MADISON - After having two byes sandwiched around two dominant wins, No.22 Wisconsin heads into a vital month of November.
The Badgers – sitting at No.24 in the latest BCS standings – need to win its final five games (three at home; two on the road) and get some help to make it into the top 14 of the standings, thus being eligible for a BCS bowl game.
While others may be concerned about the school's precarious position, the only thing head coach Gary Andersen is worried about as the calendar turns is maximizing his time with his inaugural team at Wisconsin.
"I get to this time of year and you start to see the end of the road being with this group of kids," Andersen said Thursday. "I guess if November means anything to me, it's a little bit of a sad part of the whole deal because you've only got so many days left with a group of kids that you're with. I feel like that every year, the teams I'm with. We want to enjoy it, though, winning helps you enjoy things."
That process starts on Saturday when Wisconsin travels to Iowa for the first time since 2010, and the Badgers are hopeful that senior linebacker Chris Borland will contribute. Borland – a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the outstanding defensive player of the year – has been limited since pulling his right hamstring late in the first quarter against Illinois.
After being held out Tuesday and Wednesday, Borland went through the most of practice Thursday, and us being labeled as a ‘game-time decision' against the Hawkeyes.
"It's really going to depend on Chris and the trainers," said Andersen. "The trainers have done a tremendous job of getting him to this point. Chris knows how to take care of his body. Like I said early in the week, I'm very optimistic and I expect him to play."
If Borland can't go, Wisconsin has been developing a backup plan. Marcus Trotter, who tallied a career-high nine tackles against Illinois in Borland's absence, worked with the first-team throughout the week along with senior Conor O'Neill and junior Derek Landisch. Senior linebacker Ethan Armstrong has also volunteered to move from outside to inside linebacker.
"I think we'll be fine either way," said Andersen. "These kids have high expectations of themselves personally to go out and produce on game day. We'd all like to have Chris play. I'd like to have Chris play, for Chris. It's important for him, he's got a lot of things to play for and he's excited about those opportunities. He needs to be on the field to reach a lot of his goals. It's important for him to be out there for him personally and that means a lot to me."
On the fans close proximity to the field at Kinnick Stadium
We briefly talked about it as a team and really not even in a team environment, just these kids know it's very close. It's going to be a hectic crowd. That's college football, that's awesome. It is what it is. The goal is to not get distracted, No. 1, and No. 2, to just pretend like you don't hear it is probably the best thing to do. No. 3, if you're a coach and you've got to distract all of the attention to you, maybe that's better, too, than the players.