The first ever Big Ten Championship Game trophy is up for grabs, but do not tell Bret Bielema.
At his weekly Monday press conference, Wisconsin’s head coach said that while the Badgers are preparing for an undeniably different road experience, they are treating it just like any other regular season game away from Camp Randall Stadium. After a 45-7 win over Penn State Saturday, Wisconsin boosted its home record to 7-0 this season, a perfect record for the second consecutive year as its two losses came on the road.
When the Badgers take the Lucas Oil Stadium field Saturday night, the expected 50-50 split between UW and MSU fans might render the atmosphere neutral, but Wisconsin’s troubles away from home likely will still linger.
“It’s a little bit of a different road experience, but we’re kind of treating it as a regular in-season road game,” Bielema said. “Our kids are very excited. After they won the game on Saturday and they knew they were going to play in the [Big Ten Championship] Game and have an opportunity to earn another opportunity, if they’re able to take care of business against Michigan State, to be in position to hopefully go to the Rose Bowl is something that’s pretty unique.”
“Revenge factor” not at play for Bielema
If both teams wanted, Saturday could become an exhibition for several instances of revenge. Michigan State may still be hurting from being left out of a BCS bowl last season by way of a three-way tie, which Wisconsin broke by way of its higher BCS ranking. The Badgers, meanwhile, suffered their first loss of 2011 at Spartan Stadium Oct. 22 on a last-second 44-yard Hail Mary that still remains one of the highlights of the college football season.
Yet, at least outwardly, Bielema made clear the Badgers have other goals at mind – namely, a Big Ten title.
“I think our kids want to play a game where they can play a four-quarter game and hopefully have success,” Bielema said. “I don’t get in to the revenge factor, really, at all.”
Konz has “a chance” to play, Armstrong out
After redshirt junior center Peter Konz dislocated his left ankle Nov. 12 at Minnesota, he immediately held out hopes of returning for the Big Ten Championship Game. In his place, the Badgers first turned to redshirt sophomore Ryan Groy at center the following week. But after Groy snapped the football over quarterback Russell Wilson’s head, Groy was swapped with redshirt sophomore left guard Travis Frederick.
Since then, Wisconsin’s offensive line has largely been stabilized. Against Penn State Saturday, the Badgers rushed for 264 yards (5.4 per carry) and only allowed two sacks against the Nittany Lions’ vaunted defensive line. Monday, Bielema did not rule out that Konz would return to action against Michigan State Saturday.
“There is a chance for Peter Konz this week,” Bielema said. “It just depends on how the week goes for him.”
Bielema also said redshirt sophomore linebacker Ethan Armstrong, who was taken off the field by an ambulance after spending several minutes on the field in the second quarter Saturday, will not be available this week, but he could play in UW’s bowl game. Trainers initially feared Armstrong might have reaggravated a hip issue that has been bothering him throughout the season, though all tests taken Saturday night were negative. Armstrong is facing surgeries in the offseason, however.