Chris Petersen Is the Relentless Motor the Badgers Covet
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports
The Wisconsin faithful were exposed to the ugly side of college coaching this week when Bret Bielema left for the richer pastures of Arkansas.
The Badgers lost a great coach who won 74 percent of his games but after getting the position handed to him from the architect of Wisconsin Badgers football in 2006, Bielema couldn't stand to be in his shadow anymore.
Which is why when asked if athletics director Barry Alvarez may come back to coach the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl, Bielema offered a joke that had a bit of sting behind it: "They might finally win one."
Alvarez went 3-0 in the Grandaddy of Them All while Bielema was 0-2. Legions of Badger fans fell in love with Alvarez because he was the one that rescued a forgotten football program and turned it into entire athletic department into a financially stable one.
So this might be the busiest Alvarez has ever been in his 8th year of running Wisconsin's 23 sports teams. In addition to finding the most qualified and most capable candidate to fill the school's all-important cash cow void, he is also "managing" the current football team as it makes its way to Pasadena.
That's a lot to handle especially for a guy who turns 66 at the end of the month.
But where does Wisconsin go from here? The Badgers still have a solid stable of offensive talent returning, headlined by two capable running backs in James White and Melvin Gordon and a young quarterback in Bart Houston who has all the makings of being a star.
Alvarez has said that he wants to keep the blueprint that he made, which was copied by Bielema: Recruit hulking offensive linemen from in state and get skill and speed from elsewhere. That served those two coaches very well, and Bielema even increased that notion by incorporating more passing and balance into the offense than was seen when Alavarez was running things.
Let's be honest. The Badgers are not a destination job for many college coaches. That spot is reserved for the Texases, USCs, Floridas, Alabamas and Ohio States of the world.
But that's not to say that you cannot win big here.
Bielema often took shots from out-of-state media which judged his national recruiting classes to be just average. ESPN never ranked any of Bielema's recruiting classes in its top 25 and amazingly enough, it ranked Minnesota No. 23 in 2008.
Bielema's biggest strength was to first get quality people who wouldn't cause off-the-field problems, as well as find hardworkers who were willing to grind out tough Big Ten games. He proved that by averaging nearly 10 wins a season and capturing the school's third consecutive Rose Bowl appearance this season.
In order to win in the new Big Ten that features Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke stuffing their Ohio State and Michigan rosters with amazing talent, the Badgers will have to defend the entire field.
Boise State is ninth in the nation in total defense and sixth in scoring defense at 15 points a game. Which is why Chris Petersen is the perfect guy to come to Madison.
Somehow he is able to recruit kids to come to Boise and play on the Smurf Turf because he owns an astounding 83-8 career record. He's got a 4-2 bowl record, which includes a 2-0 mark in BCS bowls.
In case you need a refresher, it was Petersen that brought out the bag of tricks that beat Oklahoma in overtime of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. He called for a hook-and-lateral that went for 50 yards on 4th-and-18 with seven seconds left in regulation to tie it.
Then on 4th-and-2 in overtime he called a wide receiver-option pass that went for a touchdown. This, of course, was followed by the Statue of Liberty play on the ensuing two-point conversion to win arguably the most exciting bowl game ever.
Petersen is the man for Madison.
The last seven years he's been overlooked simply because the Broncos weren't often respected, despite four times finishing the season ranked in the AP Top 10.
He comes to Madison on Monday to meet with Alvarez, and as long as he wants to move out of western Idaho, this job is perfect for the "Little Engine that Could."
The Badgers will always get overlooked by Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska and maybe even Michigan State. But in the end, Petersen — like the Badgers — love to prove everyone wrong.
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