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(All information as of June 20, 2007)
COACH AND PROGRAM
Barry Alvarez was a terrific coach, winning three Big Ten titles and turning Wisconsin football from laughingstock to conference power. Turns out Alvarez is an even better athletic director.
When he hired young Bret Bielema as his successor during the 2005 season, some outsiders wondered if Alvarez knew what he was doing. Oh, yeah.
With the help of a talented group of returnees left by Alvarez, all Bielema did his first year was go 12-1 and win a New Year's Day bowl game. That he didn't take his team to a BCS game is the product of silly rules that limit conferences to two bids. Ohio State and Michigan were ahead of the Badgers.
The Badgers were denied a bid because of the loss to Michigan, the lone sore spot in the season. But the Wisconsin coaches aren't about to complain about their missed BCS opportunity.
"We've got to take care of business," offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said. "You kind of know the rules going in. If we wanted to be in the BCS, we should have beaten Michigan."
Bielema earned a pile of national Coach of the Year awards in becoming the third rookie coach in Football Bowl Subdivision history to lead his team to 12 wins. He also earned the respect of the assistants he was smart enough to hire.
"I thought Bret did a great job preparing himself for it," Chryst said. "I think when you look back and the plan that Barry had on the transition, I think it certainly helped Bret."
"Coach Bielema does a good job of keeping us on task and not looking ahead," Wisconsin co-defensive coordinator Dave Doeren said.
"He's very organized and he's studied under some outstanding coaches," Wisconsin defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said.