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Friday, December 31, 2010
Badgers ready to carry Big Ten banner

By Adam Rittenberg

LOS ANGELES -- The Big Ten is 6-3 in bowls since 2009 and has recorded five wins against top 15 opponents, but the league's reputation largely will be shaped in Pasadena.

The Wisconsin Badgers are well aware of this fact.

Conferences are judged primarily on national championships, and then on BCS bowl performances. The Big Ten once again gets two opportunities on the BCS stage, beginning Saturday with Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Bret Bielema learned how BCS bowls impact a league's national reputation during his first season as Wisconsin's coach.

"We played Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl," Bielema recalled. "Everybody was telling us how bad we were going to get beat. We went out there and put a whooping on them, and nobody said anything about that. Well, because a couple days later, the Big Ten was in a couple BCS games and didn't fare very well.

"I realized the BCS is where everybody looks and everybody talks about. So this is the opportunity for us."

Although the Big Ten's perception isn't nearly as bad as it was before last year's bowls, the league still struggles to gain elite status in some college football circles. The questions about Big Ten speed resurfaced this week in California as the TCU speed vs. Wisconsin size story line was beaten to death.

The Badgers realize they're part of the image problem.

"Wisconsin is what they think about: big, slow, smash-mouth guys, no-skill guys, guys that can't run," Badgers linebacker Blake Sorensen said. "So that's the perception."

That's why Wisconsin is the perfect team to change it.

"Definitely," Sorensen said. "You get one shot a year to play these teams, and that's the only way to do it, to play these teams and beat 'em, and hopefully, they'll be quiet."