Following Thursday's practice, the Badgers' first in Florida, head coach Gary Andersen met with the media:
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The Badgers officially began their on-site prep for the Capital One Bowl with the first practice at Freedom High School in Orlando on Thursday. Here's a photographic look at the crisp session held in some warm, 70-degree weather -- including Robert Wheelwright's highlight-reel catch (above).
- Photos: Capital One Bowl Practice #1
What are the keys to the Badgers coming out on top vs. South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl? Who will make the difference on offense and defense? What's the Badgers' mindset, especially the seniors, heading into another showcase game on Jan. 1?
All those questions and more are answered in this week's edition of 'Varsity' Magazine.
Find out who said, "I like the matchup. We're a physical team; heavy in the run game and play-action. They're physical up front with great talent and speed."
The Badgers escaped the cold of Madison in favor of 70-degree temperatures in Orlando with a two-hour flight on Christmas day. Most of UW's upperclassmen were treated to first-class amenities in the Boeing 747 the Badgers used for the trip, including senior defensive ends Tyler Dippel and Pat Muldoon (above).
Upon arrival in the Sunshine State, the team gathered for Christmas dinner at its hotel, an event that included a visit from Santa Claus himself. Although Santa stopped by to provide gifts for the children of UW's coaches and staff, that didn't stop at least a couple players from jumping up on the big guy's lap (like Corey Clement, below).
- Photos: Capital One Bowl - Travel Day
Happy Bowl Season!
Fortunately, Badgers fans have been able to say such a thing for 12 straight years. That is correct. Next week the Wisconsin Badgers will play in a bowl game for the 12th-consecutive season, extending what is already the longest active streak in the Big Ten Conference.
I would hope players and fans appreciate that little nugget. I would guess there are a ton of schools across the country who would love to be in Wisconsin's position.
This figures to be a very entertaining matchup. South Carolina, under the direction of Steve Spurrier, ended the regular season on a five-game winning streak, which began with a dramatic come-from-behind overtime victory at Missouri. It concluded with a 31-17 win against in-state rival Clemson.
To say the least, that makes for an impressive resumé.
Spurrier, who many refer to as the "Head Ball Coach," will be coaching his 300th college game.
Wisconsin's "Ball Coach," Gary Andersen, will be on the sideline for his 74th college tilt.
Beyond the obvious issue of overall talent, there are a few other factors in a bowl game that can give one team an edge on the other.
How does a team handle the four-week gap between games? Can it peak at the right time?
Is a team motivated? Will a star player go all out, or will he protect himself for the NFL draft?
My guess is both teams will be highly motivated.
South Carolina is trying to win 11 games for the third straight season. The Gamecocks program has never had such a streak.
Wisconsin is looking for its fourth 10-win season in the last five years, while the seniors are shooting for their 40th victory. If they can pull it off, it would match the school record set by the classes of 2007 and 2012.
South Carolina has an FBS low of five seniors on the roster, but a notable underclassman took part in the team's Senior Day ceremony. That man would be Jadeveon Clowney, a player many believe will be at -- or very near -- the top of the draft board this spring.
While some might wonder what Clowney has to gain in Orlando, the Badgers are expecting the star defensive lineman will be eager to leave a lasting final impression to NFL scouts and general managers.
As for the Badgers, there are a number of seniors who have had terrific seasons, but a standout performance on New Year's Day could improve their stock even more.
Sometimes, coaches and others refer to these contests as "Contract Games" or "Money Games."
While I am not a scout, and have no interest playing one in this forum, I have to believe a good game on a stage such as this would get the attention of the NFL folks.
Finally, the Badgers, especially the seniors, dearly want to end their college careers on a winning note. This group has turned in some amazing work. Three straight Rose Bowls, a stellar home record and an unbeaten mark against rivals Iowa and Minnesota are good places to start.
But they want a bowl victory, something this program has not enjoyed since 2009.
There is no doubt the Badgers will have to earn it. South Carolina is top-10 good, and has been for the last three seasons.
Hoisting a trophy at the end of this game would be a sweet conclusion to what already has been a very good season.
The inside look at the Wisconsin football program is back for another round as the Badgers prepare for the 2014 Capital One Bowl. Check out Episode 1 of "The Camp: Orlando" with exclusive inside access to practice.
It is interesting how quickly a team's perception can change based on one bad game.
Interesting, and at times inaccurate.
For weeks, as the Badgers football team was rolling along, more and more national observers were talking about how Gary Andersen's squad was underrated. The Arizona State game was incomplete.
With the Badgers on the brink of the top 14 in the BCS standings, at least some media members were projecting Wisconsin to play in the Orange Bowl.
Then last Saturday happened.
Suddenly, at least for some, the image has changed. Be it a talk show host or a national columnist or two, much of the love for the Badgers has faded.
So goes life in the Big Ten. This week the debate continues whether Ohio State is worthy of its No. 2 ranking. Yes it is undefeated, but critics point to its poor non-conference schedule and a league that remains viewed as weak.
Suddenly, the Buckeyes' win against Wisconsin loses some juice. How can OSU be ranked ahead of a one-loss SEC team? On and on it goes.
While Penn State deserves a ton of credit for coming to Camp Randall and dumping a bucket of cold water on the Badgers' Senior Day, let us not forget that UW has had a very good season.
Yes, the loss to the Nittany Lions will cost Wisconsin a chance at a BCS at-large bid, but take a look at the other two setbacks. We know what is on the line for Ohio State, but it is worth mentioning that Arizona State will be hosting the Pac-12 title game this weekend against Stanford.
While the officials botched the ending of the UW-ASU game in Tempe, it is worth noting that the Sun Devils are having a terrific season, and they are one win away from playing in the Rose Bowl Game for the first time since 1997.
To me, what is happening here is the classic case of an old saying: You are never as good as people say you are, nor are you ever as bad.
Was I surprised at last weekend's outcome? Yes, very much so. The Badgers defense had been in shutdown mode for several weeks, while the offense was taking care of its business. Penn State had just lost on its Senior Day and had yet to win a road game in the Big Ten.
The script called for another convincing victory for the home team, but PSU played one of its best games of the season, while the Badgers played their worst.
Sometimes it is just that simple. It can happen in any sport at any level. In this case it stinks, but it is reality.
As someone who has lived in Big Ten Country his entire life, I will admit to being sick and tired of the verbal pounding this league has had to absorb.
There is one sure way to stop it. Win the big bowl games.
I can tell you how I believe the Big Ten is better than many believe. I really do believe that. However, the image can only change through better postseason results.
Assuming the Badgers are headed for either Orlando or Tampa, they will play a highly-regarded SEC team. Ohio State and Michigan State will be in big-stage bowl games -- for OSU, maybe the biggest of them all.
Win those games, and the perception will begin to change.
To this observer, the Big Ten is improving. Hopefully in the next few weeks this conference will make a loud statement that can be heard nationwide.