Vince Biegel and the rest of the Badgers are looking forward to their game with LSU to open the season.
MADISON - There will be a time this summer that members of the University of Wisconsin football team will hit a wall. The long hours in the weight room will seem endless and the conditioning drills they get put through might become tiresome. Oh, the strength and conditioning staff will come up with new and inventive competitions to try and push through those times, but perhaps the most effective will be just pointing to the first game on the Badgers schedule. That should be all it takes, because when they do glance at it, they’ll see LSU at the top, one of the biggest opening games in the program’s history.
“We’re super excited about this LSU game,” sophomore Vince Biegel said after the Badgers annual spring game on Saturday. “Not just on defense but on offense as well. This is a great time for us to show off the program. (A) great time for us to show (out) as a unit, how we’ve progressed. I think we’ll be ready to go for LSU.”
The game against the SEC powerhouse is the first of three-straight season openers against, what many consider, the best conference in the country. After playing the Tigers on Aug. 30 in Houston, they’ll open with Alabama at AT&T Stadium in Arlington in 2015 and face LSU at Lambeau Field to begin the 2016 season.
But it’s the game at Reliant Stadium that will serve UW well as they go through the next several months. While much has been made of Melvin Gordon revealing that he has a poster on his bedroom wall of the national championship trophy, it’s not alone. There is another picture and it’s the logo of the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff with the Wisconsin and LSU helmets on it.
“It just reminds me you can’t lack,” Gordon said. “We’ve got a great team ahead of us. First game. I know they’re going to be good. They’re going to come out ready. It’s not the end of the season where guys are worn and broken down. It’s the first game. Those guys are ready to go so I just got to keep motivated. It just reminds me to grind.”
He’s not alone. Junior Joe Schobert mentioned the game without even being asked and he later expanded on his feelings.
“It’s such a huge game,” the outside linebacker said. “Everybody, already, is getting psyched for it and it’s four months away. You can definitely tell people are getting excited to go play them down there.”
UW’s experience with teams from the SEC hasn’t been great. They are just 2-5 in their last seven meetings, including a 34-24 loss to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
“I call it one of those games that growing up as a kid you always wished and dreamed to play those types of teams,” sophomore Sojourn Shelton said. “For instance, LSU, Alabama, Ohio State. That’s just another game; it’s a childhood game. The way we went out last season, SEC, it’s just another chance to get back at it.”
With a schedule void of Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State, the game against the Tigers may serve as UW’s lone chance to make a statement on a national level, something they were unable to do a year ago.
“We’re just looking for a great year,” tackle Rob Havenstein said. “Last year we were really good, but we didn’t make that step to great and Coach (Gary) Andersen talks about it all the time. That’s something we always want to do, instead of being a good team, be a great team.”
That process got underway during winter conditioning and spring practice. Now it transitions to the next four months and getting ready for a trip south.
“You can take no days off,” cornerback Devin Gaulden said. “You go to sleep some nights right now, in the spring time, thinking about, ‘Man, when we open up next time on the field it’s against LSU.’ It’s exciting and it puts a lot of pressure on you to really hone in and focus in each and every day.”