Over the duration of Bret Bielema's time as the head man in Madison, he has been something of an afterthought within the Big Ten.
There has been talk about Ohio State's dominance, Michigan's resurgence, Iowa's taking it to the next level and Nebraska entering the conference.
However, the Wisconsin Badgers steadily marched along until Oct. 16, 2010. On that night, the No. 1-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes came to Madison to take on the No. 16-ranked Badgers, who had lost two weeks earlier to Michigan State.
Though the score reflected a solid 31-18 win, it didn't do justice to just how badly Wisconsin manhandled the mighty Buckeyes.
Since then, the Big Ten and college football world has been put on notice, and the Badgers have run off two straight Big Ten titles and two straight Rose Bowl appearances.
This year, UW's path to the conference title game seems fait accompli, as Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible and the latter will stink anyway (see link for my breakdown of the Nits).
In effect, Wisconsin's biggest impediment to the showdown in Indianapolis are Purdue and Illinois, and though they are quality teams, they shouldn't pose a threat to UW.
Nevertheless, once again, people aren't giving Bielema and his program the credit they deserve.
It is true the Badgers play a soft schedule and should have a golden ticket to the conference title game, but the coach and his program haven't been handed anything.
2011 Record: 11-3
2011 Conference Record: 7-2
2011 Home/Away/Neutral Record: 7-0/2-2/2-1
2011 Record vs. Ranked Teams: 2-2
Record Last Five Seasons: 48-18 (tied for 15th-winningest FBS program over that period of time)
Conference Record Last Five Seasons: 27-14
Home/Away/Neutral Record Last Five Seasons: 32-3/13-11/3-4
Record vs. Ranked Teams Last Five Seasons: 5-14
Best Record Last Five Seasons: 11-2/11-3 (2010 and 2011)
Worst Record Last Five Seasons: 7-6 (2008)
Number of Coaches Last 10 Seasons: Two
Bret Bielema was born in Prophetstown, Illinois.
Like Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Kansas State's Bill Snyder, among others, Bielema fell from Hayden Fry's coaching tree (per The Wall Street Journal).
From 1989 to 1992, he was a nose guard at Iowa under Fry. After a year in the Arena Football League, Bielema came back to the college game, working as an Iowa graduate assistant from 1994 to 1995.
He was promoted to linebackers coach in 1996 and was retained by Kirk Ferentz after Fry retired.
Bielema went to Kansas State—under Bill Snyder—from 2002 to 2003, where he served as the co-defensive coordinator (DC).
In 2004, former UW coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez, hired Bielema as his DC. Alvarez also selected Bielema to succeed him when he retired from coaching following the 2005 season.
Since taking over in 2006, Bielema has posted a 60-19 record, which is the best winning percentage in the Big Ten over that span of time (accepting Ohio State's forfeited losses in 2010). It is also tied for ninth-best in the country, and sixth-best of AQ teams.
Bielema's Badgers have been bowl eligible every year he has been the head coach. They have won two Big Ten championships, posted at least 10 wins four times, gone to two BCS bowls, gone 2-4 in all bowls (0-2 in BCS bowls) and finished the season ranked five times.
Coming next Monday, an overview and breakdown of Wisconsin's offense.