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Bowl bid not enough for Badgers


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POSTED: Monday, August 24, 2009

Wisconsin finds itself looking to bounce back from a season that ended with a seventh straight bowl appearance.

Since going 12-1 in 2006, Bret Bielema's first season as head coach, the Badgers slipped to 9-4 in 2007 and went 7-6 last year, finishing sixth in the Big Ten at 3-5. After a 3-0 start, they fell out of the Big Ten race with a four-game losing streak and closed the year with a 42-13 loss to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

; “;A year ago at this time we were predicted to do some special things,”; Bielema said. “;The ball didn't go the right way all the way, and I think our guys have really taken a year to recover from that and have a hunger in them that's burning pretty intense.”;

Strengths

The Badgers featured the Big Ten's top ground game last season, and sophomore running back John Clay will have his turn in the spotlight. Clay had three 100-yard games and finished with 895 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman in support of P.J. Hill, who left Madison as the third-leading rusher in school history.

The Badgers also have a weapon in the passing game in tight end Garrett Graham. The senior was an All-Big Ten selection last year, when he led the Badgers with 40 receptions for 540 yards and five touchdowns.

Weaknesses

Along with overcoming Hill's departure, replacing three starting offensive linemen will dictate the direction of the season. The offense will also need to improve its turnover differential (minus-0.62) of a year ago, when the Badgers ranked 10th in the conference.