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September 28, 2011MADISON - The last time a Wisconsin line was featured in a Sports Illustrated spread, as pointed out by a local reporter, the 2004 Badgers promptly went to East Lansing and laid a defensive egg, getting beat 49-14 by Michigan State.
That harrowing loss, one that ended UW's 9-0 start and legitimate shot at any national championship contention, will go down as one of the most disappointing 60 minutes in UW history.
Now, seven years after that meltdown, and as Wisconsin prepares to host the first game inside Camp Randall Stadium that features two top-10 programs since 1962, SI has come calling again.
The only difference this time around is that the offensive line is getting the attention.
"Our offensive line wants to get all these accolades and all this," UW head coach Bret Bielema said earlier this week. "Obviously they've been as good as anybody out there.
"I thought it was interesting that Sports Illustrated contacted us and has an article that'll come out this week on our offensive line play."
So the story, which came out earlier this week and can currently be seen on www.cnnsi.com, spent time talking about the size, dexterity and progression of the UW offensive line. It talked about the success it's had over the past number of years as well as its overall philosophy and training.
"I liked it a lot because we've only been on the cover once," UW center Peter Konz said. "John Clay had the visor. I was behind Scott Tolzien so you couldn't even see me. I tell people I'm in the picture, but that's really Scott.
"But that's really neat because you don't get that opportunity that often."
Travis Frederick, UW's starting left guard, echoed many of the same sentiments, although he says he doesn't get too overwhelmed with Sports Illustrated simply because he hasn't been an avid reader of the publication.
"It's really cool that we get to do that," Frederick said. "But that comes from team accolades. If the team wasn't doing well there's not a chance we'd be getting any kind of spotlight like that."
Garnering national attention, at least since Bielema has become more welcoming toward the media, hasn't necessarily been that few and far between. By becoming a national brand, if you will, Wisconsin has been at the front of several publications, they've been centered on ESPN and have had plenty of exposure.
According to Frederick, though, there hasn't been a time when it's become too much.
"I think it's helped to kind of have a steady stream here and there," he said. "Over the past couple of years it's kind of just become second nature. There's always somebody around that is trying to call you or get an interview or get cameras there.
"I think a lot of guys are just getting used to it and I think that's really good for out team."
That's good for the Badgers because it simply means all the outside media attention hasn't become a distraction.
During fall camp, Bielema granted ESPN cameras unlimited access inside the UW football program. The mothership was doing a quarterback feature series and wanted to focus on the battle between Russell Wilson and Jon Budmayr.
Though it was something that never happened in Wisconsin history, the players adhered to the philosophies instilled by their coaches. Nothing matters more than what's directly in front of you.
"Things got to the point where it was like the cameras weren't even there," Bielema said. "Our guys weren't doing anything different. I wasn't doing anything different."
When Konz was told about the last time a Wisconsin line was featured in Sports Illustrated, and that 35-point let down at Michigan State, he just simply smiled and quietly chuckled.
"Dang," Konz said. "I'm going to go watch film right now so none of that happens."