Who will make up the next group of leaders? When asked that question on Monday, Chris Borland suggested defensive lineman Warren Herring and linebacker Derek Landisch could be a couple of strong candidates.

Andersen talked about how those players who used to sit in the third and fourth rows at team meetings would now move to the front of the room. It is their time, be they seniors or other veteran players, to make the 2014 Badgers their team.

On a personal note, and I believe I speak for many, I want to thank the seniors for giving fans many terrific memories, both on the field and in the community. This is a group that defines what is good about college athletics. Maybe I have said much the same about previous groups. If so, I take great pleasure in being redundant.

Perhaps part of what has Andersen excited about the future is that the program seems to be loaded with young men who understand the Wisconsin formula -- being the right athletic, academic and social fit.

My guess is the returning Badgers have learned a lot from the Class of 2013. The time to put those lessons to use has arrived.

The first quarter of the 2014 season is about to begin. 

Badgers fans fire up at pep rally

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Badgers fans turned out in force Tuesday to fire up for the Capital One Bowl at the team's official pep rally at Pointe Orlando. They were treated to comments from seniors Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland and James White, along with head coach Gary Andersen, director of athletics Barry Alvarez, Badgers legend Ron Dayne and UW-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank. The UW Marching Band wrapped things up with a 30-minute performance that included all the usual fan favorites, from the Bud Song to Varsity.

- Photos: Capital One Bowl Pep Rally

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Comedy, drama abound at kickoff luncheon

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Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen put his comedic chops on display -- with some jokes at the expense of South Carolina and Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier -- and seniors Chris Borland, Ryan Groy and James White provided some drama in winning the "Capital One Minute Challenge" over their counterparts from South Carolina at the Capital One Bowl Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday.

Andersen's one-liners were a hit with emcee Dave Pasch of ESPN and at least half the room -- the side wearing red -- while Borland, Groy and White combined to win two of the three games styled after the game show "Minute to Win It." That included Groy snapping 42 rolls of toilet paper into a basket that Borland held 20 feet away (South Carolina managed 27 rolls in the same 60-second window) and White successfully unrolling a pair of streamers before his Gamecock opponent.

- Photos: 2014 Capital One Bowl Kickoff Luncheon


Badgers meet the media



Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, senior WR Jared Abbrederis and senior LB Chris Borland represented the Badgers at a Monday press conference in Orlando to preview the Capital One Bowl.

Among the highlights:

- Ludwig on the Badgers' offensive game plan for South Carolina: "We're going to play to our strength. We're a run/play-action team. That's the way we're built. So we're going to go into the game with that mindset. I don't think there's any surprise there."

- Aranda on defending South Carolina: "I see great athletes. I see an offense that can go from a power run game to a spread attack. I see an offense that can change plays based upon the defensive structure."

- Abbrederis on head coach Gary Andersen: "I think he just brought back the fun in football."

- Borland on the Badgers being favored in the game: "I was a little surprised. We're confident that we're going to win. It's just this huge SEC, you know, bias out there that they're a great conference -- which they are. But, yeah, I was surprised but still confident -- and we expect to win."

Here's the complete transcript of the Badgers' remarks

Badgers look to score more than points

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The scoreboard will be the focus of the Wisconsin football team during the Capital One Bowl on Wednesday. After the game, however, the Badgers' focus will be on a different tally.

Members of the team will be checking to see how their efforts to get in the end zone on game day helped raise funds for a rare disease through UW's chapter of Uplifting Athletes.

Fans can pledge a specific amount to donate for each touchdown the Badgers score in the Capital One Bowl, with each score multiplying the amount the UW chapter raises to battle the disease Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis X.

Thoese interested can pledge a contribution using PledgePlatform.

"Fans can start by being familiar with the fight against rare diseases and donating. Anything will help," said UW running back and Uplifting Athletes chapter president Jeff Lewis. "Pledges made by our fans and supporters will be compared to South Carolina at the end of the game. 

"Our goal is to have more money raised than they do."

UW's Uplifting Athletes chapter supports fundraising efforts to battle the rare disease Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis X because of the team's friendship with Madison teen Darien Moran, who grew close to the Badgers while receiving treatment for the disease.

Those efforts led to the Badgers to undertake the touchdown pledge drive that will pit UW against South Carolina off the field, as well. The Gamecocks' chapter of Uplifting Athletes raises funds and awareness for Pelizaeus-Merzbacher, an inherited rare disease that affects the central nervous system.

"We started a Chapter at Wisconsin to be part of the good Uplifting Athletes was doing," UW linebacker Chris Borland said. "The desire was strengthened when we met Darien."

Badgers react to Packers' winning TD


The Badgers had a busy day Sunday that began with the Day for Kids at DisneyQuest. Some players stayed at Walt Disney World to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth, but many were sure to pull up a seat at the team hotel to watch the Green Bay Packers' regular-season finale against Chicago. 

The reaction when Packers QB Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown? Priceless.

Most in the room were thrilled with the Packers' push into the playoffs by securing the NFC North Division title. Except for Bears fan Vonte Jackson, that is. The running back -- decked out in his Matt Forte jersey -- wasn't as pleased with the result.

The Camp: Orlando - Episode 2


The latest installment of "The Camp: Orlando" goes behind the scenes of the Badgers' preparations for the Capital One Bowl, from the team's chartered flight on a 747 to practice in Orlando to a Best Buy shopping spree and more.
ON WISCONSIN