Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Badgers don't mind being under the radar Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
If there's a buzz about the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison right now, John Moffitt doesn't know about it.
The starting center for the nation's 20th-ranked team remains a fairly anonymous figure as he roams around town.
"I wish," Moffitt said when asked if fans are approaching him lately. "That would mean they'd recognize me. I'm a fat O-lineman. People look and think I have an eating disorder and think I'm not like an athlete or anything.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Bret Bielema and the Badgers say they aren’t bothered by a lack of national recognition.
"But people are excited."
Wisconsin might be the least talked about 7-2 team in the country. USC, LSU and Miami all have the same record as the Badgers, though you would never know it.
After an extremely disappointing 2008 season, the Badgers have made strides on both sides of the ball and taken care of business against comparable or inferior teams. The buzz kill is that Wisconsin dropped its only two games against ranked opponents, falling to No. 11 Ohio State and No. 10 Iowa in consecutive weeks. Like Penn State, the Badgers probably don't have another chance for a signature win with remaining games against Michigan, Northwestern and Hawaii.
But unlike Penn State, Wisconsin can point to improvement this fall after seeing its wins total drop in each of the past two seasons. The Badgers are taking better care of the ball, allowing fewer points and yards on defense and performing better in the red zone on both offense and defense.
"The way that we're doing things, the way we've been carrying things out rings true to '06," said Moffitt, referring to Wisconsin's 12-1 season in 2006. "We're focusing on details, doing the little things right, and it's amazing how that carries over.
"Coach [Bret Bielema] tightened down the bolts, tightened the screws and made sure everybody was doing everything right."
Bielema's emphasis on greater accountability during the offseason has been the biggest factor in Wisconsin's turnaround. Regardless if the team generates much national attention, Bielema believes the program is back on track.
"I don't mind being under the radar," Bielema said. "At Iowa, I learned firsthand as a player and a coach how you can get things done and maybe not be in the spotlight every day. And then when I came here to Wisconsin, one thing that really jumped out to me was Coach [Barry] Alvarez winning three Big Ten championships and three Rose Bowls.
"We've got to find the right type of players, and I do believe more so now than ever in my coaching career, I know what that means."
Wisconsin won't be going to the Rose Bowl this year, but it still can earn a share of the Big Ten title by winning out and hoping both Ohio State and Iowa split their last two games. An at-large BCS berth isn't completely off the table, but the Badgers can notch their third 10-win season in the last five years.
And maybe get noticed, too.
"We're playing the kind of football that we used to play," Moffitt said.