Tennessee Stat Book
TAMPA, Fla. — You would think Wisconsin’s back-to-back victories against SEC opponents in bowl games would have caused at least a ripple nationally.
But Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez wonders if anybody remembers the Badgers beating Auburn and Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl.
Alvarez was asked what those two wins did for the Badgers on a national level.
“I don’t think anything, because I don’t think anybody recognizes that,” Alvarez said.
That point was driven home again to Alvarez recently while doing a national interview.
“All I hear about is Ohio State losing to Florida and Michigan getting blown out by Southern Cal,” Alvarez said. “That’s all anyone wants to talk about. They forget (the Big Ten Conference) won two of the three (bowl) games against Southeastern Conference schools last year, but no one recognizes it.
“I did a national interview the other day. They wanted to talk about the same old stuff, the speed of the SEC. I said, ‘We’re not a bunch of slugs here.’ Actually, if you go back and check the record against Southeastern Conference teams, we’ve done pretty well.”
Alvarez is right. Aside from Ohio State’s ghastly 0-8 bowl record against SEC teams, the Big Ten has not fared as poorly as you might guess. In fact, if you want to win a bar bet on New Year’s Day, ask somebody which conference has fared better head-to-head in bowl games in the last five years, the Big Ten or SEC?
Answer: The Big Ten is 8-6.
The bowls where the Big Ten and SEC both have tie-ins are the Capital One and Outback. The Big Ten has won the last three Capital One Bowls and is 3-2 in the last five Outback Bowls.
Still, there was a story on ESPN SportsCenter last week about Ohio State’s problems matching up against the speed of LSU in the Bowl Championship Series title game. As usual, it also was a topic of conversation leading up to Wisconsin’s game against Tennessee today in the Outback Bowl.
“Yeah, a couple guys asked me about that,” Wisconsin junior linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “It’s not really a thing I pay attention to.
“They can say what they want to say. For us — I’m talking about Wisconsin in general — they said that the last couple years and we beat two very, very good SEC teams in the Capital One Bowl.”
Sacking Ainge: Casillas was asked if it’s possible to sack UT quarterback Erik Ainge.
“Boy, I hope so, for our sake,” Casillas said. “Three (sacks) in 13 games, that’s crazy. Hopefully, we get to him.”
Even if the Badgers can’t sack Ainge, they hope to pressure him. Casillas noted Ainge backpedals a lot and is quick to throw the ball away. “I think he’ll sacrifice incompletions for sacks,” Casillas said.
Mostly, the Badgers need to make Ainge uncomfortable and prevent him from getting any rhythm, or it could be a long game.
“It may not be sacks,” defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz said. “But if it’s forcing incompletions, if it’s knocking a ball down, or making him throw it before he wants to, it all adds up. We have to be able to make him less effective if we’re going to win the game.”
When Ainge gets on a roll, he can be tough to stop.
That’s a big concern since the Badgers go into the game without two of their top cornerbacks, junior Allen Langford and freshman Aaron Henry, who are out with knee injuries.
“When (Ainge) is hot, he’s hot,” secondary coach Kerry Cooks said. “That’s the thing that scares you. We just have to make sure we do a good job of not showing him the same look every time we line up, obviously mixing up our calls and packages.”