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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Bielema defends Wisconsin's nonleague schedule


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Wisconsin doesn't play the easiest nonconference schedule in the Big Ten. Not even close.

The Badgers are doing what several BCS teams are too afraid to do: travel to Fresno State. Given what Pat Hill's team has coming back this season, Wisconsin could easily be the underdog entering the Sept. 13 game. But take Fresno State out of Wisconsin's non-eague slate and there isn't much left: dates with Akron, Marshall and Division I-AA Cal Poly.

A reporter asked Bielema about Wisconsin's nonconference schedule Thursday, wondering if it's suitable for a team contending for the Big Ten championship. Bielema defended the slate, saying Wisconsin scheduled Marshall when the Thundering Herd were a non-BCS powerhouse.

He scheduled Cal Poly to create a bye week before a rough stretch when Wisconsin plays Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. The Badgers originally had been scheduled to play Virginia Tech on Sept. 20, but Bielema didn't want to face the Hokies before three critical league games. Needing a team to fill the Nov. 22 date, Bielema had few options and settled on Cal Poly.

"What you have to take into perspective," he said, "is find out when those games were scheduled. The only game that was scheduled in the last year was Cal Poly. ... The reason I think we've been successful is because we've had good scheduling."

Here's a look at the Big Ten nonconference matchups:

Illinois: Missouri (St. Louis), Eastern Illinois, Louisiana-Lafayette, Western Michigan (Detroit)

Indiana: Western Kentucky, Murray State, Ball State, Central Michigan

Iowa: Maine, Florida International, Iowa State, at Pitt

Michigan: Utah, Miami (Ohio), at Notre Dame, Toledo

Michigan State: at California, Eastern Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Notre Dame

Minnesota: Northern Illinois, at Bowling Green, Montana State, Florida Atlantic

Northwestern: Syracuse, at Duke, Southern Illinois, Ohio

Ohio State: Youngstown State, Ohio, at USC, Troy

Penn State: Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, at Syracuse, Temple

Purdue: Northern Colorado, Oregon, Central Michigan, at Notre Dame

Wisconsin: Akron, Marshall, at Fresno State, Cal Poly