MADISON, Wis. — Don’t get Mike Taylor wrong. The spectacle of playing in the Rose Bowl on national television is plenty appealing for any college football player.
It’s just that Taylor, a University of Wisconsin linebacker who has participated in the past two Rose Bowls, would like a little more. He’d like to actually win one.
“You get to the fireworks show and there’s no fireworks,” Taylor said. “That’s kind of what it’s like.”
The Badgers have been tantalizingly close to tasting victory in “The Granddaddy of Them All” in both games. In 2011, Texas Christian edged Wisconsin 21-19. Badgers running back Montee Ball scored a fourth-quarter touchdown, but Wisconsin failed on a two-point conversion attempt.
In 2012, Oregon defeated Wisconsin 45-38. The Badgers led on five occasions and were driving in for the tying score when time ran out.
As Wisconsin begins the 2012 season, a very real opportunity presents itself for the Badgers to reach their third consecutive Rose Bowl as Big Ten champions. The question is: Can they finally win one if they reach that point?
“Obviously you don’t go out there just to play in the Rose Bowl,” Badgers center Travis Frederick said. “You go out there to win a Rose Bowl. After our experience in the last two years, I think people have learned. … It comes down to who shows up on that day, who plays the best, who has the best gameplan. A game is won on that day and it’s won the week before.”
Wisconsin reaching a third consecutive Rose Bowl would not be an unprecedented feat in the game’s history. A team has played in at least three straight Rose Bowls on nine occasions, the last coming when USC participated in the Rose Bowl from 2007-09.
The Badgers are considered heavy favorites to win the Leaders Division and would need to win only the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis to make history.
Of course, Wisconsin has never won three straight Big Ten titles. The Badgers won back-to-back Big Ten championships in 1896 and 1897, as well as in 1998 and 1999.
Only Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio State have won at least three straight Big Ten titles. That last time the feat occurred was when Michigan won its third straight in 1978.
Badgers coach Bret Bielema said he learned of the rare history surrounding the three-peat during the Big Ten media days in Chicago late last month. He used that information as motivation for his team.
“I did tell our group,” Bielema said. “I have to make things aware to them. How many guys in this room were here to witness in 1978 the last team to do a three-peat? Of course nobody was there. I was 8 years old so I don’t really remember it.
“The thing that I said immediately after it was if anybody wants to jump to that date, you’re more than welcome to think about it, but you’ll never get there. Just take it one day at a time.”
Taylor said the sting of losing two straight Rose Bowls had lessened since January. But that bitter feeling of defeat still lingers some.
“As soon as you lose, you’ve got to move on,” Taylor said. “I wouldn’t really say forget about those games. You’ve still go to learn from those games, but you’ve just got to stop thinking about it and not let it be a distraction. Learn from those mistakes and try to apply it to those big games.”
Brennan transfer? Bielema said he had conversations with quarterback Joe Brennan and Brennan’s high school coach to discuss transferring opportunities.
“I’m trying to facilitate that the best I can for Joey,” Bielema said. “I’m not for sure that’s going to happen. I want him to take some time away from the program here, explore his options and get a feel for where he’s at. We’ll welcome him back if that’s the direction he wants to go. It’s something we’re working through on a daily basis.”
Brennan has fallen behind Danny O’Brien, Curt Phillips and Joel Stave in the race to be Wisconsin’s starting quarterback this fall.