By TOM LEA
MADISON – It took 14 questions, all of which focused more so on the inadequacies of the current 3-2 Wisconsin football team, before head coach Bret Bielema absorbed a question he deemed optimistic during his Monday afternoon press conference.
That’s the way this football season has started.
“The only thing you can deal with is the situation that you’re in,” Bielema said. “We’re 3-2. Would we rather be 5-0? Absolutely. We could also be 1-4.
“We’ve lost a Big Ten conference game, but we haven’t lost anything within our division.”
An optimist could look at the Badgers season through five games and point out the fact each of their two losses came by three points, each to teams that are now ranked in the AP Top 25 polls. It’s clear the team, even with all of its issues, can hang with talented teams.
A pessimist could look at a host of offensive problems — namely, UW’s lackluster 125.6 rushing yards per game — and worry about upcoming opponents with very strong defenses, especially Ohio State and Michigan State.
“We still have everything in front of us right now,” UW senior tailback Montee Ball said. “The way we practiced today, if we continue this way of starting fast and ending stronger and faster, then we can beat any team we come against.”
Wisconsin opens divisional play Saturday against Illinois already with one loss in league play. Yes, should Wisconsin win the rest of its game the loss at Nebraska in the conference opener wouldn’t hurt the Badgers chances of winding up back in the Big Ten championship game.
The team knows their team goal — winning a third straight Big Ten championship — is still in reach.
“Illinois is in our division and they obviously want to go to Indianapolis as bad as we do,” Bielema said. “All you can do is focus on the task at hand. It’s frustrating to lose a football game, but you can’t let Nebraska beat you twice. That’s a very, very real thing in the world of college football.
“I’ve seen it happen time and time again.”
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