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December 31, 2010With a 31-18 win over then-ranked No. 1 Ohio State in hand, several Wisconsin players said a loss at Iowa the following week would make everything they had just accomplished go for naught.
Having the ultimate goal of winning a Big Ten championship, there was simply no room for the Badgers to drop a second conference tilt only midway through the slate. They absolutely had to have that win in order to play meaningful conference games late in the season.
Obviously, with a meeting against TCU just a day away, the Badgers reached that ultimate standard.
Now, like the Iowa game, a win inside the Rose Bowl would be the final layer of what has been a decadent season in 2010.
A loss? Well
"The University of Wisconsin football team doesn't go down to Pasadena to lose," junior J.J. Watt said. "We go down there to win the game. Coach Alvarez set that precedent. All the players before us set that precedent."
Considering it's the Badgers first trip to Southern California in more than a decade, it's obvious that the excitement leading into the tilt is off the charts. More than 30,000 fans appeared at a pep rally Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the game and several thousand more expected for the actual game.
Having spent some time in the area, there is much more red painting the town than anything else.
"We're representing something so much bigger than myself," Watt said. "We're representing all the players that ever put on the 'W.' We're representing all the coaches that have ever come through here, all the students and the entire state of Wisconsin. We're representing them.
"We want to go down there and put on a good showing and win the football game."
When the 97th Rose Bowl starts, it will have been 35 days since the Badgers last took to the football field. But according to several of the coaches and players there has been no lack of focus over the course of bowl prep.
There is simply too much on the line for that. Too much has been built up throughout the course of the season and throughout the course of several of the players' careers.
Winning a Big Ten championship is nice. But players, coaches and fans alike always remember the last game. That's where legacies are cemented.
"You remember who the winners are in big games," senior quarterback Scott Tolzien said. "You don't remember losers. If you want to be remembered you've got to win. As a fifth year senior there are no guarantees after this.
"This could possibly be the last game so you want to go out with a bang."
With an offense that is averaging 43.3 points per game and a chance to knock off one of three remaining undefeated squads, Wisconsin surely has an opportunity to complete what has been one of the best seasons in school history.
Only one thing remains.
"I think winning a Rose Bowl just kind of sets the standard," senior Lance Kendricks said. "You can't get much higher."
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